5 Ways L.A. Lakers Can Get Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol More Involved
Los Angeles has hardly been the source of ineptitude it was under Mike Brown, yet it has hardly been the force many had hoped it would be during the Mike D'Antoni era.
The root of the issue? Howard and Gasol.
To sit here and say that both players have been incompetent would be a gross exaggeration, but admittedly enough, Howard and Gasol have been anything but sources of dominance—or even consistency—this season.
And as D'Antoni himself acknowledges (via Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com), that needs to change.
But how? How can D'Antoni and the Lakers ensure that Howard and Gasol become more aggressive? How can they ensure that these two towers become more involved?
That's what we're here to figure out.
All stats in this article are accurate as of November 26, 2012.
Ensure Pau and Dwight Receive a Minimum Number of Shot Attempts
Let's be clear, the lack of consistency from Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol on the offensive end is unacceptable.
Through 14 games, Gasol has attempted 12 or less shots in exactly half of them; Howard has done the same thing eight times. And that needs to change.
Aside from preaching to the two that they need to be more aggressive, Mike D'Antoni needs to set a minimum number of shots either player needs to take per game. Ideally, they should each be receiving 15-20 looks per game. Realistically, however, Mike D'Antoni and company must ensure they never receive less than 12 or 13.
Understandably, double- and triple-team sets can often derail game plans, but both Howard and Gasol have to get in the habit of being more aggressive. Only so much of their struggles can be attributed the rigors of becoming acclimated to a new system.
Which means the Lakers have to take an unconventional route. Forcing both players to take at least 12 shots per game sends a message to both of them and the rest of the team, one that states inaction on their part won't be an tolerated.
Whether it be self-imposed or not.
Reward Defense with Offense
Mike D'Antoni should attempt to appeal to the senses of Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard by instituting some positive reinforcement.
Both big men are more than vital to Los Angeles' success on the defensive end, and subsequently expected to hoard rebounds, block shots and protect the paint in general.
When either player makes an impressive play or stop on the defensive end, the Lakers should then reward said athlete on offense. Whether that entails feeding Howard the ball in the low post or running a pick-and-roll specifically designed for Gasol doesn't matter, rewarding them for doing their job on the other end of the floor does.
By implementing such a tactic, Los Angeles also establishes an unspoken balance. There will be no fighting for position or confusion by Howard and Gasol if they know who will be featured on a particular possession.
Obviously, this isn't an end-all solution, but it does provide some clarity to an otherwise murky offensive dynamic.
Double-Up in the Post
Mike D'Antoni is going to have to make some concessions for this to work.
And you know what? That shouldn't be a problem.
D'Antoni's system calls for one man in the post and four on the perimeter, but he's going to have to make—at the very least—sparing adjustments if he doesn't want to have to separate Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard permanently.
Which is why he needs to allow for two bigs to man the post on occasion. Doing so ensures the defense cannot just swarm the only man in the paint, while ensuring Gasol is not reduced to jacking up 15-foot jump shots more often than he has too.
I understand that D'Antoni likes to spread the floor using four shooters, but he must take into account the strength of his two talented bigs.
Both Howard and Gasol are converting on over 71 percent of their attempts at the rim, and the Lakers must use that to their advantage.
After all, there's nothing wrong with varying your inside out attack, especially when you boast the likes of two essential centers.
Just ask the Memphis Grizzlies and the towering duo of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.
Run Unconventional Pick-and-Rolls
Pick-and-rolls are a huge part of Mike D'Antoni's system.
With that in mind, why not create a hybrid pick-and-roll tandem using Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol?
Gasol is one of the best handling and passing bigs in the league. He may not love to camp out on the perimeter, but if the Lakers elect to allow him and Howard to play a two-man game, the results would be staggering.
Howard remains one of the most dangerous cutters in the league, and with Gasol as a legitimate mid-range threat, defenses wouldn't be able to favor either one. Not without getting burned by the other, anyway.
Such sets are usually run between a guard or wing and a big, but the Lakers aren't your usual, run-of-the-mill team.
If D'Antoni wants to get these guys involved, he has to get creative.
Testing the waters of an unconventional pick-and-roll would be a good start.
Let Pau Fly Solo More
The Lakers are not going to bring Pau Gasol off the bench. Let's get that out of the way right now.
However, that doesn't mean Mike D'Antoni can't give Gasol some playing time away from Dwight Howard.
Gasol prefers to operate in the post, something he can't do with Howard on the floor. When Iron Man is off the floor, though, it has been a different story.
Of the Spaniard's top-five, five-man units, Howard is in just one of them. In the other four, Gasol is posting a 63.4 effective field-goal percentage.
D'Antoni needs to utilize this to his advantage. With Howard on the pine, Gasol often becomes the go to option in the post and the focal point of the pick-and-roll. As a center, it doesn't matter as much for Howard because he will always be the one closer to his comfort zone when on the court.
For Gasol, though, seeing time away from Howard could mean the world, and ultimately make him embrace the time he spends on the perimeter when the two play together.
There's no reason these two should ever be competing position. Such a quandary isn't the recipe for getting both more involved.
Allowing Gasol to fly solo on occasions, however, is.