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Wednesday, October 9th, 2013 at 3:00 pm  |  73 responses

Top 50: Marc Gasol, no. 18

The reigning DPOY will continue to do big things on both sides of the court in ’13-14.

by Yaron Weitzman / @YaronWeitzman

Certain guys just make it easier to build a winning team.

To me, Joakim Noah is one of these guys. Kawhi Leonard, too. They do the little things, is how people like to describe players like these. This bothers me because I’m not entirely sure why every aspect of a basketball game aside from scoring is considered something little, or how such a definition even came to be.

After all, while I don’t have some complex formula or any numbers to back it up, I think it’s safe to say that, in an NBA game, each team will spend about half of the time playing defense, meaning that a defensive stud—which is the type of player who usually gets labeled as someone who does the little things—is contributing much more to his team’s cause than he often gets credit for. Especially if you’re of the belief—which has been statistically proven—that defense contributes to a Championship slightly more than offense.

Same goes for guys who make an offense better without actually scoring. When someone creates a lay-up for someone else, that is not a little thing. When a player with a deadly three-point shot forces his defender to stick to him instead of drop down to stop a driving player, that is not a little thing. Same goes for setting a back-breaking screen for a curling guard under the basket and numerous other skills that help create efficient offense.

Which is all really just a convoluted way of saying the following: Marc Gasol is one of the more valuable players in the League. In fact, you could probably make a pretty good case that Gasol should be better than No. 18 on the SLAM Top 50.

Defensively, Gasol is as good as anyone. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year can shut down post players on the block, blow up a pick-and-roll, act as conductor from the back line. With him on the floor, Memphis’ already stingy defense—which, per NBA.com, held opponents to 97.4 points against per 100 possessions last season—allowed a microscopic 95.4 points per 100 possessions, a mark that would have been tops in the League. Gasol, who “only” averaged 1.7 blocks per game last season, is everything you want the so-called anchor of a defense to be. He’s also the antidote to the misguided belief in the equation that tons-of-blocks-equals-great-defense.

On offense, Gasol is able to control a game’s outcome without being a prolific scorer (14.1 ppg, 49 FG%). He’s a brilliant passer (especially from the elbow, where he makes both Chris Webber and Vlade Divac proud), a knock-down mid-ranger shooter (he shot 47 percent from 16-23 feet last season), and a solid post player, too. Whereas most of the League’s 7-foot defensive studs manage to contribute on offense by figuring out how to correctly fit in (Noah) or by developing a singular skill (Tyson Chandler: rolling to the hoop), Gasol has learned how to actually control a game’s outcome on the offensive end, as opposed to just playing off of someone else.

The main reason for that is because in Memphis’ anemic offense Gasol is that “someone else.” Gasol may not be the Grizzlies’ leading scorer, but he’s, without question, their best and most important offensive player. Aside from LeBron James and Dwight Howard, how many other defensive stars can boast this title? How many other players on this list contribute as much as Gasol does on both ends of the floor?

Marc Gasol is a guy who could play on any team, within any system, with any player, and instantaneously make everyone and everything around him better. This may sound like something simple, but plenty of the League’s greatest stars (hello, Carmelo) have proven otherwise. Gasol doesn’t do the little things on the court; he does everything. And he does them better than most.

Where should Marc Gasol rank in the SLAM Top 50?

