Re: Battle of the Power Fowards: Kevin McHale vs. Pau Gasol
I usually look at both players peak and full prime. I usually rank players by their full prime, that accounts for the vast majority of my rankings, but with these 2 players, their primes and peaks are pretty much the same. For their peaks I'd compare 2010 Gasol to either '86 or '87 McHale. But both players had 3 year primes as well. '09-'11 For Pau and '86-'88 for McHale. So my comparisons for their primes apply to their peaks as well. Most players primes are more like 5 seasons.
Anyway, I'll start with scoring. Pau has a very nice skill set. He'll hit jump hooks with consistency with either hand, He has excellent footwork, and his overall fundamentals are as good as you could expect. He keeps the ball high which makes him an excellent finisher, particularly since he's 7'1" with long arms. He's also developed a sort of set shot, which has made him a solid mid-range shooter, though he preferred to play in the post where he was at his best, until Mike Brown's idiotic offense wasted that. Pau is also more than capable of facing up and scoring, often with a driving hook.
But despite Pau's excellent skill set, this goes to McHale. Kevin was just on another level as a scorer. He's probably one of the top 5 post scorers of all-time. Kareem and Shaq are the standard for post scorers, but McHale is comparable to anyone else who has played, imo. His up and under is famous for a reason. This was just a lethal move, he could go to it regardless of whether he was going to his left or right. And if he didn't do it close for a lay up, he could finish it off with his fadeaway, which was very difficult to block, and he had an excellent touch on it. McHale could also make jump hooks. And with his excellent footwork and shooting touch, it was nearly impossible to stop him when he got the ball in the post, he could even beat double teams when he wanted. Kevin could also hit mid-range jumpers, and expanded his range later in his career, but he didn't need this in his prime.
Passing goes to Gasol, who is maybe the best passing big man of the last few years. He's a brilliant passer and an unselfish player. McHale's reputation as a black hole is overstated, though. McHale was a solid passer, and he did find the open man with pretty good regularity, especially from '86 on.
Rebounding is an advantage I'd give to Gasol, who really became an impressive rebounder when he got stronger and tougher following the loss to the '08 Celtics. McHale was a solid rebounder himself, though.
Defense is a clear advantage for McHale. You could argue Gasol was a better rim protector, but it's not as clear, and both players had comparable shot blocking ability. However, McHale contributes in other ways defensively, particularly his ability to guard star small forwards. Check out the '86 ECSF when he did a phenomenal job on Nique.
And as far as intangibles, I like Gasol's unselfishness, but McHale's toughness really impressed me. Kevin played the '87 playoffs with a broken foot.
The difference is that mcHale was a top 5 player in both '86 and '87, and maybe just outside the top 5 in '88 behind only Bird, Jordan, Magic, Hakeem and Barkley. While Gasol was a borderline top 10 player, or in the lower part of the top 10.