If Dwight Howard Bolts Lakers, Will Pau Gasol Regain All-Star Form?

Unloading Pau Gasol to save money could be the dumb decision of the year should the Los Angeles Lakers go in that direction this summer. 

Conversely, keeping Gasol in purple and gold for the remaining year of his contract and shifting him over to play center should Dwight Howard leave may turn out to be a brilliant move.

The future of Pau Gasol as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers is as uncertain as Dwight Howard's decision on whether or not to sign a long-term extension.  And while Howard keeps everyone in suspense with his non-committal answers, Gasol has made it clear he wants to stay and play in the city where he has won two NBA Championships.

If Howard does leave Los Angeles, the Lakers most likely will move Gasol back to center, with Jordan Hill as his backup.  It's a spot on the floor where the seven-foot Spaniard excels. If healthy, it should boost his status back to an All-Star level in his 13th NBA season.

There are bound to be detractors who will cite Gasol's age (33 on July 6) and health (recent surgery to repair tendonitis in both knees).  He missed eight games because of tendinitis, five due to a concussion and 20 more after suffering a torn plantar fascia at Brooklyn on February 5.

But, the fact remains that Gasol can be one of the league's top big men and, when given the chance at center, will put up numbers which are equal to or surpass those of Howard.  He actually is much more of a skilled offensive player than D12, though Howard is stronger on the defensive end of the court.

Gasol started three games at center last season.  He averaged 20 points on 49 percent shooting.  Compare that with his career-low 13.4 ppg as the team's starting power forward in 39 games.  As the team's center, Gasol averaged 16.3 shots, compared to 11.9 as starting forward and just 9.4 per game coming off the bench in seven games.

At least...

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