Breaking Down Why Pau Gasol Should Anchor LA Lakers Second Unit
14 games into the 2012-13 NBA regular season, the Los Angeles Lakers' lackluster 7-7 record is indicative of how the team has played. 50 percent of the time they've been as dominant as their talent would suggest, while the other half has been spent underwhelming fans and dropping games to opponents in disappointing fashion.
In order to cure said woes, steps must be taken to have Pau Gasol anchor the Lakers second unit.
Before we move forward, let it be known that I am not suggesting Gasol be removed from the starting lineup. Instead, I am proposing the Lakers make a move to place Gasol with the second unit to start the second quarter, end the third period and begin the fourth.
In turn, Gasol will provide the Lakers second unit with an elite scorer, quality facilitator and all-around leader on the floor. He will also provide the starters and sixth man with an opportunity to thrive, which we will get to in a matter of moments.
Until then, let us acknowledge where the Lakers presently stand.
The Lakers are a team of unparalleled talent and overwhelming expectations. Every game played is spent under a microscope, which is why their early-season shortcomings have been so well documented amongst NBA analysts and fans alike.
If they fail to turn it around quick, the pressure may be enough to crumble the Mike D'Antoni-led Lakers. Let's not get ahead of ourselves, though, as there is more than enough time for recovery.
The first step in the right direction would be moving Gasol.
Bringing the Best Out
The Los Angeles Lakers current second unit consists of sharpshooter Jodie Meeks, rebounding force Jordan Hill and all-around offensive threat Antawn Jamison. They'll also have a spark plug at point guard in Darius Morris upon Steve Nash's return.
So which players would work best off of one another?
Pau Gasol knows how to create an understanding of just that, as he has spent years as the Lakers second-unit anchor. With the current crop being the most talented group of reserves in Gasol's tenure, it's hard to imagine him not reaping the benefits of having such talent around him.
Specifically, Gasol will benefit from having Meeks and Hill alongside him, as the combination of sharpshooting and interior toughness is exactly what could help Gasol flourish—especially considering he won't be flashed to the post alongside D-12.
D'Antoni was unworried about Pau but said his post-ups won't be like they used to be next to Odom: "You got a guy like Dwight Howard there."— KEVIN DING (@KevinDing) November 25, 2012
The group of Morris, Meeks, Gasol and Hill would be able to provide the Lakers with a quality mix of offensive production and defensive consistency. They would also present Gasol with opportunities to score and facilitate from the low post, where he is most dangerous.
Such would allow coach D'Antoni to maintain his up-and-down pace and provide the Lakers with the proper pairing of star power and scorers to maintain or build upon a lead. The question is, why not continue utilizing Dwight Howard in said role?
Who should anchor the second unit?
Keeping the D-12's Legs Fresh
As it presently stands, the Lakers begin the second and fourth quarters with Dwight Howard leading the reserves. This is an effective system, considering Howard is virtually reprising his role of guiding glorified role players in Orlando.
Just don't think for a second that there isn't a downside.
With such a strong focus on D-12 offensively, placing too much of a burden on the big man could be taxing. Keep in mind Howard is recovering from back surgery and has stated time and time again that he is not 100 percent (via TWC SportsNet).
Which is exactly why the Lakers need Gasol to take on the burden.
A move to the second would not be to downplay Gasol's importance to the starting lineup, as his facilitating, shooting and defensive abilities would remain a pivotal piece of the puzzle. Instead, it is alluding to the fact that this offense runs directly through Howard.
For that reason, he must have the proper time to rest, not time spent leading a second unit when he's meant to power the starters.
Gasol remains an intricate part of the starting lineup, but his contributions are often limited to facilitating and spot-up shooting, not running the pick-and-roll, posting up a defender or crashing the offensive glass as he is capable of.
Until that changes, it's only rational to place him on the second unit where his talents will be welcomed.
Maximizing Antawn Jamison
Through the first 12 games of the season, Antawn Jamison had averaged 3.8 points and 3.0 rebounds per game. This came after Jamison averaged 17.2 points and 6.3 rebounds in 2011-12 with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Fortunately, the past two games have offered Jamison an opportunity at redemption.
Against the Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies, Jamison averaged 17.5 points and 11.0 rebounds per contest. Those numbers may not sustain, but they are indicative of what Jamison is capable of offensively.
That is exactly why the Lakers must allow him to play alongside Dwight Howard. To do so, they must delegate Gasol to the role of second-unit anchor to provide opportunities for Jamison to thrive as a pocket 4.
So where does that leave the second unit?
Gasol + Hill = Gold
With Gasol already in rhythm, the reserves will have an elite power forward as their leader. The player who would benefit most from this is Jordan Hill, who has brought the best out of Gasol thus far this season.
Just check the numbers.
Thus far in 2012-13, Gasol is averaging 14.2 points and 10.6 rebounds per 36 minutes with Hill on the floor. When Hill is on the bench, however, Gasol's numbers dip to 13.2 points and 8.6 rebounds per 36.
For Hill, it is of equal benefit.
With Gasol on the floor, Hill is averaging 16.0 points and 13.8 rebounds per 36 minutes. With Gasol on the bench, however, Hill is down to 12.5 points and 9.1 rebounds per 36.
As for how the Lakers benefit, try this.
When Gasol and Hill are on the floor together, the Lakers have a plus/minus of positive 16.4. When only one is on the floor, it's a negative 5.1 with Gasol and negative 18.2 with Hill.
This carries over from a year ago when the duo had a plus/minus of 32.3 when on the floor together. In other words, the Lakers strike gold when Gasol and Hill are paired with one another.
Which is exactly why Gasol must anchor the second unit with Hill by his side.
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