Los Angeles Lakers: 10 Things Pau Gasol Can Do Better Than Dwight Howard

The Los Angeles Lakers are done with Dwight Howard, and that’s what’s in the best interest for all parties involved.
The best news for Pau Gasol is that he’ll be able to do more of what makes him great without Howard occupying valuable space inside. Again, the Lakers as a whole might not be better, but Gasol will almost certainly get closer to his career averages of 18.4 points, 9.4 rebounds and a 52-percent field-goal percentage.
But it would be wrong to suggest the Lakers are better without Howard in the lineup like so many angry Lakers stakeholders have. Just like the team, everyone has to move on. For starters, it’s worth looking at several of the things that Pau Gasol does better than Howard.
And there are a lot of them. Here’s a look at 10, in no particular order:
1. Handle adversity
The local media in Los Angeles loves The Spaniard because he’s engaging and gives thoughtful answers in interviews. He’s a genuinely nice person who doesn’t take out his frustrations from the rigors of the game on the folks who get paid to analyze and report on them.
Howard, on the other hand, has made a career out of creating a media circus wherever he goes, many times due to his immaturity and indecisiveness.
Case in point — Gasol was nearly traded in 2011, but moved forward. Even though the rumors of him being shipped away continued over the next two seasons, he stayed the course and kept his focus on the court.
In Howard’s defense, he wasn’t completely silent, however.
In an interview during the season with T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times, he explained that with Howard and D’Antoni both back in 2013-14, it would be difficult to spend another full season under circumstances where Howard was the featured player and Gasol was relegated to the bench since the two didn’t mesh well together on the floor.
That’s as far as he went, however, suggesting that if it continued he may ask for a trade. Obviously, as a player under contract, he couldn’t leave on his own accord.
He probably would’ve, too (a lot of players would have given the mess of a situation). There’s just something to be said with the way he conducted himself through it all. He was candid and never tried to hide it. He’s just better at dealing with all of it — the scrutiny, the bright lights and the criticism — than Dwight.
Howard took the easy road to Houston after one difficult anomaly of a year riddled with injuries and schematic issues. Instead of taking the keys to the franchise in the post-Kobe Bryant era and leading the prestigious franchise forward, he left the Lakers and their fans with nothing to show for their efforts to re-sign him.
2. Stretch the floor
The Lakers have a new-look offense under D’Antoni where bigs who can stretch the floor fit better into his system. Gasol shot 42 percent from the 10-14 foot range in 2012-13 and 41 percent from 15-19 feet, where he averaged 3.0 shots per game last season.
On the other hand, 96 percent of Howard’s shot attempts last season came inside of 10 feet for good reason. He converted 21 percent of his limited mid-range looks and has no business spending any time outside of the paint when he starts his move to the basket.
Gasol figures to be a greater asset for D’Antoni as the maligned coach will have an opportunity to install his plays with personnel better-suited for him. Gasol fits that mold because he can knock down mid-range jumpers with at least some efficiency.
3. Behave like a champion
Howard wasn’t having fun in Los Angeles. He didn’t look like himself, which was partially due to a lingering back injury that few people gave him credit for playing through. He was also relatively productive and averaged 17.1 points and 12.4 rebounds under the adverse circumstances, but something was off about him all year long mentally.
“Fun” to the Lakers’ veterans, namely Gasol and Kobe Bryant doesn’t involve smiling in the locker room and joking after losses. For a player like Gasol, winning is what really matters — that’s how champions think.
It’s one reason Bryant and Howard never meshed well and Gasol and Bryant got along famously. Gasol and Howard are the proverbial Lakers’ mullet — business and party interwoven. They are polar opposites in terms of their approach to the game.
Howard going to Houston for less money looks like a winning move at the surface level given the talent disparity, but he could have stayed with L.A. and been the city’s next great center. Eventually, they would have surrounded him with more talent.
4. Loyalty
The basketball situation in Laker-land wasn’t favorable for Howard due to an in-season coaching change, a clash in philosophy between he and head coach Mike D’Antoni and an inability to get comfortable playing alongside Bryant.
Gasol had a lot of the same issues, yet put the team first. He didn’t let his own personal pride deter him from the goal of helping the Lakers win games.
Again, to be fair neither did Howard (he played hurt all year), but Gasol did it better.
As long as Gasol was in a Lakers uniform, he made winning his only focus. His entire Lakers career is a testament to how to stay in the moment rather than let distractions dictate what happens on the floor.
