2008-09 Season Preview: Power Forward
The goal for the 2008-09 Los Angeles Lakers is clear, simple and explicit: win the NBA title. Every team in the league, of course, aims for the championship, but few truly have the players to leg out the seven-month journey.
L.A. has those players.
We took a look position-by-position at each Laker based on what was done last season, what the numbers say, what assistant coach Jim Cleamons explained and what you can expect from a fantasy perspective.
In the biggest regular-season trade of 2007-08, Gasol (and a future second-round pick) came to the Lakers courtesy of the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie, the draft rights to Marc Gasol and two future first-round picks (well done, Mr. Kupchak). Pau was fantastic in 27 regular season games for L.A., averaging 18.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.6 blocks while shooting 58.9 percent from the field (up from 50.1 percent in 39 games with Memphis) and, more importantly, combining with Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom to lead Los Angeles to the West’s No. 1 seed. Gasol went for 16.9 points, 9.3 boards, 4.0 assists and 1.9 blocks in the Finals run.
1: National Team better than Gasol’s Spanish side that was beaten by Kobe’s Team USA in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China.
3: Pick in the draft by Atlanta for Pau in 2001 before being traded to Memphis with Lorenzen Wright and Brevin Knight for Shareef Abdul-Rahim. Oops, Atlanta.
18: Number of rebounds Gasol grabbed – against the Lakers – for his career-high on Jan. 13. Two days earlier, Gasol made 17 field goals against Golden State, also a career-high.
24: Number of 20+ point games for Gasol in 2007-08.
“If you look at our statistics last year from when we got Pau, we were a different basketball club. Pau’s skill level, in addition to his basketball IQ, are phenomenal, so we were able to do more things in a short period of time just by his being able to be a sponge. He has a wonderful feel for the game which allowed us to be great mentally and execution wise because of the things we could do since Pau didn’t always look to score – he got other people involved. There was a stretch when we got him where he didn’t know the offense that we said, “Wow we’re going to be terrific once he learns the offense,” but unfortunately once he learned the offense we stopped going to him as much. I thought we should have fed him more because he’s willing to be a hub of the offense, and not a black hole, and we get so much accustomed to his touches. As for his toughness being questioned, that’s not always built around strength and might. We are still basically a finesse team, but that doesn’t mean you have to play weak basketball. Finesse basketball teams play to their strengths, and we have to do some things as a team like rebound and play defense and not rely on one person to carry us.”
Heading into the regular season after shooting 65 percent in eight preseason games and being generally terrific on both ends of the floor, Gasol is already in midseason form. Phil Jackson said so. He’s probably going too low in fantasy drafts as many worry about Andrew Bynum’s return threatening his minutes and value, but make no mistake about it, Jackson wants Gasol on the floor. Pau’s so skilled that if he’s on the floor, he’s doing something positive for your fantasy team: scoring, diming, boarding, swatting, or shooting high percentages from everywhere. Other than Amare Stoudemire and Yao Ming, no big man shoots like Pau from the field and the charity stripe. Snatch him up as high as the late second round in deep leagues to the early third round in all other leagues … Unless you want to risk waiting for him in round four, where he might be there if you’re playing with people who haven’t been watching preseason hoops or listening to the head coach's comments.
Powell averaged 5.2 points and 5.5 rebounds in 64 games for the Clippers despite seeing only 19.2 minutes per game. Powell proved that if you put the former undrafted free agent out of N.C. State on the floor, he’s going to attack the glass and sink his jumper. Powell earned 25 starts and six times posted double-doubles for the Clippers.
1.6: Offensive rebounds averaged by Powell in the preseason to lead the Lakers, as eight of his 15 boards came on the offensive glass. The number is more impressive considering that Powell played just 13.4 minutes per game.
16: Powell’s shoe size.
243: Personal fouls committed by Powell in 138 games – not as many as you’d think after watching him make opponents earn every point against him in the preseason.
“Josh has been a pleasant surprise – his hustle and his enthusiasm has been a very good thing for our team. I think he’s pushing people, because he’s one of the guys that just wants to play. He’ll take your lunch if you think you’ve got it made and fall asleep. He’ll be pushing people all year. I love to see that attitude, because those are the things that keep guys hungry. When people get satisfied, you began to have what we call “slippage,” but if the guy who’s not playing wants to play then the guy who is playing realizes he can’t take his time for granted.”
When Bynum, Gasol and Odom are healthy, it’s going to be tough for any of the backup bigs to put up any numbers worthy of fantasy consideration.