Pau Gasol: The NBA's Newest Secondary Superstar

Anthony WilsonAnalyst IApril 15, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 09:  Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts to the Laker bench after missing a dunk against the Denver Nuggets at the Staples Center on April 9, 2009 in Los Angeles , California.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images) 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 Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

It has been said that he has the physical characteristics of an ostrich.

After last season's NBA Finals, Jemele Hill called him Pau Ga-soft.

But Jeff Van Gundy defined him most justly.

He's the NBA's best second-best player.

As the Lakers prepare to embark on another run at the championship, let's take a timeout to honor the game's latest, greatest supporting player.

The Lakers are 86-21 with Gasol in the lineup over the past two seasons. The Spaniard has found his ultimate niche in Los Angeles.

The steady seven-footer, Mr. Consistency, with the all-around game. Mr. 19/10/4 on 57-percent shooting, serving as the Pinky to Kobe Bryant's Brain.

Last year, it was his arrival from Memphis that saved L.A.'s year, after the season-ending knee injury to center Andrew Bynum. Gasol's skill level and basketball intellect made him the perfect big man for the triangle offense, which he picked up on the fly.

This season, Bynum went down again to another knee injury, but once again the Lakers didn't miss a beat. It was thanks in no small part to Gasol, who moved back to center and upped his workload, even after playing into June last season, then leading Spain to the gold-medal game at the Olympics in the summer.

Doug Collins once suggested that Gasol was the most skilled big man in the game, and he very well may be.

He is an excellent passer. He is an excellent shooter. He is a nightmare both facing up and with his back to the basket, where he uses craft and finesse to dominate stronger, more physical defenders. He has terrific hands and a great touch around the hoop, where he can finish equally well with either hand.

But he's also toughened up. Gasol still isn't going to out-muscle anyone, and he does still fall down a lot—almost like a stage actress fainting during a play—but he does seem a bit more willing to pound bodies in his back-up.

The dude had his manhood questioned after last June's debacle, and like the rest of his teammates, he will no longer be pushed around.

If the Lakers manage a championship or two, or three, out of this bunch, the name Pau Gasol will join a list of great players who were not the best on their teams.

Before Gasol, there was Scottie Pippen, the greatest supporting actor of them all (Kobe doesn't count; he and Shaq were really more like two Brandos sharing the same movie).

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Before Pippen, there was James Worthy and Kevin McHale. There is nothing wrong with being mentioned with any of these men. It is an honor.

As was proved in Memphis, you can only go so far with Gasol as the best player on your roster. The Grizzlies were swept out of the playoffs three straight years in their only playoff appearances with the Spaniard as their franchise player (and the only three playoff appearances in team history).

But, put him on a squad with Bryant, and suddenly you are in serious business.

Throw in a Lamar Odom, and you are going to contend for the title.

Throw in a healthy Bynum, and there is no reason for the Lakers not to win the whole damn 'ship.

If and when it happens, Gasol will no doubt have played a monumental part, and if they can duplicate such success in coming years, he can start thinking about a legacy.

But first, we must hand out some awards.

M.V.PLeBron James, Cavaliers. Duh.

D.P.O.Y.Dwight Howard, Magic. I actually think LeBron is the best defensive player in the league, but a great interior defender is always more valuable than a great perimeter one. So, Howard, who leads the league in blocks and rebounds, gets the nod.

R.O.Y.Derrick Rose, Bulls. Duh, again. Although there are several future All-Stars who will come from this rookie class.

Sixth Man—Jason Terry, Mavericks. I believe it is Kenny Smith who says the award should not go to someone who could actually start for his team. Jeff Van Gundy has expressed similar sentiments. Whatever. Terry gets 20 a game off the pine for a playoff-bound Dallas team. 'Nuff said.

Most Improved PlayerDanny Granger, Pacers. Went from a very good young player to one of the five best small forwards in the league. Devin Harris a close second.

Coach of the YearMike Brown, Cavaliers. Opened up the offense, accepted the Phil Jackson doctrine of never panicking—allowing the players to play through rough patches, rather than bailing them out with timeouts.

Before, the Cavs pretty much won solely because they had LeBron, and almost in spite of Brown. This year, Brown has hit his stride.

All-NBA First Team

G Chris Paul, Hornets/Dwyane Wade, Heat
G Kobe Bryant, Lakers
F LeBron James, Cavaliers
F Tim Duncan, Spurs
C Dwight Howard, Magic

All-NBA Second Team

G Chauncey Billups, Nuggets
G Brandon Roy, Blazers
F Paul Pierce, Celtics
F Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks
C Yao Ming, Rockets

All-NBA Third Team

G Tony Parker, Spurs
G Deron Williams, Jazz
F Carmelo Anthony, Nuggets
F Kevin Garnett, Celtics
C Pau Gasol, Lakers

All-NBA Defense First Team

G Dwyane Wade, Heat
G Kobe Bryant, Lakers
F LeBron James, Cavaliers
F Shane Battier, Rockets
C Dwight Howard, Magic

All-NBA Defense Second Team

G Chris Paul, Hornets
G Rajon Rondo, Celtics
F Kevin Garnett, Celtics
F Tim Duncan, Spurs
C Kendrick Perkins, Celtics

All-Rookie First Team

Derrick Rose, Bulls
Russell Westbrook, Thunder
O.J. Mayo, Grizzlies
Kevin Love, T'wolves
Brook Lopez, Nets

All-Rookie Second Team

D.J. Augustin, Bobcats
Eric Gordon, Clippers
Rudy Fernandez, Blazers
Michael Beasley, Heat
Marc Gasol, Grizzlies