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SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2013
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Monta Ellis Mavs SG 5
49 Luol Deng Bulls SF 10
48 Ricky Rubio TWolves PG 14
47 Greg Monroe Pistons PF 12
46 Kawhi Leonard Spurs SF 9
45 Mike Conley Grizzlies PG 13
44 Al Jefferson Bobcats C 9
43 David Lee Warriors PF 11
42 Jrue Holiday Pelicans PG 12
41 Anthony Davis Pelicans PF 10
40 Joe Johnson Nets SG 4
39 Serge Ibaka Thunder PF 9
38 Kevin Garnett Nets PF 8
37 Rudy Gay Raptors SF 8
36 Paul Pierce Nets SF 7
35 Ty Lawson Nuggets PG 11
34 Pau Gasol Lakers PF 7
33 Al Horford Hawks C 8
32 Andre Iguodala Warriors SF 6
31 Brook Lopez Nets C 7
30 Zach Randolph Grizzlies PF 6
29 DeMarcus Cousins Kings C 6
28 Damian Lillard Blazers PG 10
27 Josh Smith Hawks SF 5
26 Joakim Noah Bulls C 5
25 Roy Hibbert Pacers C 4
24 John Wall Wizards PG 9
23 Chris Bosh Heat C 3
22 Tim Duncan Spurs PF 5
21 Dirk Nowitzki Mavs PF 4
20 LaMarcus Aldridge Blazers PF 3
19 Rajon Rondo Celtics PG 8
18 Marc Gasol Grizzlies C 2

Rankings are based on expected contribution in ’13-14—to players’ team, the League and the game.

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  • Dagger

    This is the first writeup in a while that I have really loved. Good spot, good description, and yeah: that was a good trade for Memphis that sent Marc’s brother to the Lakers. Who would have guessed at the time?

  • danpowers

    i got gasol at least behind nowitzki, LA, pau gasol, duncan and horford, but that write up (finally) made a good case to justify this rank. nice job.

  • danpowers

    nobody ^^ i still dont see pau gasol worse than marc. when used somewhat properly he is still an elite pivot. lets hope the lakers will fire antoni soon.

  • shockexchange

    The Gimp has had his growth stunted with the Lakers and been used as a scapegoat , while Marc is being featured in Memphis.

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ben Osborne

    Nice write-up, Yaron. I had him even a little higher. An elite player in the prime of his career.

  • Dundler

    Way too low, but a good read. Nicely done

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    You no care about defense either?

  • Dundler

    Serious? Can you justify him being worse than Nowitzki, LA, Gasol or even Horford?

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    You said on the other page “LA stole Pau” – considering he was traded for Marc……well, contradicting yourself again.

  • danpowers

    i do and i think that pau aint that bad on D as it went last season. marc is better on that end, no doubt. but so far pau was the better rebounder and scorer. i think that antoni cant be that incompetent to use pau the way he did last year. so even with the edge on defense for marc, i see pau as the better player – capability wise.

  • LakeShow

    Really??

    Gasol is better than you realize. He could score 18+ppg if he wanted/Grizz needed him to.

    I think he is better than all the players you think are better than him in that list.

  • spit hot fiyah

    lakers probably shot themselves in the foot on that one. memphis wasn’t looking for much and they couldn’t have known that marc was going to be THIS good. imagine if the lakers would have been able to keep his draft rights and pair him with pau….

  • spit hot fiyah

    one of the better write ups. +1

  • danpowers

    i expect nowitzki to have a considerably better year than last 2 seasons. thats comparing an all time great (even though an aging one) to a very good player.

    LA, when healthy and used properly is the best 4 in the league, which imo puts him ahead of gasol.

    pau gasol isnt as bad on defense as he looked the last yr in la. he is still the better scorer and even rebounder (at least by the career numbers).

    hordord, if we can believe nbk’s stats research, was even the best center by the end of last year (just on a team nobody cares about, which dooms him to be underrated as long as he is in atlanta).

    i forgot noah, who just didnt get the dpoy award because of health issues. hopefully that wont repeat this season. for further questions see the bulls’ recent playoff run.

  • Dagger

    I think we can safely say that the trade helped both sides.

  • danpowers

    i believe that when i see it. staying around 15ppg and not surpassing the 50% fg% mark doesnt imply a (close to) 20ppg caliber. imo marc is a very good player, so are those who i mentioned. ranking players is a little stupid anyway – i think they are all on one level – each in his own way.

  • Dundler

    Nowizki- He may have a better season than the last two, but even at his peak he wasn’t half the defensive player Gasol is now. And whether he’s an all-time great or not is irrelevant for this list.

