When media day opened up a week ago, Pau Gasol stated he is not in San Antonio to fill Tim Duncan’s shoes. That for anyone, is a hard thing to do. But is there to win another championship.
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The newest Spurs big-man has done fine through the past 36 years. Asking him to transform now would not be the most productive. He like Duncan, have their own style.
The tradeoffs of a Gasol-for-Duncan swap are obvious. Duncan was known for his offensive and defensive skills. Gasol on the other hand, will give the team another scoring option, but what is lacking is a defense with such mastery.
Gasol mentions Duncan’s defense and how he seemed to be in the right spot, at the right time.
“Defensively [Duncan] was a guy that was always in the right spot at the right time,” Gasol said. “He might not have been as athletic as he used to be, but he was always altering shots, communicating comfort and confidence to his teammates.”
When the Spurs signed Gasol, questions quickly arose around whether he can provide any of what Duncan did defensively.
Looking deep into the two careers of Duncan and Gasol’s numbers, a more unexpected question comes to light, that may have people pondering: Are Gasol’s skills as a defender closer to Duncan’s?
Apr 2, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond (0) drives to the basket against Chicago Bulls center Pau Gasol (16) in the 1st quarter at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports
Numbers do not lie.
For Duncan he never led the NBA in blocks, but he did affect so many possessions in sometimes brilliant ways.
Everyone that loves sports also love statistics. Numbers can be made to do a great things. In comparisons between players, related statistics can help manifest the potential truth.
Gasol and Duncan, both are skilled at their positions. During the 2015-16 seasons, we looked at Gasol while with the Chicago Bulls and of course, Duncan with the Spurs and how those two teams stacked up in their defensive ratings in the NBA.
Gasol’s team posted a 103.9 defensive rating- ranking them 15th in the league.
Duncan’s team paced everyone with a 96.6 rating- which marked the best since the 2012-13 Indiana Pacers whom finished with a 96.6.
Below are the numbers compiled from the 2015-16 season by Nick Moyle of Spurs Nation. Would you be able to distinguish from which are Duncan’s numbers and Gasol’s?
Player A is Duncan and Player B is Gasol.
Does it change your mind a little on what you expected about Gasol’s defensive ability?
Looking at the chart, opponents shot worse overall, from inside six feet and from inside 10 feet against Gasol than they did Duncan.
There is no question both are good rim protectors, it shows.
Duncan held a slight edge defending in isolation situations and superior guarding the pick-and-roll.
The numbers paint the shocking picture where Gasol is Duncan’s defensive equal.
“I learned that it’s important to be an anchor defensively,” Gasol said.
Gasol now with San Antonio, knows the imprint that was left by Duncan cannot be filled but looking at the numbers above, he will fit in just fine.