Last year, chants of M-V-P reigned down at the Staples Center constantly. The Laker faithful pulled for Kobe Bryant from day one and he came through, winning the first MVP award of his career. This year though, those chants continue for Kobe, but they should be directed at Pau Gasol.
Through 21 games this season Bryant has shot over 50% from the field in just six games. Pau Gasol, on the other hand, has shot under 50% in just seven games. Gasol is averaging 17.5 points per game on less than 12 shots per game. As for Bryant, he has to hoist up over 19 shots per game to average his 25. Oh, and did I mention he’s shooting 27% from 3-point range?
As talented as Bryant is, Gasol is the one creating mismatches on the offensive end. You might not have noticed it because no matter how bad of a night Bryant has, he always dominates the highlights. Gasol’s big enough to post-up anyone, but has one of the smoothest mid-range jumpers in the game. He is great at the pick and roll or pick and pop and is the best passing big man in the game. Gasol is tied with Tim Duncan for assists per game by power forwards, but gets far fewer opportunities than Duncan.
While I don’t think Bryant deserves to be called the best player in the NBA anymore (I’d take LeBron for that) he is clearly better than he is playing right now. But until he is able to break out of his funk, the Lakers need to rely on their new MVP, Pau Gasol, to shoulder the offensive load.