    LA has an argument, and has Gasol beaten on scoring, but not by all that big of a margin. However, an offense can’t be run through him in the same way it can for Gasol. Gasol also has him on defence.

    Pau- Im the biggest Pau fan ever, and I do think they’re still closer than people think given Pau’s injuries, but its likely Marc has the better season, but I see your point.

    Horford- I won’t claim to be as knowledgable on Horford as the others, I only have numbers to go on, so I can see him being comparable to Gasol, and I can’t compare their defences.

    Noah- An equal on defence, and I love his hustle, but offensive skills do not compare to Marc’s

  • TR

    Lamarcus Aldridge is a little overhyped for me.

  • http://h2hoops.wordpress.com/ Habeeba Husain

    Awesome how Marc’s climbing up the Top 50 by a lot each year. That chart was a great idea.

  • LakeShow

    It’s not like your insane for thinking those guys could outplay MG, but I doubt they will.

  • Evan Boland

    I’d probably take most those guys over him, too. Every time I watch him I fail to see what all the fuss is about. Wasn’t impressed with him vs Duncan in the WCF.

  • Evan Boland

    He definitely will. Dirk is healthy again and has had the summer off. Just look at how he improved throughout the course of last season.

  • LakeShow

    He shot the ball poorly because Duncan is a freak, but other than that he was quite beastly.

  • shockexchange

    The sky is blue, the earth is round and The Gimp has been held back under the “pass to Horry Jr” offense. That’s why Marc, who was once lesser ranked than The Gimp, has now surpassed him.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    the rebounding difference is pretty minimal, and it does make sense considering Gasol is usually on the high post on offense and guarding the other teams premier big man on defense, you know, the one usually taking shots or having the ball away from the hoop. PLUS, Memphis played at the slowest pace in the league, compared to the Lakers who played at the 5th fastest.
    .
    and the Pau might not be a bad defender, but he’s not anything close to his brother.

    i do agree Pau is probably the better offensive player, but it really doesn’t make sense to say he’s a better overall player at this point.

  • Dagger

    Here’s a great article that outlines what Gasol brings on D: http://www.sbnation.com/2013/3/15/4108416/marc-gasol-grizzlies-defensive-player-of-the-year

  • Evan Boland

    How dumb is it that he was NBA Defense of the year but wasn’t on the all-defense first team… What’s next an MVP who’s not ALL-NBA? Makes absolutely no sense.

  • LLC#12

    I don’t know about “shot themselves in the foot”, the Lakers got 2 championships out of it, that they wouldn’t have got otherwise. Even if you swapped Marc with Pau now, the Lakers wouldn’t be contenders. The Lakers won short term, Grizzlies won long term. Everybody won in that trade. Even if they could have kept Marc’s rights and obtained Pau, would Marc have developed so quickly if he was stuck behind Bynum?

  • danpowers

    the lakers and grizzlies each played at different paces throughout the years and gasol just collected more rebounds down the stretch than gasol. i am aware that marc spends more time in the high post. the numbers still slightly favor pau. who is also not as bad defensively as the last 1,5 years let it appear imo.

    pau used to be the second option on a championship team which says all about his caliber. people forgot very fast throughout last season how good he really is.

    we all know that his recent struggles had to do with many things except his age. he never relied on athletecism so logically father time shouldnt impact his game that “early”. he will have to be the laker’s first offensive option for a couple of months this season and the 2nd when kobe returns, which should let him look like an all star again. i expect him to return to his old self. if not, antoni should be fired asap.

  • danpowers

    plus, he got a slightly better team around him than last year.

  • LakeShow

    Held back… to two championships…. lol.

  • danpowers

    different people are voting for those two awards. whenever players at the same position are very close by (noah, gasol, howard) its not that much of a big deal to see a dpoy in the defense 2nd team. were just not really used to it.

  • danpowers

    on some nights they will, on some they wont.

