Top 50: Marc Gasol, no. 29

by October 12, 2012

by Rodger Bohn / @rodgerbohn

Seven-footers don’t exactly come a dime a dozen, and Marc Gasol took anything from the typical route. High school basketball in the States, skipping college to go pro in Europe far before Brandon Jennings could even fathom the notion, playing for two teams in Spain’s top division, then being traded for his big brother Pau. Did we mention that this was all by the time he hit 22?

The story of Marc Gasol’s basketball career starts in Memphis, TN. With his big bro Pau being the third pick in the ’01 Draft and face of the franchise, Marc came over to the states with his folks and enrolled at Memphis’ prestigious Lausanne Collegiate School. Things didn’t come as quickly for Marc as they did for Pau, who was drafted at the age of 19. You see, the younger brother was more of a lumbering big man who tipped the scales at over 300 pounds during his high school playing days.

Things started to come to fruition for Marc during his junior year, and by the time his final campaign at Lausanne rolled around, he dominated. As a senior, he got 26, 13 and 6 a night and as a result, was named Tennessee’s Mr. Basketball. Counting offers from numerous BCS programs, Marc decided to take his talents back home and sign with Spanish power FC Barcelona at the tender age of 18.

It is rare for any 18-year-old to see much time with Barcelona, much less a lumbering 7-footer who was out of shape. After three seasons with the top club in Spain that resulted in him playing a combined average of around 10 minutes per game, a move had to be made. With little playing time in the near future, the Spanish power placed Gasol on loan to a lower tier ACB team, Girona, which is where he made the transformation into the beast that we see today.

Spring boarding off of a strong 2006 European Championship and with an opportunity to earn some major burn, the now 20-year-old Gasol changed his mindset and got his body right. After reportedly tipping the scales at nearly 325 pounds, he was a svelte 260 and much more mobile. Girona’s often used him as a trail center, enabling him to make plays from the perimeter while also punishing defenders down low. Mix in those emerging skills, productivity and massive size, and it’s a no brainer as to why Marc saw himself drafted when he became automatically eligible in June of 2007.

Immediate opportunity presented itself with the Grizzlies in the post-Pau era, and kid brother stepped right in to fill the monstrous shoes left behind. Gasol teamed with Zach Randolph to give the Grizzlies one of the most memorable big men tandems of recent Playoff memory in 2011. After knocking off the No. 1-seeded Spurs, the Grizz took the Thunder to seven games, and while they lost, left an impression in every team’s find that the Grizz were not a team to be messed with.

Gasol parlayed this into a four-year, $58 million offer sheet from the Rockets, which Memphis immediately matched. Now some may ask why a guy who averaged a mere 14 points per game was worthy of a max offer. We’ll tell you why.

For starters, Marc Gasol is a HUGE dude, and guys with his package of size and mobility don’t come around too often. At 7-1 and 265 pounds, he can go to work from the high post just as easy as he can from the pivot. Gasol makes himself so tough to guard despite the fact that he’s primarily a below the rim guy because of the fact that he has an incredibly high-arcing shot with feathery touch and has gorgeous footwork on the blocks. In fact, there may not be a better pivoting center in the game of basketball today. Gasol can finish with either hand and when not putting points on the board, he has shown everyone that he is the best passing 5-man in the League today. Toss in solid rebounding number and defense (despite his slow feet), and it’s evident to a basketball rookie as to why one could make a strong case for him as the Grizzlies’ most valuable player.

Watch out Pau, ’cause baby bro is coming for your spot as best in the fam.

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SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2012
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Greg Monroe Pistons C 8
49 Tyreke Evans Kings PG 14
48 Brandon Jennings Bucks PG 13
47 Stephen Curry Warriors PG 12
46 Ricky Rubio TWolves PG 11
45 Al Jefferson Jazz PF 14
44 Anthony Davis Hornets PF 13
43 Serge Ibaka Thunder PF 12
42 Al Horford Hawks C 7
41 Ty Lawson Nuggets PG 10
40 Danny Granger Pacers SF 6
39 Tim Duncan Spurs PF 11
38 John Wall Wizards PG 9
37 Monta Ellis Bucks SG 8
36 Zach Randolph Grizzlies PF 10
35 Roy Hibbert Pacers C 6
34 Tyson Chandler Knicks C 5
33 Eric Gordon Hornets SG 7
32 Kevin Garnett Celtics PF 9
31 Manu Ginobili Spurs SG 6
30 Amar’e Stoudemire Knicks PF 8
29 Marc Gasol Grizzlies C 4

• Rankings are based solely on projected ’12-13 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jake Appleman, Maurice Bobb, Rodger Bohn, Brendan Bowers, Franklyn Calle, David Cassilo, Bryan Crawford, Adam Figman, Eldon Khorshidi, Eddie Maisonet III, Ryne Nelson, Ben Osborne, Allen Powell II, Sam Rubenstein, Jonathan Santiago, Abe Schwadron, Leo Sepkowitz, Dave Spahn, Ben Taylor, Tzvi Twersky, Peter Walsh, Tracy Weissenberg, Yaron Weitzman, DeMarco Williams and Dave Zirin.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.