Howard is an easy target for L.A. fans, and he doesn’t deserve to get beat up as much as he has for his decision to leave. But he still left, and it’s Gasol that’s emerged from the rubble left behind last season’s disaster.
5. Free-throw shooting
Gasol’s career free-throw mark is 74 percent, and Howard’s is 58. He shot 49 percent over the last two seasons, and the troubles from the line are clearly affecting his head as he continues to trend downward. That’s the most disturbing part of it all. After shooting a career-high 67 percent from the line during his rookie year, he’s gotten increasingly worse.
Scoring without the clock moving is critical — especially late in close games. Howard is valuable on both ends with his ability to rebound and is a force on defense, but his balky shooting from the charity stripe often negates those extra possessions.
6. Earn Kobe Bryant’s respect
Gasol’s earned Bryant’s respect, and that’s not easy to do. He helped the Lakers reach the NBA Finals in three consecutive years in 2008 through 2010 and win two. He was the missing piece after coming from the Memphis Grizzlies via trade, and he fit in to the framework of the Lakers as constructed.
Howard, on the other hand, was frustrated by the style of play and reluctant to embrace the pick-and-roll. Rather than give D’Antoni a chance and relishing the opportunity to pair with one of the best passers of all time in Steve Nash, he struggled to assimilate, which materialized into a fairly bitter separation.
7. Make adjustments
Gasol has enough diversity in his game to adjust, whereas Howard lacks refinement offensively. On the defensive end, Howard’s far superior, but made many mental error there with the Lakers. This makes him adaptable to anything the Lakers’ coaching staff decides to change on the fly during a transitional year.
Would Howard be able to adjust had he stayed in Los Angeles? The answer lies partially in the fact that he left and was unwilling to try to make it work when the Lakers made it clear they wanted him to return.
8. Preserve his body
The Lakers had countless injuries to deal with last season, and both bigs had multiple ailments. For Howard, his back bothered him all year, and he suffered a shoulder injury on top of it. Gasol dealt with plantar fasciitis and shoulder issues of his own.
Injuries are part of the game, especially as players age, but Gasol has the advantage over Howard when it comes to longevity because of their relative style of play.
Gasol has a more refined post game where he can score without overpowering or out-jumping opponents, while Howard relies on athleticism to do much of what he does well, namely rebound and score inside the restricted area.
As that athletic ability starts to dwindle, Howard’s numbers will diminish. They’ll do so at a more substantial rate than a player like Gasol, whose skill can make him effective player even into his late-30s a la Tim Duncan.
9. Handle the L.A. media
Howard didn’t appreciate the media in Los Angeles, nor did he enjoy the scrutiny that came with playing for one of the NBA’s most storied franchises in the second-largest media market in the country. It’s one of the obvious reasons he left for Houston.
In contrast, Gasol’s handled everything from being labeled soft to having to talk about Howard constantly with class. He knows how to give reporters what they want without betraying the trust of his teammates or organization.
In short, he’s a pro’s pro when it comes to public relations. Howard on the other hand? Not so much.
10. Create shots
By stretching the floor, Gasol forces the defense to honor his mid-range shooting ability. That frees up more passing lanes than in Howard’s case, where his offensive limitations give him less opportunity to draw big men out of the lane free things up for the wings.
Because of Gasol’s ability to pass as one of the most skilled big men in the game, he’s averaged 3.3 assists per game over his career to go along with his 18.4 points average. That’s a healthy number of dishes and a testament to the dynamic nature of his skill set. Howard is much more one-dimensional with a career mark of 1.5 assists per contest.
Is Gasol better than Howard?
Of course not.
When healthy, Dwight is still the best center in the league. He came close to it statistically while playing at less than 100 percent with a 22.0 efficiency rating. Only Al Horford (23.2 rating in 80 games) and Anderson Varrejao (25.2 in 25 games) were better in that regard.
Gasol’s 18.9 rating is nothing to brush off considering the team dynamic that limited his effectiveness and that the league average is 15. With Howard gone, Gasol will be asked to do more — and there’s no indication can’t handle it if he stays healthy.
Given the types of skills he has and that he can still do what he does best at age 33, it’s a good bet that he’ll shatter his relatively pedestrian numbers from a season ago.
If the Lakers are going to surprise anyone and make it to the postseason, he’ll have to.

Written by Nick

Nick

Nick the Quick White is an avid fan of basketball and hip hop, and a contributing writer with WJS since 2013. Nick has interviewed rappers, ballers, rapper ballers, and baller rappers on the site and continues to preach that the NBA should have a team in Europe. Maybe because Nick currently lives outside London where to them Football is actually played with your feet, can you believe this fatuousness?

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