Who's the Better End-of-Game Option for Lakers: Pau Gasol or Antawn Jamison?
For the 8-9 Los Angeles Lakers, it's a situation that hasn't forced its way to the forefront.
Only two of the team's 16 games have been decided by four points or fewer. In fact, only three others have been decided by single digits.
For the myriad of problems facing this organization, crunch-time execution has largely steered clear of the public forum. But over the course of the 82-game regular season, it's one that could very well emerge as the hottest topic in L.A.
With Pau Gasol continuing to struggle in coach Mike D'Antoni's system (12.6 points on 42.0 percent shooting), the questions about an increased role for stretch forward Antawn Jamison have been voiced.
The questions have a logical base for D'Antoni. The perimeter-savvy Jamison is more similar to the stretch bigs that the coach has found success with in the past. He preferred players like Channing Frye and Shawn Marion in Phoenix and Steve Novak in New York.
Jamison has the ability to contribute offense from the perimeter and near the basket. He may not offer much defensively, but that's no different than Frye, Novak, Lewis or Anderson.
Jamison hasn't enjoyed the rebounding successes in his career that Gasol has (7.8 per game to 9.2), but he has closed the gap this season (8.8 to 9.1 per 36 minutes, respectively).
So Jamison is the slam-dunk choice, right?
Who is the better late-game option for D'Antoni?
Well, it's a little more complicated than that.
For one thing, Gasol's size advantage (7'0" compared to the 6'8" Jamison) has obvious benefits. Gasol will more effectively challenge shots and protect the glass.
He's also a superior passer, capable of forming a nice high-low post attack with Howard. If Gasol rediscovers his confidence from mid-range, he can effectively leave Howard with enough room to operate near the basket.
When a healthy Steve Nash returns to this lineup, Gasol has the better frame to set solid screens for the point guard to operate. Not to mention if Gasol becomes the screener, Nash (or Kobe Bryant) has intriguing options on the dribble-drive with Howard looming on the weak-side post.
So which style of play better suits this Lakers roster? Or rather, which style leaves this club with the best chance to win games?
Despite the easily identifiable advantages that Jamison holds, Gasol simply brings more to the table late in games. Jamison's offensive contributions would help, but with Howard, Bryant and Nash on the floor, D'Antoni won't be drawing up many late-game plays for his power forwards.
With Gasol's contributions reaching both ends of the floor, he's the clear-cut choice to help this club close out victories or steal games late. If his shots aren't falling, he can still affect the game with his passing and work on the glass.
Jamison's a valuable piece on the roster, and he should continue to see an increase in playing time. But those minutes would be better served as a focal point with the second-teamers.
Even with Gasol's 2012-13 struggles, he remains the more effective option in crunch time.
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