Bynum returns, but it's Gasol who dominates

April, 10, 2009
Andrew Bynum, who put up 16 points and seven rebounds in just 21 minutes last night against the Nuggets, is a tremendous talent who is, of course, going to make the Lakers a lot more formidable provided he can stay healthy for the playoffs. That said, I want to use this space to focus on just how good Pau Gasol is. Gasol, in basketball terms, is 14th in the league in player efficiency rating (PER) and ninth in value added (VA). Looking further into the numbers, it's because he's scoring more efficiently than he ever has, and combining that efficiency with terrific rebounding, plenty of assists and nary a turnover. Based on usage, he has had what could be considered more impressive seasons in the past, leading a pretty thin Grizzlies team to multiple playoff berths, but this iteration of Pau Gasol is the ultimate teammate, a perfect complement to Kobe Bryant, and perhaps the most underrated player in the league.

This isn't irrelevant to fantasy, either. He's eighth overall on the Player Rater, and 15th overall if you account for averages. Those who drafted Gasol anywhere near his average draft position of 37 got what is arguably a first-round talent. And in leagues that count turnovers, he's even more valuable; he commits fewer turnovers than anyone ahead of him on the Rater apart from Dirk Nowitzki. All in all, it makes him one of the best big-name values in fantasy this year, though I bet most people who don't own him are aware of that fact.

Next year, people will argue that his numbers will go down because Bynum won't get hurt again, but you should keep last night in mind, when Bynum made his return and Pau still eviscerated the Nuggets to the tune of 27 points, 19 rebounds and three assists in 38 minutes, during which the Lakers scored 15 points more than the Nuggets. Pau's going to give you late-first-round talent again next year, and despite his fantastic play this year, you'll likely still be able to get him a lot later.

Under the boards

Ron Artest, Rockets: 26 points (10-for-18 FG), 3 assists, 2 steals, 3 3-pointers at Sacramento.
• Kobe Bryant, Lakers: 33 points (11-for-19 FG, 9-for-10 FT) against the Nuggets.
Francisco Garcia, Kings: 17 points, 4 assists, 2 steals, 3 blocks, 3 3-pointers against the Rockets.
• Chris Andersen, Nuggets: 1 point, 8 rebounds, 0 blocks against the Lakers.
Trevor Ariza, Lakers: 4 points (1-for-8 FG), 1 rebound, 0 steals against the Nuggets.
Kirk Hinrich, Bulls: 9 points (4-for-9 FG), 2 rebounds, 2 assists against the 76ers.

Although Tyrus Thomas is scoring more these days -- 16.4 points per game over his past five games -- he's also not rebounding as much anymore (just 4.2 boards per game over that same stretch). Remember, though, that the primary reason to own Thomas is his production in the defensive categories; any points and rebounds he gives you are basically gravy, especially if he's hitting half his shots from the floor. … For all the problems the Sixers are going to have over the next few games with Thaddeus Young out, Andre Miller still looks great. He's averaging 17.8 points, 8.0 assists and 5.2 rebounds over his past five games, and in many ways he has been the best player on the Sixers for much of the season. … If you don't absolutely need Aaron Brooks on nights when he's going to hover right around 10 points and two 3-pointers made, you're better off sitting him right now. The Rockets are solid, but Brooks is doing nothing in the other categories and is missing a lot of shots these days. … Spencer Hawes is going to lay a dud once in a while for the Kings, but his 22-point, 11-rebound performance against the Rockets on Thursday was his third 20-10 game in his past five games. He should probably be in your lineup every night. … The Nuggets have been great of late, but on nights when they lose, you look at the box score and notice that they are starting at least one guy (Dahntay Jones) and sometimes two (Jones and Johan Petro) that coach George Karl doesn't want to play more than 10 minutes or so. Chris Andersen didn't have a good game against the Lakers last night, but given how well he has played most nights, I'd like to see him start, along with J.R. Smith. As of now, I still think both of those guys, Andersen and Smith, are worth having in your lineup, despite the occasional dud.



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