We argue. You decide.
CHRIS BOSH (by Austin Burton)
By now you’ve read 1,000 writers who will compare basketball to jazz. Well, I don’t know much about jazz; but I can point out the similarities between a basketball team and a rap group. While freestyling and impromptu ciphers can be a thing of beauty, we can’t underestimate the harmonic blueprint of every man playing his position. Anybody who’s been to a Wu-Tang or Grand Hustle concert can tell you — it doesn’t work when every man on stage is trying to be the headliner.
Pau Gasol and Chris Bosh may not be Type-A, alpha male NBA superstars, but I don’t use that as a criticism. Somebody has to be the second option, and Gasol and Bosh are built to be two of the best No. 2’s in the League. And at the end of the day, the No. 2’s with rings inhabit the same Hall of Fame as the No. 1’s with glory.
That said, when Gasol had his shot to lead at the NBA level, he was less successful than Bosh. In Memphis, Gasol was the top dog on three playoff teams, where he went 0-12 in the postseason. In Toronto, Bosh led two playoff teams to a 3-8 postseason record. Not exactly Bill Russell numbers on either side, but three wins is better than zero. Since taking his place as the second option to Kobe Bryant in L.A., Gasol has won a championship and become a perennial All-Star. We’re waiting to see how Bosh would perform in a similar role. And from the looks of things, Bosh will get that chance beginning next season alongside LeBron James or Dwyane Wade.
This season, though, while facing the double- and triple-teams Gasol avoided thanks to Kobe, Bosh still put up better numbers. He averaged 24.0 points and 10.8 rebounds per game (51.8% FG, 79.7% FT), while Gasol went for 18.3 points and 11.3 boards (53.6% FG, 79.0% FT). In their two head-to-head meetings, Bosh put up 20 points, 10 boards and three assists a night (45% FG, 100% FT), topping Gasol’s 19.5 points, nine rebounds and 1.5 assists (41% FG, 84% FT).
And beyond the numbers, Bosh is a more versatile player and better overall athlete than Gasol. In a March game against the Hawks, the Raptors were down one in the final seconds before Bosh beat Al Horford with a step-back move along the baseline and dropped the game-winning fadeaway jumper. That was about a week after a Raptors/Lakers game where Bosh drilled a game-tying three at the end of the fourth quarter (ultimately overshadowed by a Kobe buzzer-beater).
I just don’t see Pau Gasol, as good as he is, making either of those plays. From 15 feet in, no question, Gasol is one of the best in the world. But give Chris Bosh the ball 25 feet from the basket, and he presents a wholly unique threat that Gasol cannot match.
PAU GASOL (by Adam Flomenbaum)
As head coach of the Bulls in the late ’80s, Doug Collins saw Kevin McHale punish his teams for three straight years. Now, as coach of the Sixers, Collins will get to see Pau Gasol do the same — in many of the same ways. In Game 3 of the Lakers/Suns series, one of his last games as a TNT analyst, Collins favorably compared Gasol’s footwork and post moves to those of McHale and we saw the video evidence that showed Gasol and McHale to be strikingly similar post players.
Like McHale, Gasol is the perfect complementary superstar. Jordan had Pippen, Kobe had Shaq, and now Kobe has Gasol. It took four years for Jordan to trust Pippen, but Kobe knew what he had in Gasol the moment the Lakers acquired him. Gasol may never have the same grit or power as McHale on defense or on the boards, but Gasol compensates in other ways. He is a better team and help defender than given credit for (Remember in the 2009 NBA Finals, Gasol was able to stop Dwight Howard, but not vice versa), his basketball IQ is mentioned nearly every game, and he is one of the best passing big men in the league. Kobe is one of the best players to ever play the game, but there is a reason why Pau makes the Lakers invincible. Since acquiring Gasol in February 2008, the Lakers have only lost three games in a row once, and that happened this March.
At this point in his career, Chris Bosh does not possess these same characteristics and he has relied on his ability to make a decent percentage of 18-footers rather than developing the back-to-the-basket and inside game that he will need as his career progresses. Even Amar’e Stoudemire attacks the basket off the pick-and-roll, relying on his developing jump shot only when left open.
Granted, Bosh is four years younger than Gasol, and he has spent his career thus far as the go-to guy on mediocre Raptors teams. Still, Bosh has proven with his contribution to Team USA’s gold medal in the ’08 Olympics and his short list of teams he’s considering in free agency that he can be a Gasol-like complementary star. But with zero championships to date and two first-round playoff exits, Bosh has resembled Grizzlies Gasol rather than Lakers Gasol. This is why Gasol should be considered the better player right now.
Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski agrees. When I asked him who we should watch out for at the World Championships this year, he said, “As good as Gasol is with the Lakers, when he’s with his country (Spain) he’s even better â€“ and he’s one of the top 10 players in the world.”
Coach K is coming off his fourth national championship at Duke, was an assistant coach with the ’92 Dream Team, and head coach of the gold medal-winning U.S. team in the ’08 Olympics, so it’s hard to dispute him when he calls Gasol one of the 10 best players in the world. I do not think he would say the same about Bosh. Yet.
Who do you think is better?