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Friday, September 23rd, 2011 at 12:38 pm  |  62 responses

Top 50: Marc Gasol, no. 47

The definitive ranking of the NBA’s best players.

by Adam Figman | @afigman

If I were a Memphis Grizzlies fan, I’d be as stressed out at the potential of a basketball-less ‘11-12 season as I’d be at the potential of a Marc Gasol-less ‘11-12 Grizzlies season. As of now—well, as of the lockout’s end—Gasol is a restricted free agent. And you know what happens to 7-1, 26-year-old restricted free agents with increasingly bright futures? They get offered a lot of money to play basketball. And if the team with the option to do so doesn’t match the bid, they accept that money and then they go play basketball for another franchise. Not exactly the end of the world, sure, but sometimes, it sucks to have to let a guy walk. This is one of those times.

Here’s why I’d be nervous: I think the Memphis Grizzlies can be really, really good this year. They finished eighth in the West in ’10-11, and surprised some when they made a push to the second round before the Thunder eliminated them in six. A variety of factors helped along the way: Mike Conley’s evolution into a sneaky-good leader; Shane Battier and Tony Allen’s combination of tactical and reckless perimeter defense; and, of course, Zach Randolph dominance in the low-post.

Z-Bo was the team’s driving force, but without Gasol’s presence on the opposite block, he might not have had such success. Ever try playing post defense against someone much bigger than you, who also has deft hand skills and an overwhelming variety of low-post moves? It’s tough. Like, really fucking tough. You need help. You know what happens when there’s another really skilled big dude on that guy’s squad, only a few feet away, on the other side of the paint or hovering nearby at the free throw line? The help D never comes. Then you get scored on. If the Grizz let Gasol walk, I’m not so sure they can repeat the success they had last April and May. He’s too vital to the operation, as anyone who was watching them on a consistent basis must have noticed. And they can recreate that run. Hell, they could do better.

This is Gasol’s first year on SLAMonline’s Top 50, which is weird, because his numbers dropped this season. In ’09-10 he put up 14.6 ppg and 9.3 rpg, shooting 58.1 percent, and then in ’10-11, he dropped to 11.7 ppg and 7.0 ppg, converting at a 52.7 percent clip. And yet, it might’ve been his best season yet.

You know why? Because, with Rudy Gay out with shoulder stuff and the Grizz relying on an almost purely inside-out system, that nonsense I spewed a couple of paragraphs above applied to the group this season more than ever. Without providing too much of a spoiler alert, I can tell you that Randolph will finish higher on this year’s Top 50 than he ever has before. And Z-Bo’s great year had some pretty tangible results—I’m assuming you saw how they performed in the Playoffs—because of Gasol’s presence. So even without a statistical improvement, he was as valuable as ever. Hence this ranking.

None of this is to say that Gasol himself isn’t crazy talented. Memphis was only able to utilize that inside-out system through the postseason precisely because the team had so multiple tall options down low. Often times, the 7-1 Spaniard would get fed the ball within the first few seconds of an offensive possession, and he’d respond by draining a nifty six-or-so-foot turnaround jumper, or some other semi-authoritative low-post maneuver that’d result in a pair of points or a trip to the free throw line. Then, the next time down the court, Z-Bo would be fed the rock, leaving Gasol’s defender the option to double-team at his own risk. Good luck with that.

Despite numbers that may say otherwise, Gasol’s game is steadily improving. He doesn’t spend much time on highlight reels, but he’s a big body that can defend, rebound, pass and shoot all fairly well. Essentially, he’s the perfect second best big man you could ask for. The strange thing is, he puts up relatively commonplace numbers that keep him below the radar, though his style, in today’s game, is far from ordinary. A seven-plus footer, weighing 265 pounds, capable of playing with his back to the basket and banging down low? In 2011, I’m not sure you’d need two hands to count the guys who still boast that style, or at least boast it well.

For all of these reasons and plenty more, this Spanish center is going to get a hell of a payday whenever he’s allowed such an opportunity. If you were a slow-paced team reliant on an inside-out style and already armed with a top-notch power forward to pair him with, is there a better way to spend a few bucks?

SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2011
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Luol Deng Bulls SF 8
49 Andrew Bogut Bucks C 7
48 Ray Allen Celtics SG 9
47 Marc Gasol Grizzlies C 6

Notes
• Rankings are based solely on projected ’11-12 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Maurice Bobb, Shannon Booher, David Cassilo, Bryan Crawford, Sandy Dover, Adam Figman, Jon Jaques, Eldon Khorshidi, Ryne Nelson, Doobie Okon, Ben Osborne, Quinn Peterson, Dave Schnur, Abe Schwadron, Dan Shapiro, Irv Soonachan, Todd Spehr, Tzvi Twersky, Yaron Weitzman, DeMarco Williams and Ben York.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.

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  • http://redoftoothandclaw.ca/ niQ

    About time he broke into the top 50! By the way, the Grizz definitely need to keep Marc at all cost!

  • http://Slamonline.com nbk

    Bogut

  • http://redoftoothandclaw.ca/ niQ

    By the way, the OKC/MEM series went to 7 games, not 6.

  • http://nba.com GP23

    The last column above “Pos. Rank” whats that?

  • http://redoftoothandclaw.ca/ niQ

    @GP23, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess it’s where they rank amoungst all others who player their position…

  • http://www.optimabbc.be Max

    Great article and your absolutely right.
    With Bogut allready gone, I better only see Dwight and maybe Nene as the only center on here.
    I also think ZBo will be in the top 20.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Wayno

    Assuming both Bogut’s and Gasol’s durability remains the same I’d put Gasol over Bogut…if both of them remain healthy and play the full season though, Bogut > Gasol all day.

  • http://Slamonline.com nbk

    5 Centers are better then Bogut & Gasol? People are gonna flip out if Brook Lopez (6 rebounds a game!! 6!!) & Bargnani show up on this list. Nene, Dwight, Bynum, ?, ?.

  • Town Royal

    better than Ray Allen? Yeah… ooooook

  • http://www.optimabbc.be Max

    Brook and Bargs above Gasol and Bogut would be ridiculous, maybe they put in DCous based on potential?

  • http://www.slamonline.com Wayno

    Yeah, I have a hard time believing that there are 5 centers in the league better than Gasol and Bogut.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Wayno

    @ Max, I was saying that as a possiblity in the Bogut piece…possibly Cousins and Monroe, in which case I could possibly see that because of thier potential. Cousins was solid and Monroe was great after the allstar break (w/o having any plays run for him).

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    Not better than Bogut.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Wayno

    @ JT – right, but I’m assuming he’s taking a big hit due to injuries…that’s the only thing that can explain his low ranking.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    There is no way Cousins is going to be better then either guy this season. None. Bogut lead the league in blocks and charges. Does that not register as important to anyone? He essentially led the league in every kind of stop at the rim. — Monroe wasn’t even at a block a game, or double digits in scoring. There is no way you can possibly be under the assumption he makes that kind of a leap in 1 year. Demarcus Cousins shot 43% from the field last season. For a Center that alone is enough reason to leave him out of the top 100 let alone the top 50.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    Its going to be Noah, and probably Brook Lopez. Judging off of last season, and the fact that if you score 20PPG your probably gonna find your way onto this list.

  • http://slamonline.com AllBall

    Maybe they have Duncan as a Center, you could argue he is still better than the guys listed so far.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Wayno

    Monroe put up 14 and 9 after ther all-star break. He didn’t block shots, but positionally he wasn’t a bad defender. It’s not inconcievable to see Monroe at 15-17ppg and 10-12 rpg this season. Detroit didn’t run thier offense through him at all, he literally had no plays run for him and he was still putting up 14 ppg during the 2nd half of the season (on over 50% shooting). Not saying he’s better than Bogut, but looking at his numbers for the whole season is decieving because he got better and better as the season continued.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    And I doubt that Bogut can be this hurt by the injury thing, Bogut has played 65 and 69 games the last 2 consecutive seasons. Bynum gonna make this list and he has never played more then 65 games in a season. (over 55 only once) —– And I also don’t see how Duncan can even be on this list, he was #50 last season, and then had the worst season of his career too boot.

