Pau Gasol: The thinking man’s Power Forward

The Perception

Let’s get one thing out-of-the-way right now, Pau Gasol is not soft in any sense of the word. The Lakers big man has proven time and time again that he can not only mix with the best players in his position but also dominate them.

They say “ball don’t lie” well let’s look at the stats first of all. Over the last ten years in regular season play the big Spaniard has started 790 games averaging 36 minutes achieving 18.7 points, 9.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.7 blocks pretty impressive numbers I’m sure you would agree.

Head to Head

Kevin Garnett is the man who is oft compared to Pau so let’s see how he stacks up career wise. Before we get started I’d like to doff the proverbial cap to KG, over 17 seasons in the NBA (incredible in its own right) his consistency is simply remarkable and he is rightly held up as a Hall of Fame candidate for the near future. How does he stack up compared to the man everyone seems to love to hate outside of L.A.? 1218 games started, 19.3 points, 4 assists, 10.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game.

So in other words Pau is slightly behind in all but blocks where he is slightly ahead. Surely given Garnett is a monster who owns the court (so much so he won’t even let you score points when the clock has stopped) and Pau is this European fairy that gets pushed around by everyone their stats should have a chasm the size of the Grand Canyon separating them? Right? Obviously not because it’s simply not true. Pau Gasol is just as dominant but in a different way.

What about mental strength? Well both men are clearly reliable on the big occasion and the stats bare this out again:

Pau weighs in with 101 games started, 38.7 minutes, 17.3 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.9 blocks.

KG? 125 games started, 38.6 minutes, 19.2 points, 11 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.4 blocks.

Again remarkably similar with the most surprising stat and most relevant to me being the blocks per game, not because it suits my argument but because it is as I eluded to earlier a massive part of the personality of KG. No one will ever forget the image of him rejecting shots in his own unique aggressive way, it’s become his own patented trade mark and yet take all the aggression away (no one is saying that KG isn’t more aggressive than Pau) and take that perceived intimidation away and what do you have as fact? Pau Gasol is a better shot blocker than KG, again not the hallmark of someone who is supposedly soft.

What about when Pau Gasol and Kevin Garnett have faced each other on the court, surely a softy like Pau would get buried in every aspect right? Of course not because as I’ll never tire of saying Pau is not soft.

KG 13 7 6 13 34.6 14.8 .466 0.2 .000 3.4 .818 2.3 6.7  9.0 3.0 1.5 1.2 2.1 3.4 16.6
PG 13 6 7 13 40.5 11.7 .500 0.2 .000 7.3 .695 3.6 7.3 10.9 3.5 0.6 1.6 2.0 3.2 16.8

In their meetings Pau has played more games, won more games, won more free throws, had more defensive and offensive rebounds as well as total rebounds, made more points, more assists and less personal fouls. Surprisingly the only stat KG has over Pau is his FT% suggesting more of a mental toughness from the charity stripe.

Out of Gas-ol man?

Where Pau really comes into his own though is what doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. Pau Gasol is the most technically gifted and complete Power Forward in the NBA, even Kevin Love does not have the cerebral command of the game that Pau displays. Next time he plays watch his balance, his poise, his agility, watch how often this soft player is able to take up the perfect position on the court time after time no matter what the situation both offensively and defensively. Watch his speed of thought and movement when players try to pick him up off a screen,watch his one on one defence and how he’s so quick on help defence also.

Kevin Love is the most dominant power forward in the NBA statistically right? So how does Pau match up head to head when they are both on the same court?

PG   13 13  0 13 36.2 13.3 .590 0.0      5.3 .870 3.4 7.8 11.2 3.7 0.3 1.9 1.6 2.1 20.3
KL   13  0 13 10 33.1 13.1 .406 2.2 .321 4.4 .825 5.0 8.4 13.4 1.9 0.6 0.3 1.8 2.8 14.9

Didn’t expect that did you? Once again it’s close and once again no player with an offensive skill set gets more blocks than Pau.

So why is this the case? It’s simple. Garnett is your Rambo type, he’s all action, in your face blowing shit up 24/7. Pau? He’s more your Bruce Lee, all about knowledge of his craft, bringing a style and subtly to his profession that we haven’t seen before. Both will get the job done for you but in polar opposite ways and whoever you choose is up to you but I think we can all agree that with what we now know that neither Bruce Lee nor Pau Gasol are soft.

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