  • danpowers

    imo he is a little underrated because his coach tends to use him a little out of position. whenever he gets more tasks than just being forced to jack up midrange jumpers he is the best 4 in the league.

  • danpowers

    if nowitzki is not half the defensive player gasol is, gasol isnt a third of the offensive player nowitzki is.

    we will see if LA gets used properly this season – in this case the margin will become much clearer. and sure, he would get used differntly than marc. marc is a do it all guy. LA is the guy you get the ball at the end of a play to put the ball in the basket. really tough to compare them. by sheer talent, he is the better player. if getting misused on offense again, i would agree that gasol has the better season.

    isnt pau fully healed or does some of this stuff still bother him? im not up to date about this and was just assuming pau would be fine. and antoni cant be THAT stubborn to use pau again as a stretch 4 this season. if so, i will vomit on my keyboard when watching a lakers game.

    me neither. i just got set straight on being too low on horford by quite some guys here, eg nbk, went into the stats and into tape to do my homework and gotta say: he is ranked WAY too low. i even feel guilt and shame for having been so low on him. he is really good. freaking good.

    agreed, he is really raw on offense, but not a total letdown. what qualifies him are the same aspects that qualify gasol: those things that dont necessarily show up in the stat sheet. he is the bulls playmaker (source: d rose) and their nightly energy boost and pure hustle, also a bit more athletic / energetic than gasol. i would agree to put them even, but not gasol ahead of noah. especially not after noahs recent performance in the playoffs.

  • Dundler

    I’d switch that on Dirk. Gasol has underated ability on the offensive end, especially with his passing, though of course his scoring ability doesn’t approach Dirk.

    I agree with the Aldridge conumdrum, many mentioned on his thread how he’s misused, and if you happen to see a Portland game (one vs the Rockets was on NBA tv yday) you can really see it. Very misused. But this point considers his offense only. When you factor on his D, I still give Marc the nod (though proper usage may bring LA to equal)

    From what I hear, Pau is fully healed (though from my own knowledge, a torn plantar fascia is likely to bother forever in some form). Oh ye of too much faith. I cannot believe D’Antoni isn’t too much of a fool to try anything, but I truly hope he does use Gasol properly again. Especially with Kobe out, its plainly the only option.

    Definitely too low, Should be top 20 I think.

    I don’t know if I’d agree with Rose on Noah being a playmaker, unless in the sense that he makes things happen when it breaks down or something on those lines? I think Gasol has a very…Gasolish ability to run an offense through simply superb IQ, spacing, timing and passing ability, the same as his brother. Noah is good but not the same level. Noah is definitely the more athletic, and its not like he’s a complete no-go on offence. His energy does give the Bulls a lot that they wouldn’t normally get

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Used to be. He’s not Benjamin Button

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    i gotta say this to somebody somewhere. if Steph comes up in the next few spots, I’m going to show so many stats about this kid that just make him look like some kind of super hero. But he should end up right around #10

  • danpowers

    neither steve nash old. depending on health and offensive system he could have his last real good season.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Oh ok. Because Steve Nash is a good example to use for other players to be compared to? He won an MVP at pau’s age lol, stop

  • danpowers

    rose really meant his passing ability and how the ball moves whenever it goes through noah on offense. remember, last season he put up 4,0apg.

  • danpowers

    steve nash aint, but he is 39 years old. i was only referring to age.

  • Dundler

    Thats pretty good, I didn’t know it was that high. I dunno why I haven’t really figured that Bulls and Grizz are actually fairly similar. Noah and Gasol obviously comparable, elite perimeter defenders in Allen and Deng.
    Difference probably lies in Grizz focusing on Randolph vs Rose with Bulls, but still it is comparable

  • danpowers

    definitely: two gritty defensive minded teams. there isnt much not to like about these squads.

  • Dundler

    Should in your opinion or should based on where you think SLAM will rank him?

