Apr 30, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) reacts to a foul from Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin (not pictured) in the first half of game five of the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Memphis Grizzlies: Is Marc Gasol The Answer?

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Not the happiest, nor the saddest, year for the Memphis Grizzlies. The team failed to reach the Conference Finals by battling against the second seeded Oklahoma City Thunder in a record-breaking first round series of the Western Conference Playoffs.

As the Grizzlies enter the 2014-15 season with hopes for an NBA championship, they still look for someone to step up and lead the way. A career year from Marc Gasol would help dearly.

As one of the league’s last traditional big men, it’s baffling how a player/leader of Marc Gasol’s statue has only been selected to one All-Star game in his six seasons as a pro.

Here’s a look at where Gasol stands, career-wise, against one of the greatest centers of all time, Shaquille O’Neal, and this generation’s own Dwight Howard:

Rk Player G MP FG% 3P% 2P% FT% ORB DRB TRB BLK TOV PTS
1 Marc Gasol 436 33.7 .512 .152 .516 .749 2.2 5.7 7.9 1.5 1.9 13.5
2 Dwight Howard 768 35.9 .579 .087 .581 .574 3.6 9.3 12.9 2.2 3.1 18.3
3 Shaquille O’Neal 1207 34.7 .582 .045 .583 .527 3.5 7.4 10.9 2.3 2.7 23.7
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/22/2014.

Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard are two of the most talented centers the league has ever seen. Both of them led their teams all the way into the NBA Finals so comparing Gasol to them shows us how far is he from becoming the one who’ll lead the Grizzlies to the Western Conference Championship.

(Note: Dwight Howard led the 2009 Orlando Magic past the top-seeded, LeBron James-led, Eastern Conference Favourites, Cleveland Cavaliers to reach the 2009 NBA Finals in which they were defeated by Kobe Bryant‘s Los Angeles Lakers. Shaquille O’Neal led the Los Angeles Lakers to a three-peat from 1999-2002).

Even though Howard and O’Neal seem far better than Gasol to the naked eye, Gasol is way better at taking care of the ball. At 1.9, he averages almost half of Shaq’s 3.1 turnovers per game.

As a .749 free throw shooter, Gasol’s numbers are not only, by far, better than Shaq’s or Howard’s, but they’re even better than Lebron James’ (.749 and .747 respectively). Anyway, averaging 4.1 free throws per game is not what the Grizzlies expect out of Gasol.

Rebounding is clearly an issue for Gasol. As the Grizzlies’ leading big man he rebounds at the same rate as Charlotte Bobcats’ shooting guard Lance Stephenson (7.2 rebounds per game) and is out rebounded by forwards Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and Nicolas Batum.

As internationally decorated as he is, Marc Gasol’s yet to reach the peak of his powers in the NBA. Entering a contract year in the best physical shape of his life is just what he needs to reach them.

Gasol is often considered (along Dwight Howard, regular season Roy Hibbert, Tyson Chandler, Kevin Garnett, Joakim Noah, etc.) one of the last traditional big men in a small-ball ruled league. Unfortunately for Gasol, the league is at its fastest pace in 20 years.

Regardless, Gasol and Zach Randolph side by side have become one of the toughest backcourts in the NBA.

Arguably the team’s emotional leader, Gasol, as you can see, still has some issues to overcome. Coming out of a knee injury, the Grizzlies sure hope Gasol takes a much-needed step towards becoming, at last, the elite player he was born to be.

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