Pau Gasol Primed for a Great Year After L.A. Lakers’ Offseason

There's not a more maligned player on the Lakers than Pau Gasol. Fans—die hard and casual alike—question his toughness, call him soft (which is just a variation of the first thing) and typically use every poor performance as a reason to indict his character. The fact that he's underperformed in two straight playoffs has only fueled these perceptions further even though there's ample evidence (the 2009 and 2010 championship runs) that counter the idea he's not one of the best big men in the league.

In a way, then, there's no Laker with more to prove than Gasol. 

Sure, Dwight Howard must show he's healthy and work to repair his image. Kobe must fight the perception that he's in full decline while also proving that he's willing to play nice and share with his star studded cast of new teammates. And Steve Nash must prove....well, Nash really doesn't have to prove anything. Everyone loves Nash.

Gasol, though, must show that he's up to the challenge of being great. His accomplishments don't carry over the way those other players of his caliber do, so every season is a trek across the proving ground of greatness for the Spaniard. 

This season, I expect Gasol to play up to that standard. If you wonder why, you only need to look at how the Lakers' offseason has helped set him up for success.

First off, the Lakers acquired Steve Nash. Nash isn't only a pass first point guard that will help get Gasol the ball more often, but he'll do so in better positions to score. Gasol is an underrated pick and roll big man, showing an ability to both pop out for his jumper and roll to the rim for shots inside. Running this action with Nash will get him better looks more often.

Nash also gives Gasol (and the Lakers' other post-up threats) more space to work on the low block due to his ability to hit jump shots. Countless times last season, Gasol dealt with extra attention from the defense due...

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