Tonight the All-Star reserves will be announced, and the Grizzlies have two viable candidates to make the roster in Marc Gasol and Rudy Gay. The Western Conference, per usual, is loaded with deserving stars and it remains to be seen how the coaches will look on Memphis given their bumpy up-and-down season to date.
Still, though, both Gasol and Gay have a case to be made at being named the first Grizz All-Star since Zach Randolph in 2010. Let's take a look at what they're bringing to the table.
The case: With Z-Bo sidelined, Rudy's role has returned to the not-so-distant old days. He's asked to be the primary scorer on a team desperate for points on many nights, and one can't say he hasn't at least taken the role seriously. Gay is attempting six more shots per game than the closest Grizzly, is shooting 44.6 percent from the floor while doing so, and is the team's leading scorer at 18.4 points a night.
His Win Share, though -- the estimated number of wins a player gives his team -- is rather low at 1.7, and his Player Efficiency Rating (PER), which looks into a player's all-around play, of 16.3 is really pretty average and ranks 104th among qualified players around the league, tied with Mario Chalmers.
The best case to be made for Gay, though, is that in Grizzlies' wins he's scoring 20.5 per game while shooting 50 percent from the field with close to three assists, while in losses, he's scoring only 16.2 per, assisting on one less bucket, and shooting 39.3 from the floor. So it may not necessarily be as cut and dry as the "as he goes, his team goes" argument (Memphis is 13-13 after all), but when Gay is better, his team has a much better chance to win.
Guess: I don't think he quite cracks the Western Conference reserves, but could possibly fill in as an injury replacement.
The case: He is the Grizzlies' anchor on both ends, leading the team in rebounds and blocks as he's had to try to pick up the low-post slack left by Randolph. Excluding Z-Bo, Gasol is attempting the second-most shots on the team behind Gay, a sign he's trying to take a share of the scoring load, but even though he's getting 15 points a night, his shooting numbers aren't great. He's leading Memphis in field goal percentage while hovering around 50 percent, but this isn't really a high number for a player who should be getting more looks closer to the basket; Gasol is shooting 37.3 percent between 3-9 feet this season, and has actually been hitting better from outside, using that pick-and-pop game we see so often to success.
His PER of 19.4 stands at 46th overall in the league among qualified players and 14th among centers, both pretty respectable ranks, and his Win Share is nearly four, easily leading the Grizzlies in that category. He's pretty darn important to this team, and his defensive presence cannot be undervalued. Memphis, with its on-and-off scoring struggles, has had to rely on its stingy defense -- and in turn Gasol's smarts and skills in the middle -- often.
Gasol should definitely be considered as an All-Star on those qualifications alone, but the NBA's archaic position requirements should only aid him more. The reserve selections call for two forwards, two guards, two wild cards and one center. Since a center in the classical sense is growing tougher and tougher to come by in the league today, and Gasol is a center through and through, his name should be right there with Nene and Marcin Gortat, the other likely top considerations.
Guess: Gasol makes it in as the reserve center, as the year of younger brothers upstaging their older siblings continues. No offense, Pau.