The Los Angeles Lakers are still finding their way through the early parts of this season. At 4-2, they have not been exactly convincing as a title favorite but of course, they are still working in new acquisitions like Dennis Schroder, Wesley Matthews, Montrezl Harrell, and Marc Gasol.
Gasol, in particular, has not quite fit into the team yet. After a rough start, he seemed to have a breakthrough against the Minnesota Timberwolves but hasn’t had consistent performances yet. LeBron James was asked about this after a win against the San Antonio Spurs on Friday and made it clear he expected Gasol to be a “big part of what we do” once the team starts playing through the center more on the offensive end.
Here is LeBron's full postgame quote when asked about how the Lakers can get better utilize and incorporate Marc Gasol within the offense. Which is similar to what Frank Vogel has echoed recently as well: pic.twitter.com/6OetgkN0Pf
— Alex Regla (@AlexmRegla) January 2, 2021
Gasol has averaged just 3.8 points and 2.3 assists in his 19 minutes per game. Those are obviously way below his career averages and while age is a factor, it’s not the only thing limiting the big man’s production as the team hasn’t quite figured out how to use him yet – something Frank Vogel has acknowledged and will hopefully fix in the coming weeks and months. As Silver Screen and Roll’s Harrison Faigen noted, Gasol currently has the lowest usage rate of his career. That’s not necessarily indicative of whether or not the Lakers use him as a fulcrum of their offense; usage rate only signifies the percentage of possessions that a player finishes through a shot, a drawn foul, or a turnover. However, it’s an interesting trend that gives some insight into how often Gasol is used within the flow of the offense.
Still, Gasol’s impact has been positive. The Lakers’ starting lineup featuring Gasol, James, Anthony Davis, Dennis Schroder and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is one of the best five-man units in the league in the early stages of this season, outscoring opponents by 24.2 points per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com. In six games, the Lakers have a net rating of 18.5 when Gasol is on the floor compared to 4.2 when he sits. It’s undeniable that the team has been better with his shooting threat, his passing ability, and his defensive communication (something that Davis highlighted postgame) all on the floor.
All this is to say that there is much to be concerned about regarding Gasol’s production just yet. Do the Lakers need more out of him to go the distance? Probably. Is he still a positive contributor even with his limited counting stats? Absolutely. Nevertheless, LeBron’s concern – if you can call it that – isn’t unfounded and the Lakers will have to continue to tinker with their offense to not only get the best out of their two superstars but also to put Gasol, Harrell, Matthews, Schroder and the rest of the team’s supporting in the optimal situations to give them the help they need to repeat as champions.