  • Dundler

    I’m a fan of both. Like Gasol because I’ve always liked Pau and watching them together on the Spanish team is simply unique. And I’m from the UK so I obviously adore Deng

  • LakeShow

    Hmmm, nice, his defense is still suspect though. He’s pretty much a god offensively though so it kinda doesn’t matter.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    I have no idea where SLAM will put him, lol just based my opinion

  • danpowers

    co-sign on all of that. im not low on marc gasol, im just a little high on these other guys lol

  • Yaron

    Much appreciated, Mr. Dagger!

  • Yaron

    I think I had him at 11 in mine, actually. So yeah, I agree.

  • The Fury

    This was darn spot on!! Great writeup Mr. Yaron.

  • Interdico Scriptor

    Mark is the best Gasol IMO and deserved of the spot. On other matters Deandre Jordan is looking good (admittedly in pre-season) and has a chance to be top tier defensive player. Has anyone seen what Doc has done for the Clipps and DJ in particular?
    AMAZING

  • Interdico Scriptor

    Saying defence and Clippers and contenders in the same sentence is kinda cooky but it’s happening in front of my eyes!
    Clipps for the Chips!

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    does durability factor into your stats? He’s a triple double threat just like Rondo and Lebron but health wise he’s not there. I won’t talk about his defensive weaknesses. Like there are so many good point guards averaging 20ish a game with high assists going against other top point guards. I mean which point guard in the league consistently shuts down their opposing pg and gets his stats.

  • spit hot fiyah

    wrong expression used y me. and i agree both teams won, my point was that the lakers could have won even more and maybe got more than two chips during the pau era.

  • pposse

    D Rose

  • AddingVelocityDontTellMe

    so when D Rose plays he holds other pgs to less than their averages. I don’t agree with that.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    my rule of thumb is, “if a guy is healthy, don’t assume he’ll get hurt” — i just personally don’t even like doing that, feels icky.
    .
    there are no PG’s that do that, there are just some who are more potent than others. like Chris Paul for example, who does a better job offensively and defensively then just about every PG in the league.
    .
    and Steph’s defense is not good, but it’s not nearly as bad as people make it sound. He’s definitely improved every season, that’s for sure.

  • Dfrance

    Yeah it’s funny how he was kind of a throw in at the time, “Pau Gasol’s brother.” Cool to see he’s made his own name.

  • Dfrance

    Happened with Tyson Chandler the year before as well.

  • Dfrance

    It’s still dumb imo. DPOY should be on the first team by default, the other set of voters chose the remaining players.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    they shouldn’t let the coaches vote. that’s what it comes down to. the coaches aren’t watching all 30 teams. there is no reason to think they have a good understanding of who is doing what at the highest level when they see one player at most, 4 times a year.

  • danpowers

    dont they get detailed scouting reports and tape of those guys before they actually face them?

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    sort of? i mean they are getting film that has those guys in it, maybe even feature them. but they aren’t looking at the tape to watch one individual, or to see a collection of all the great things that individual does. They are looking at it from a team perspective, how said team features said player. That’s about as deep as “how a guy has been playing” goes for them. Unless they are the rare coach who spends his free time watching other basketball teams, rather than doing anything other than basketball related activities. Trust that those coaches are not the norm tho.

  • pposse

    well no one will give Rose credit alone, but for the most part its true and especially if your looking at other ‘star pgs’. He also elevates his game above those big named players as his stats increase, and the bulls usually win those games.

    Also if you look specifically in the last 2 years you will notice a drop off in production from the other pg’s from their normal averages. Idk how to show that to you otherwise I would.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Basketball-reference.com

    Player index+ tab

    Player head to head finder

  • pposse

    right i understand that, but I wanted to exclude Rose’s rookie-sophomore year from the head to head comparison. Since that point the head to head matchups vs star pgs have been drastically in the favor of Rose (i believe) and the criteria AVDTM was looking for was met.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    It shows every single game. You can just not look at those 2 seasons lol

  • Clos1881

    I’m sorry Marc is a great complimentary player but zach is the better player I just don’t see him ranked that high.

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