SLAM Top 50: Marc Gasol, No. 28

It’s hard to pin-down Marc Gasol’s value heading into the 2016-17 season. While he’s not far removed from an All-NBA First-Team selection in 2014-15 and the DPOY in 2012-13, his performance last season waved quite a few red flags.

But let’s first get into what makes Gasol one of the most unique talents in the L…

One of Gasol’s most valuable skills is his ability to create offense. His 8.2 potential assists per game were second on the team only to Mike Conley (11.1) last season and tops among centers. (Gasol also ranked top-three in 2014-15 and 2013-14 with 7.4 and 7.5 potential assists, respectively.)

On the other side of the ball, Gasol remains an exceptional rim protector. Among the 40 players who defended at least 5 shots at the rim per game and played at least 50 games/25 mpg last season, Gasol ranked third in the NBA with a 45.7 opponent field-goal percentage.

That’s a steady improvement from previous seasons, when Gasol’s rim protection stats were very good (49.7 and 51.2 opponent field-goal percentage in 2014-15 and 2013-14, respectively), but was not elite.

All this suggests that the 31-year-old is still in the tail end of his prime. But let’s take a closer look at some of the real concerns facing the nine-year vet.

A whopping 40.2 percent of Gasol’s offense originated in the post, where he clearly struggled last season. His post-ups averaged 0.89 points per possession (PPP), which by comparison, were significantly less efficient than an average Grizzlies possession (1.05 PPP).

And despite his playmaking ability and accuracy from mid-range, Gasol was only a moderately effective pick-and-roll man. In plays involving Gasol as a roll man last season (which accounted for 22.1 percent of his offense), he generated 1.09 PPP—essentially an average Memphis possession.

Gasol’s sub-par shooting efficiency certainly had something to do with it. His 52.8 true shooing percentage ranked 112th in the League among players who played at least 50 games/25 mpg.

Gasol very rarely crashes the offensive glass, so extending his game beyond the three-point line would seem like a natural extension for his game. Not so. He attempted only 3 threes last season, and while he made 2 of those attempts, Gasol has made only 12 three-pointers for his career, including the Playoffs.

And then of course there is the looming concern over Gasol’s recovery from foot surgery, which caused him to miss the final 30 games of the regular season, the Playoffs and the Olympics.

Gasol has been cleared to play, but the team has already announced that he will sit out some games as a precaution this year.

The Grizz are understandably exercising extreme caution because, as we’ve seen in the past, foot problems can quickly derail a player’s career, especially a 7-1, 270-pound player.

With a new coaching staff, and a stable of young talent vying for larger roles, Gasol’s 2016-17 season could look much different than what we’re used to.

We’ll just have to wait and see. For now, ranking him at No. 28 seems about right.

Rankings are based on expected contribution in 2016-17—to players’ team, the NBA and the game.

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