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    Gasol is a good player but the guy avg. 11/7 with 1.7bpg on 52% shooting (decent numbers) but there’s no reason why he should be ranked above a guy that avg. 13/11 and led the L in bpg. Even with all the injuries, Bogut is still the better player.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    14 and 9 and .8 Blocks. Bogut was at 13 and 11 and led the league in blocks…..(he was 2nd in Defensive plays -blocks, charges, steals- a game behind Dwight Howard at 3.88). (and according to ESPN and a lot of other sources he was never at 100% w/ his wrist either)

  • http://www.slamonline.com Wayno

    Agreed, Bogut deserves to be higher. He’s no worse than the 3rd best center in the league, but I’d put him at #2(when healthy).

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    that was @wayno

  • http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/deeply-embarrassed-white-people-talk-awkwardly-about-race/Content?oid=9747101 Allenp

    Bottom line, NBK is right and it’s the same issue from last year. The list is slanted toward offensive players, with only big name defenders get the nod.
    Bogut is better than Gasol and, arguably, everybody not named Dwight Howard.
    Deng is better than Ray Allen.
    Mainly because both players do it on both sides of the ball. For some reason, this ability is consistently underrated, but not by me. I think Bogut is just pretty good on offense, but on defense, he’s a beast. I love how he anticipates what the offensive player wants to do.

  • http://bleacherreport.com/articles/670447-dwight-howard-and-andrew-bogut-a-tale-of-two-2011-all-nba-defensive-centers nbk

    Click My Name. It’ll put how truly great Bogut is defensively in perspective

  • http://www.slamonline.com Wayno

    I’m not saying I agree with what I’m saying, I’m just playing devil’s advocate a little bit. I still think Bogut is the 2nd best center in the league.

  • http://bleacherreport.com/articles/670447-dwight-howard-and-andrew-bogut-a-tale-of-two-2011-all-nba-defensive-centers nbk

    fa sho, I got that from your 1:54 comment. And I appreciate the devil’s advocate, it gives the conversation substance….and keeps me busy on a slow day haha

  • http://www.slamonline.com Wayno

    lol, I hear that…it feels like I’ve been at work for like 16 hours already…

  • http://bleacherreport.com/articles/670447-dwight-howard-and-andrew-bogut-a-tale-of-two-2011-all-nba-defensive-centers nbk

    If I were to rank the Centers in the league, from 7-1, I’d go, Marcin Gortat, Joakim Noah, Marc Gasol, Nene, Bynum, Bogut, Howard.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Wayno

    Also I’m a huge Detroit fan (if you couldn’t tell already), so I’m naturally a bit of a Greg Monroe apologist…at least I have the Lions and Tigers right now…

  • http://bleacherreport.com/articles/670447-dwight-howard-and-andrew-bogut-a-tale-of-two-2011-all-nba-defensive-centers nbk

    The Pistons should change their name to the Bears. The Lions, Tigers, and Bears. oh my

  • http://slamonline.com LakeShow

    I agree with your list nbk, I’d put Tyson there instead of Gortat though. You really think Gortat is gunna be special or something? I don’t think he’ll ever average double digit boards or score more than 15 points in a game and he is a pretty good defender but not as good as Chandler.

  • http://slamonline.com LakeShow

    15ppg**

  • http://www.slamonline.com Wayno

    Yeah, I don’t know how I feel about Gortat being on that list…I’d rather have Chandler, Cousins, or Monroe.

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    I don’t know about having Gasol and Nene above Noah. Even though Noah is not in the same league as the guys when it comes to scoring, he still managed to match Gasol’s PPG avg while grabbing 3rbs, more steals and almost the same amount of blocks. He’s also a better passer.
    Nene on the other hand is obviously the better scorer but he’s a terrible rebounder/defender for his size.
    I would rank Noah 3rd ahead of Bynum and behind DHow/Bogut.

