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Can Pau Gasol Find His Rhythm in Mike D'Antoni's System?

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Can Pau Gasol Find His Rhythm in Mike D'Antoni's System?
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The short answer is, "Yes, but he needs to shoot better." 

Pau Gasol is a fine mid-range shooter, especially for a big man, but Mike D'Antoni's system requires three-point spacing. It's all fine and well that Pau Gasol averages 40 percent on his long twos (via HoopData), but he needs to take a step back.

In fairness to Pau, he's been trying. He attempted 27 bombs last year, a career high. There is hope for Pau as a floor-spacer, but the commitment must be there. It's not an ideal situation, as center is Gasol's natural position. But, considering L.A.'s two-big spacing issue, a compromise must be made.

First, take note of D'Antoni's offensive system. Three-point threats are an absolute must-have for Mike D's favorite play.

Take note of how the floor is spread. In this system (and it's becoming increasingly popular around the league), the center sets a pick for the point guard almost immediately after the team crosses half-court. For D'Antoni's "unguardable" pick-and-roll to be as such, Mike's power forward must be stationed beyond the three-point line.

If the 4-man is beyond the arc, then the guard and center can work their two-man game with correct spacing. If Pau, as power forward, spots up closer to the three-point line, the defense might be able to intervene and block the point guard's pocket pass entry. 

Now, there are offenses that don't require a spread pick-and-roll action, but the Lakers ostensibly rejected such structures. The Triangle and the Princeton are high-post options that look remarkably similar, just on opposite sides of the floor. Both have been summarily turned down by Team Buss.

This leaves D'Antoni to try his old bag of tricks. Pau Gasol should be fine and at home when Dwight sits and Gasol operates as the 5. But in between, he'll be forced to evolve. This might necessitate more than simply learning a three-point shot.

Gasol has a good handle for a big man, and fantastic floor vision, but he might need to become more at ease after his shot fake. This is easier said than done. NBA players aren't video-game characters; They can't simply conjure new skills.

But, at the ripe age of 32, Gasol is at something of a crossroads. He can play as he always has, and have his production compromised in Laker-land. He can ask for (or simply be the subject of) a trade, and ply his skills elsewhere as a true big man. Or, if he wants a championship here, Gasol can push himself into a new skill set.

There are no guarantees as to whether this is even feasible. For Pau, testing that out might be the only option worth taking.  

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