A lot of people describe Pau Gasol as 'soft.' And I don't really get that. Maybe he was, but not any more. He spends the best part of every game being hit, and he stays true to the low post. Pau's not soft. He just can't run backwards and doesn't try hard on the defensive glass.
(The flopping's a bit soft, maybe. But it's also a skill. It wins possessions. That's the point of defense, no?)
Pau's offensive repertoire is incredibly complete. Big, strong and slow, Pau recognises that his rightful place is in the low post, and he nails himself there accordingly. He's a good finisher down there, too, with hook shots from either hand, touch, moves, footwork, knowing how to create space, the ability to get to the foul line and the ability to hit the foul shots. Pau is a willing and extremely capable passer of the post, and he compliments this with high post and face-up games. He can drive on very slow people, pass to all areas of the court, and shoot out to about 20 feet in a funky one handed way. Offensively, he's about as complete as you'll find in the NBA today. And there's not a lot soft about catching the ball and throwing yourself into whoever stands between you and the rim.
Defensively, things aren't as brilliant. Pau is slow, and a lot slower than he used to be (as would you be if you broke your foot), and this disadvantages him on defense. He'll always have great size, and has good shot blocking instincts, but his mobility limits his help defense. He's good at defending the spot he stands in, employing the flop along with his strength and shot blocking, but he doesn't slide across too well. Furthermore, despite being one of the game's best offensive rebounders, Gasol apparently can't be bothered on the other end, and his defensive rebounding rate is quite a long way below where it should be. (This is trending upwards as he gets older, yet has been a problem for the majority of his career.)
Nevertheless, Pau has flourished into a pretty complete player, and one of the best second options in the league. It's quite the transformation we've witnessed here. If you can remember back that far, Pau used to play some small forward and spend some time on the perimeter. He used to be clean shaven, have short hair and a Spanish accent. And he used to move a bit better than this. Our little boy is all grown up.
- 14th June, 2009.