Why Pau Gasol Will Be the Key to L.A. Lakers' Postseason Success

Richard LeContributor IIIApril 13, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 27:  Pau Gasol #16 and Dwight Howard #12 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrate a play during a 106-95 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder at Staples Center on January 27, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

With Kobe Bryant probably down for the count and the Los Angeles Lakers' playoff chances in serious jeopardy, the burden falls on Pau Gasol to lead the Lakers to postseason success (via ESPN).

Notching up a triple-double in the Lakers' victory over the Golden State Warriors, Gasol's versatility will be essential in trying to fill the chasm left by Bryant's absence. 

During the Lakers' recent resurgence, Bryant had taken on the role of facilitator on top of his traditional scoring role.

Now that he's been taken out of commission and Steve Nash is still dealing with lingering injuries himself, it's on Gasol to be the primary facilitator. 

Through Bryant, the offense was centered around drive-and-kicks and passing out of double teams. Gasol's style of play is far different. 

Utilizing both the low post and the high post to initiate his offense, Gasol's skills as a pivot scorer, as well as his court vision, allow the offense to be funneled through him.

While the pick-and-roll between Nash (once he returns) and one of the two big men is a feasible option, the Lakers have found the most success with Gasol and Dwight Howard operating in the high and low posts, respectively.

However, this success was founded with most of the attention being diverted onto Bryant. With Kobe out, the defense can pay more attention to both of the big men.

Dwight Howard has never been a versatile scorer. Whether it be through offensive rebounds, utilizing his strength in the paint or via the pick-and-roll, his offense hinges on his physical dominance and athleticism.

With flaws in his post moves and his ability to create for himself from the post positions, Howard cannot be relied on to carry the Lakers' offense. 

While Howard is offensively flawed, Nash has shown flashes of his former self when healthy. However, his injury woes this season makes him an unreliable option, even if he comes back from his most recent injury in decent form.

Gasol is the Lakers' only hope of mounting any sort of postseason push and garnering any postseason success given his excellent play since his return and the versatility he brings to the offense. 

Pau is skilled enough to create from the high post and has the court vision and passing ability to kick the ball out of double teams. When working under single coverage, he has the post moves and a decent jump shot which should allow him to create for himself as well.

Despite Howard's status as a potential foundation for the Lakers in the post-Kobe era, there is no doubt that for the Lakers to salvage this season, the offense must revolve around Gasol.

However, Bryant's 27 points per game will be very hard to replace, even with a Gasol-centered offense. Howard and Gasol have to lock down the paint and the Lakers have to find a way to rectify one of their most glaring weaknesses. 

With their perimeter defense basically shattered with the injury to Bryant and the defensive liabilities their point guards are known to be, it is up to both big men to clog the paint and try their best to cover up their weaknesses on the perimeter. 

But if Gasol is needed to anchor the offense, Howard is going to have to really up his game on the defensive end. 

Ultimately, while Gasol may be the key to the Lakers' success as the conduit on offense, both Gasol and Howard are crucial in creating the same gigantic frontcourt dynamic Gasol and Andrew Bynum once had during their title run a few years ago.