The Los Angeles Lakers are going to be less athletic at the center position this season after essentially swapping JaVale McGee for Marc Gasol. However, with what they lost in athleticism, they seem to have gained in skill.
After the Lakers’ practice on Tuesday, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope raved about Gasol’s versatility on both ends of the floor, and he compared it to what McGee and Dwight Howard brought to the team last season.
“He’s been great,” Caldwell-Pope said. “He’s just been playing how he plays, brining that talent to the organization and I think he fits perfectly. He’s basically doing the same as JaVale and Dwight, but a little more. He can shoot the ball in the mid-range — he’s very efficient there — and sets screen and rolls that help us pick and pop. He’s mixing it up a lot and he’s showing us a little bit of everything. Right now, he’s been amazing.”
Gasol didn’t shoot the ball particularly well from midrange last season, ranking in the 49th percentile among centers in midrange efficiency (39%), but for his career, he’s been as reliable as they come at the 5. In the 10 years he’s been in the league, he’s ranked in the 70th percentile or higher for midrange efficiency seven times, according to Cleaning the Glass.
Gasol’s also expanded his range in recent years, attempting 1,009 3-pointers over the last four seasons and making 36.5% of the them. Last season, he shot 38.5% from behind the arc while attempting 3.4 3-pointers per game.
But Gasol’s shooting isn’t what makes him valuable to the Lakers; it’s his combination of shooting and defense, the latter of which could make him a favorite of Frank Vogel’s sooner rather than later. Gasol, a former Defensive Player of the Year Award-winner, ranked fifth among centers in defensive real-plus minus (3.42) last season, which also ranked eighth among all players. He might not be as mobile as he once was, but he’s still really good on that end.
Anthony Davis will probably be the Lakers’ go-to option at center when the postseason rolls around, the same way he was last season, but for the regular season, Gasol is exactly what the team needs.