Can Pau Gasol Become a Top-10 Player Again for LA Lakers in 2013-14?

All signs point to a big year from Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol during the 2013-14 NBA regular season, but can Gasol elevate his game to the level it was from 2008-11?

During those seasons, Gasol was arguably the league's premier power forward and one of the game's top 10 players. There are several factors that suggest Gasol will improve dramatically from the career low numbers he posted last season.

Gasol's 13.7 points per game and 8.6 rebounds during the 2012-13 season were only symptoms of a much larger ailment that plagued the Lakers during the short-lived Dwight Howard era.  Howard's departure may have lifted a weight from both the Lakers and Gasol.

Howard's presence in the paint meant less touches for Gasol, and it pushed him away from the basket and out of his comfort zone. But now Gasol is once again the Lakers' primary post option, and he should be more comfortable playing in head coach Mike D'Antoni's offense.

It doesn't hurt that Gasol should find extra motivation since he just happens to be playing for a new contract as well.

Younger power forwards like Blake Griffin, Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge have posted better numbers than Gasol in recent years, which has led to the assumption that they have also passed Gasol as players. That comparison is not fair when you consider all three were the first or second offensive options for their teams.

Gasol's inferior statistics during the 2012-13 season don't change the fact that he is still one of the most fundamentally sound big men in the league. His versatility should be on full display next year, especially with star guard Kobe Bryant recovering from a torn Achilles tendon.

Love may be a better rebounder, and Griffin and Aldridge might be better scorers than Gasol, but none of them have Gasol's unique blend of size, skill and vision in the paint.

However, it may be a stretch to think a 32-year-old G...

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