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L.A. Lakers: Are Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol Still the NBA's Top Post-Perimeter Duo?

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IJuly 8, 2011

DALLAS, TX - MARCH 12:  Kobe Bryant #24 and Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers react after a 96-91 win against the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center on March 12, 2011 in Dallas, Texas.  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 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers certainly have some major adjustments ahead of them if they hope to return to the NBA Finals, but Kobe Bryant on the perimeter and Pau Gasol in the post should make their task a little easier.

The Lakers were swept out of the 2011 NBA Playoffs by the Dallas Mavericks in the West semifinals, but that doesn't change the fact that Los Angeles will enter the 2011-12 season with what is arguably the NBA's top post-perimeter tandem.

I say arguably because the only other real contender for that title is probably the combination of LeBron James and Chris Bosh in Miami.

James and Bosh averaged a combined 45.4 points per game to go along with 15.8 rebounds and 8.9 assists, while shooting 50 percent from the field.

James and Bosh's numbers are slightly higher than Bryant and Gasol's averages of 43 points, 15.3 rebounds and 8.0 assists per game and 49 percent shooting from the field, but the Lakers duo may win the debate due to experience, accomplishments and the fact that Miami has another superstar talent in the backcourt.

Technically, James should not even qualify since he is not a shooting guard or a point guard, but he spends so much time as the Heat's primary ball-handler that he defies the labels of a position.

In terms of achievements, Bryant and Gasol have led the Lakers to three NBA Finals appearances and two championships, while James and Bosh did reach the Finals in their season together with the Heat.

That could bode well for Miami's future since Bryant and Gasol also accomplished the same feat in their first season together, although they did not have a whole offseason to establish chemistry.

Chemistry may be the one intangible that keeps Bryant and Gasol firmly rooted as the NBA's best post-perimeter combo, because one would be hard pressed to find another duo that has the same type of on-court rapport.

Gasol was the perfect type of big man to play in Phil Jackson's triangle offense, and his intelligence and vision in the post were almost as impressive as his wide array of physical skills.

Bryant made it a point to establish a close relationship with Gasol early on since he had not played with a big man of Gasol's caliber since Shaquille O'Neal left Los Angeles, and the marriage of Kobe and Pau carried none of the excess baggage.

Gasol is content with allowing Bryant to lead, and the players grew so close over the course of the past few seasons that they sometimes spoke in Spanish on the court to hide their strategies from opponents.

Bryant and Gasol managed to have superb regular seasons in 2010-11, yet their loss to Dallas could change a few things. Will one of them be their status as the league's top inside-out duo?

Both players must adjust to new schemes and a new head coach in Mike Brown, and one of the immediate results may be fewer touches in the post for Gasol and fewer minutes for Bryant.

Brown's conventional motion offense probably means the Lakers' pace will increase compared to Jackson's methodical triangle, and a faster tempo may lead to fewer minutes for an aging and weary Bryant.

Lakers center Andrew Bynum also proved last season that he deserves more touches in the paint when healthy, and Brown may try to grant him that chance with more entry passes and looks at the basket.

That could push Gasol farther from the basket, and although he does have a decent perimeter game for a big man, he is much more effective and efficient when he is able to play with his back to the basket.

When and if the current NBA lockout is lifted, we will all get a chance to see if Gasol and Bryant can conquer the challenges that lie ahead and prove they still belong among the ranks of the game's best post-perimeter duos.

I would probably give Bryant and Gasol a slight edge over James and Bosh at the moment because the Lakers duo has led to more success on the court, but the Miami Heat tandem is certainly in Bryant and Gasol's rear-view mirror, and closing fast.

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