  • http://bleacherreport.com/articles/670447-dwight-howard-and-andrew-bogut-a-tale-of-two-2011-all-nba-defensive-centers nbk

    Noah is not nearly as good of a defender as a Center as he is given credit for. Individually in the post (against centers) he is just average. He’s basically a stronger version of Kevin Garnett. Offensively he gets his points from positioning and teams inherent concerns about Derrick Rose. Not from some type of skill, he’s not scoring on his own, like Gasol. But he’s a great passer, and a much better team defender so I understand having him as a better player then Gasol and Bynum, even though I don’t agree. Nene is underrated defensively, he looks extremely bad because the Nugget perimete let sooooooooooooooooo many people in the paint, it’s like trying to stop a leak at the hoover dam with a stick of gum.

  • http://bleacherreport.com/articles/670447-dwight-howard-and-andrew-bogut-a-tale-of-two-2011-all-nba-defensive-centers nbk

    Lakeshow, in Phoenix Gortat averaged 13 & 9 w/ 1.3 Blocks (even though he only played 29 Minutes a game). A Full season, and not being forced to back up Robin Lopez and I’m pretty sure he’ll average a double double and be top 10 in blocks per game. Per 36 Minutes for his Career Gortat is a 12 Point 11 Rebound Center (15.8 and 11.3 in Phoenix) He even led the league in double doubles off the bench, despite not really even playing for the first 25 games of the season.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Gasol needs more touches. The entire offense should be run through the two bigs–and them only.

  • http://slamonline.com LakeShow

    Yeah, I knew dude had skills, but didn’t realize he was putting up those numbers. PHX has a tendancy to get the most stats wise out of their players(or should I say steve nash does) Looks like if he is getting the go ahead to get 30+ he is probably going to be a 15, 10, 2.5 type of guy. It’s a toss up between him and Tyson and Cousins for whom will be better next year for me though. I didn’t get to see Monroe play as much as i’d hope. I know he can be real good, but I haven’t seen him enough to make a judgement.

  • http://bleacherreport.com/articles/670447-dwight-howard-and-andrew-bogut-a-tale-of-two-2011-all-nba-defensive-centers nbk

    Cousins IMO is going to have another shaky season, Jimmer gonna take away a lot of his attention, and Tyreke is (supposedly) healthy. Demarcus Cousins should be the 1st option on that team, but from fan pressure in a dying city, and Tyreke Evans, Jimmer Freddette, and even Marcus “If I touch it, I’m Gonna Shoot It” Thornton he might be the 3rd option, at all times….and that won’t make him happy. — Well Gortat was putting up similar per minute numbers in Orlando, and has always been in the upper crust of rebound rate in the league. I think his production was just hidden by the fact that he never got to play in Orlando.

  • ctkennedy

    Marc Gasol isnt in the same situation as DeMarcus Cousins …Gasol is memphis 4 sometimes 5 best player on most nights …With Cousins u can make the case could n should be the Kings franchise player n not Gasol …if Gasol was your best player u damn sho aint winnin sh*t

  • ctkennedy

    n not Tyreke Evans^^^^

  • MLK4Life

    We all know how this is going to end when we get to 1 and 2. 200 plus comments arguing about Kobe and LeBron.

  • http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/deeply-embarrassed-white-people-talk-awkwardly-about-race/Content?oid=9747101 Allenp

    I would prefer Gasol to Nene NBK, only because he’s a tougher handle on the glass on both ends. His bulk is an underrated asset.
    So my list would be:
    Howard
    Bogut
    Bynum
    Noah
    Gasol
    Nene
    Gortat
    I know ranking Nene so low confuses people, but unlike Dwight Howard who takes so few shots because his team is stupid about getting him the ball, Nene takes so few shots because he disappears for stretches of the game.
    I have Noah so high because I place a premium on defense, and energy, and Noah provides both. I know my view is unpopular and borderline crazy to most people though.

