Apr 29, 2014; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) dribbles the ball as Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka (9) defends during the second quarter in game five of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Memphis Grizzlies: How Marc Gasol Can Still Improve

Marc Gasol doesn’t get huge rebounding numbers like a Dwight Howard or score as much as a Kevin Love and isn’t exciting like a Blake Griffin. Yet you could argue that on his best days he is just as impactful a player as any of them. During his time with the Grizzlies, Gasol has made the playoffs four times, making the conference finals and semifinals each once, and has led the Grizzlies to three seasons of 50 or more wins in a row (or was on pace to during the lockout shortened 2011-12 season).Make no mistake about it; Gasol has been the most valuable and best player during this Memphis run.

Gasol doesn’t get huge block or steal numbers, yet he has won Defensive Player of the Year. He hasn’t averaged more than 15 points per game for a season in his career but the team always does better on offense with him on the floor. Gasol has very mediocre rebounding numbers but Memphis is one of the best rebounding teams in the league. Gasol is one of those few players in the league who doesn’t have to score a point to dominate the game. You can run your entire offense through him, and he will do whatever you need from him. We all know that he is one of the best passers in the league, but he is also smart without the ball and a fantastic screener.

But of course there’s always things you can improve on, and there has been a worrying trend with regards to Gasol’s shot selection over the past couple of years.

For a player as smart as Gasol, you would think that he would be a really efficient player. The truth is far from that, as Gasol ranked 41st among 49 among big men in effective field goal percentage (takes into account 3s), according to NBA.com. Zach Randolph is usually the one Memphis runs action for to get good position in the post, as Gasol does have roaming responsibilities closer to the high post and is forced to be out on the perimeter more, but 41st is really bad. Memphis is a team that does need every bit of spacing they can get, and there’s only so many players that can be near the rim at one time. Gasol is a so-so midrange shooter, just good enough that teams have to respect him from there, and he has to take some shots from out there to keep defenses honest. That’s going to lower your efficiency a bit but it opens up really good stuff for cutters or into dribble handoffs. The problem isn’t Gasol increasing his mid-range shooting (which he has done for basically every year of his career), but how little he gets to the rim, especially for a 7-footer.

I call this the Roy Hibbert post up:

Gasol has a huge amount of post ups where he ends up further from the rim than where he started, kind of like Roy Hibbert tends to do. When you’re shooting hooks from close to the free throw line you’re going to have some ugly misses, and some of Gasol’s misses are as ugly as they come.  Gasol weighs 265 pounds and at 7’1″, he has to be able to force his way to the rim more. Especially on the left block, he has a tendency to settle for a fadeaway jumper toward the baseline, a shot that he is just sort of “blaah” at making.

The shot from the left block is especially damaging, we always talk about how the “long 2″ is the worst shot in basketball, that’s not actually totally true, most of the time the eight- to 16-foot shot is actually worse than the 16- to 24-footer. It looks intimidating when a big tough guy like Carlos Boozer posts up, pushing in maybe on or two dribbles but generally unless the big guy can make his way all the way to the basket that shot isn’t as efficient as we tend to think, that’s why some teams like George Karl‘s Nuggets pretty much didn’t care about mismatches in the post.

Gasol shoots a ridiculous amount of those eight- to 16-foot shots, especially from the left side, where he shoots 18 percent of his shots. A terrifying amount, as similar players tend to shoot only 6 to 8 percent of their shots from that area. Even Al Jefferson, the king of the left block, shoots only 14 percent of his shots from the eight- to 16-feet area. Similarly Gasol only shoots 39 percent of his shots at the rim, per NBA.com, compared to 52 percent for Jefferson or 55 percent from his brother, Pau Gasol. Dwight Howard shoots more than 90 percent of his shots at the rim; while that number is obviously not optimal for a player of Gasol’s versatililty, it should provide at least a bit of pause and context. Chris Bosh shoots the same amount as Gasol at the rim, which should be nuts considering he’s one of the premier jump shooters in the league and seemingly does nothing else anymore besides jacking up shots from distance.

Gasol has to find a way to be more aggressive to get to the rim more, he is at drawing at selling contact, but sometimes Gasol looks like he’s more focused and getting the call than actually trying to get fouled. You would think that a man his size, who is incredibly agile and skilled for a seven footer would be an impossible if he’s coming at you aggressively and full speed, kind of  like a real grizzly bear.

Tags: Marc Gasol Memphis Grizzlies

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