5 Reasons Pau Gasol Will Flourish Without Dwight Howard on LA Lakers

Richard LeContributor IIIAugust 6, 2013

5 Reasons Pau Gasol Will Flourish Without Dwight Howard on LA Lakers

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    Since joining the Los Angeles Lakers, Pau Gasol has been an integral part in winning two NBA championships and keeping the Lakers relevant as a contender.

    Playing alongside Dwight Howard last season, however, certainly mitigated his production.

    Prior to Howard's arrival, Gasol established himself while paying the co-star to Kobe Bryant's alpha male role with the Lakers. Gasol has been most comfortable as the second option on offense. 

    Despite Bryant's tendency to dominate the ball, Gasol still received a lot of touches due to his versatility and effectiveness on offense.

    Even when playing alongside Andrew Bynum, Gasol was able to find his niche within different variations of the triangle offense, which takes full advantage of his passing ability.

    Howard stifled Gasol's game in a variety of ways.

    Although a lot of it has to do with both Howard and Gasol fighting for a way to fit into head coach Mike D'Antoni's system, there's no doubt that Howard's presence made it hard for Gasol to really establish himself in the offense. 

    Without Howard around in Los Angeles, Gasol should see a career resurgence if he can stay healthy. 

No Competition in the Post

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    Despite the excellent stretch the Los Angeles Lakers had to end the season, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard were never able to fully establish themselves as a cohesive tandem down low.

    Howard's departure frees up Gasol to dominate in the paint as the best interior option on offense.

    Chris Kaman is certainly a capable post scorer. While his reputation does precede him, he does not hold the weight nor the All-Star stature that Howard did. There should be no debating that Gasol will be the primary option inside. 

    Increased touches will allow Gasol freedom to utilize his versatility and re-establish himself as one of the league's elite scoring big men. 

    Although Mike D'Antoni's system is not conducive to generating a copious amount of touches in the post, Gasol should still see a lot of looks in the paint as the only reliable source of interior buckets. 

Pau Gasol Will Definitely Start

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    Because of Dwight Howard's presence last year, Mike D'Antoni mitigated Pau Gasol's effectiveness and confidence by relegating him to the bench during various stretches.

    Playing behind Howard is one thing. Howard is the most dominant center in the NBA, so there is no shame in taking the backseat to him. However, playing behind an unproven role player like Earl Clark is another matter.

    Without Howard, Gasol will definitely start and should see all the minutes he deserves, as he is once again the best frontcourt player on the roster. 

    Putting aside the various injuries, one of the main reasons Gasol's game was hindered was the fact that he didn't have his coach's faith in him. 

    A Howard-less roster means that Gasol is now vital to any sort of success that the Lakers will see next season. 

Gasol Will Be the Primary Pick-and-Roll Option

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    Even if Mike D'Antoni decides to continue emphasizing a pick-and-roll, run-and-gun system rather than a more traditional offense, Pau Gasol is still the best available big to revolve that offense around.

    With Chris Kaman being even slower than Gasol, Jordan Hill too raw on offense and Robert Sacre too inexperienced in general, Gasol is the most versatile and effective option for Steve Nash to run the pick-and-roll with.

    Even without a lot of explosiveness, Gasol has great touch around the rim and knows how to use his body to set full-bodied picks when he focuses on that aspect of his game. His shooting touch from mid-range should allow him to play the pick-and-roll as well as the pick-and-pop with Nash. 

    Essentially, Gasol is integral to any system D'Antoni wants to employ because he is the only big on the Lakers' roster with enough versatility to conform to different styles of play. 

Gasol's Statistical Production Will Increase

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    Dwight Howard is a statistical monster. There is no doubt that his presence on the Los Angeles Lakers mitigated Pau Gasol's production.

    Without Howard, Gasol will have free rein to take any of the shots Kobe Bryant hasn't already claimed for himself. 

    While it is clear that the Lakers will definitely suffer on the glass without Howard, Gasol will not. A Howard-less roster means Gasol should see both a spike in points as well as a return to his double-digit rebounding numbers if he can stay healthy.

    Such an increase in statistical output, while inconsequential to the Lakers' overall performance, could lead to Gasol making another All-Star appearance. 

Gasol Will Be the Focal Point of the Half-Court Offense

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    Don't misinterpret the headline. Kobe Bryant will still be a high-volume shooter who dominates the ball. 

    However, outside of Bryant's shots, Pau Gasol will be tasked with helping Steve Nash initiate and create on offense. 

    While Nash is an excellent passer, his biggest contributions come from three different areas. Nash creates by passing in transition, through the pick-and-roll and by driving and kicking the basketball.

    In the half-court offense, it will be up to Gasol to create out of the post when teams collapse or deny Bryant the ball. 

    That means that while Gasol may not put up more shots than Bryant, he will be vital in setting up the Lakers' offense by using his passing skills from the high post and his ability to draw double-teams in the low post.

    Without Howard to clog the lane, Gasol should be able to generate offense for himself and his team and act as the conduit he once was during the triangle offense era.