  • http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/deeply-embarrassed-white-people-talk-awkwardly-about-race/Content?oid=9747101 Allenp

    Actually, Chandler beats out Gortat. I forgot about Chandler.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Wayno

    All this debate has made me realize how much center’s suck now compared to the 90′s…lol. Shaq, DRob, Dream, Zo, Ewing, Deke to name a few…wow.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Wayno

    Howard is the only dude who would really be on the same level with the dudes in the 90′s

  • HowHeDoDat

    You guys are forgetting about Al Horford.

  • http://bleacherreport.com/articles/670447-dwight-howard-and-andrew-bogut-a-tale-of-two-2011-all-nba-defensive-centers nbk

    My issue with Chandler is his total lack of offensive skill. IMO he is either the second or third defensive center in the league. After Howard, Bogut, & Chandler there is nobody worth even mentioning defensively (Javale McGee and Derrick Favors being the only guys with even the potential to get there IMO). Chandler is pretty much useless offensively, unless you have an elite passing point guard. He is a threat on the offensive glass, assuming you don’t have any other player on the court that scores the majority of their buckets in the paint (which is why he looks so good next to Dirk IMO).

  • http://bleacherreport.com/articles/670447-dwight-howard-and-andrew-bogut-a-tale-of-two-2011-all-nba-defensive-centers nbk

    I don’t consider Al Horford a Center. I don’t care if he gets stuck playing the position in Atlanta. He’s a power forward – but you might have a point in the rankings, he is more then likely considered a Center. Which means no Brook Lopez!!! woohoo

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    Yeah, the CANNOT have Brook Lopez on here.
    I’m sorry, but 7 feet and 6 rebounds a game?
    Although he DID have to battle for rebounds with Mr. Kardashian last season, who was a man possessed on the boards.

  • http://slamonline.com LakeShow

    Ya, I hate calling Al Horford a center. It’s not that he can’t hold it down there… It’s just that he is a very good PF as opposed to a decent center. If Brook Lopez tried to rebound i’d have no problem with him being a top 7 center…. buut he doesn’t. How many double digit rebound games did dure have last year? Maybe 10..

  • http://bleacherreport.com/articles/670447-dwight-howard-and-andrew-bogut-a-tale-of-two-2011-all-nba-defensive-centers nbk

    Matic – Humphries only grabbed 10.1 a game. And Deron Williams averaged 4.6 in a Nets Uni….I don’t think only outrebounding your point guard by 1.4RPG can be attributed to Mr. Kardashian

  • ti-sizzle

    What about Kaveman?

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    I know, Soop, I was just trying to go easy on the guy. lol

  • http://bleacherreport.com/articles/670447-dwight-howard-and-andrew-bogut-a-tale-of-two-2011-all-nba-defensive-centers nbk

    haha I’m stuck with the other Lopez where I’m is….so I got no sympathy

  • http://Slamonline.com Caboose

    There’s always a possibility that Amare is considered a center too. That could potentially put Dwight, Stoudemire, Horford, Nene, and Bynum above Gasol. That would seem more realistic.

  • BG23

    marc gasol better than ray allen? what are you smoking?

  • Armando

    1. Howard
    2. Horford
    3. Bogut
    4. Noah
    5. Gasol
    6. Bynum
    7. Chandler
    8. Nene
    9. Gortat
    10. Bargniani
    11. Cousins
    12. Lopez
    13. Okafor
    14. Kaman
    15. Perkins
    16. Monroe

    These played all or the bulk of their minutes at the 5 last season, and goes into the next as the projected starting 5 for their teams. If Stoudemire is considered a C, he’s second on the list. Nothing compared to the top players at the position in, say, 1995 though: Olajuwon, Robinson, O’Neal, Ewing, Mourning, Mutombo, even Divac.

  • Armando

    Cousins could jump 4-5 spots if he continues his improvement, Gortat could possibly pass Nene and Chandler. If Lopez rebounds at least as well as his rookie year, he’s top 7, same with Bargs. Monroe could also turn out to be better than Perk, Kaman and Okafor as well. If Bynum puts it together the sky’s the limit.

  • DukeFromDeep

    Armando… not bad. Perhaps Chandler Nene swap but that’s it.

  • TSP

    Has it been pointed out that the Thunder eliminated the Grizz in seven games–not six as the article states.

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