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January 4, 2012

Gasol: Not Only Better Than Z-Bo, But More Consistent, Too

Filed under: Uncategorized — Neil Paine @ 4:13 pm

On Wednesday’s NBA Today podcast, Mike Yam and Tim Legler were debating who they’d rather have at PF, Pau Gasol or Zach Randolph. Yam argued for Gasol, but Legler picked Z-Bo on the basis of consistency:

Legler: “As much as I love the intangibles he brings and the character that the guy has… night to night you’re not exactly sure what you’re getting out of Pau Gasol. Zach Randolph, every night, pencil it in — he’s gonna be somewhere around 23 points, 12 boards. Just put it down right now.”

When I heard this, my nonsense meter started going off.

First of all, can we establish that, in aggregate, Pau Gasol is far superior to Randolph? In 2010 and 2011, Gasol had 27.7 WARP to Randolph’s 22.0; he had 25.7 Win Shares to Z-Bo’s 20.2 — and those were Randolph’s renaissance seasons. Gasol’s Regularized Adjusted +/- is currently 2.8 to Randolph’s 1.7. By any meaningful statistical measure, Gasol contributes significantly more than Randolph (if you like linear weights, he averaged a higher Alternate Win Score per game — 8.9 vs. 8.0 — than Z-Bo as well).

As for Legler’s point about consistency, I grabbed the gamelogs for both players over the past 2+ years (2010, 2011, & 2012), calculating Alternate Win Score for each of their games. As it turns out, Gasol is actually the more consistent player on a night-in, night-out basis. The game-to-game variance of Gasol’s AWS was actually lower than Randolph’s, 19.7 to 24.9. Not only that, but Randolph’s variance was also higher for points (44.3 to 34.1) and rebounds (18.2 to 16.0), the two categories Legler specifically mentioned!

Disclaimer: Gasol and Randolph have different skill sets, so you can’t say that Pau is universally better than Z-Bo. For instance, on a team that needs a great low-post scorer, Randolph could be preferable to Gasol despite the latter’s superior overall production.

Having said that, though, Gasol brings more to the typical team, and the idea that Randolph somehow offsets this by being a more consistent producer is demonstrably false. Even looking at things on a night-to-night basis, Gasol is the better bet to put up great numbers.

Email Neil at np@sports-reference.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Neil_Paine.

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