While Chicago's offense rating had no real effect whether Gasol sat or played, he clearly gave the Bulls an inside dimension they'd been lacking for years. Gasol's ability to not only score inside, but set up teammates through passing from the post, or from the high post, was a valuable tool throughout the course of the season.
Adding to that was the fact that his production was unexpected. Gasol was viewed as being on his last leg following six-plus years in Los Angeles, and instead decided to score at highest raw clip (18.5 points) since the age of 30, while giving himself a career year from a rebounding perspective, where his 919 rebounds ranked third in the league.
Gasol killed it from mid-range, hitting 47.7% of his shots from beyond 16 feet, and to the three-point line. He even extended his range slightly, drilling 12 three's on 46.2%, forcing defenders to seek him out at the end of quarters where he'd place himself in the corners.
This is the area that will garner the most disagreements within the Bulls community, and rightly so. Gasol in a vacuum is no longer a good defender, but he undoubtedly has a major effect on that end of the court when he matches up against the right opponents, or is moving well. It's impossible to deny that opponents aren't thinking of his shot-blocking prowess when they come into the lane, seeing as his long arms are impossible to sneak by on a consistent basis. But opponents also know that they can downright ridicule him if they get him just a few feet too far out, and then pull up over him.
If a shot attempt against Gasol came within six feet of the basket, Gasol would force opponents to shoot, on average, 6.7% below their combined percentage. This percentage gradually worsened to 5% flat on when the field was widened to 10 feet, and turned negative at 15 feet, where Gasol would allow defenders to shoot 1.2% better.
So it's a mixed bag defensively, which goes hand-in-hand with what everyone saw out there. Only, when Gasol messed up, he frequently would do it in manners that became extremely noticeable. It's easy to notice when he doesn't pick up a switch, or is blown by, or misses a crucial rotation, whereas one might not notice how his presence close to the hoop alters shots from smaller slashers.
"Brought it factor"
Gasol brought it. He was one of the most active players on the Bulls throughout the course of the year, participating in 78 games, and consistently integrated himself in games. He only had four games in which he didn't reach double-figure scoring, and in those he compensated by rebounding, and being a playmaker. His activity in averaging over 34 minutes a night at that age proved Gasol was out to prove that he was still an elite big man, something he managed to do as he was voted an All-Star starter, as well as making the All-NBA 2nd team.
Highlight of the season
There are a few, but this one stands out as you finally realized just how determined he was to prove himself. The way he achieved his career-high is even more impressive. He went deep into his skill-set, and pulled off every trick in the book.
Nobody knows if Gasol can mimic the season he just had next year, but assuming the new offense will feature the wing players more, one can hope he'll the inside bail-out guy, for when the team needs a bucket in the half-court.