I could hear everyone in the city of Memphis scoff at this headline.
You all hate Pau Gasol. You can't stand his guts. He's the worst player ever, blah, blah, I understand that. And yet, despite Marc Gasol being better than Pau at this current moment, he could learn a lot from his older sibling going into this first round series versus the Los Angeles Clippers.
Comparing Marc from this season and Pau during the Los Angeles Lakers back-to-back championship run, you find striking similarities. Both were the best passers for their respective positions. Both were the most skilled big men offensively and often can't be stopped when on the block or shooting to 10-15 footer. But one thing Pau never came off as during the stretch is passive which is something that Marc is to the extreme. Being passive isn't necessarily a bad thing though. It keeps the defense honest and makes things easier for the surrounding teammates.
When it was time for Pau to take advantage of a lesser opponent he didn't hesitate to do it. Here are Pau's stats from 08-10:
Reg. Season: 18.9 pts (12.9 fga), 9.6 rbs, 3.5 asts, .567 fg%, 22.2 PER, 20.4 USG%
Playoffs: 18.3 pts (12 fga), 10.8 rbs, 2.5 asts, .580% fg%, 21.9 PER, 18.8 USG%
Reg. Season: 18.3 pts (on 13.0 fga), 11.3 rbs, 3.4 asts, .536 fg%, 22.9 PER, 21.4 USG%
Playoffs: 19.6 pts (13.3 fga, 11.1 rbs, 3.5 asts, .539 fg%, 24.0 PER, 21.0 USG%
Here are Marc's numbers from the 2012-13 season:
Reg. Season: 14.1 pts (10.9 shots per game), 7.8 rbs, 4.0 asts, .494 fg%, 19.5 PER, 19.2 USG%
The biggest difference between the two players is obviously shot percentage which has a lot to do with where Marc and Pau are shooting the ball from. While Pau could effectively beat people from the outside with the mid-range jumper, most of his shots came from inside the paint. While Marc can effectively beat people in the paint, most of his shots came from the mid-range game.
There's nothing wrong with Marc shooting those jumpers as long as he's hitting them and that he is. He leads all centers (30 mpg minimum) in shots per game from 10-15 feet (2.1 fga) and is 48.6 percent from the area. And only Chris Bosh shoots better than Marc (49 percent) from 16-23 feet at 52 percent. This is fine, but Pau's dominance being closer massively helped with floor-spacing, something the Grizzlies relapse on from time to time..
Playing alongside Zach Randolph, his lack of rebounds isn't problematic. The numbers show he hits the boards better when Z-Bo is on the bench. His usage rate has increased slightly since the trade of Rudy Gay, but for the overall, he's not shooting enough. When Marc scores this team is simply better than usual. On the season, the Grizzlies are 14-3 when Marc scores 20+ points. One of the losses were against the eventual 27-game win streak Miami Heat and another was the season opener on Halloween.
When Marc scores it makes things easier for Randolph on the block, Conley/Bayless on the perimeter and the shooters around them. And against the Los Angeles Clippers, all of the aforementioned subjects have struggled:
Mike Conley: 13-43 (.302 percent) in four games.
Zach Randolph: 22-59 (.373 percent) in four games.
Jerryd Bayless: 7-27 (.259 percent) in four games.
Three-Point Shooting: 20-59 (33.9 percent) in four games
In Marc's case, he's been near dominant against the Clippers: 16.8 points (.537 percent), 9 rebounds and 4 assists per game.
It's simple: this team has no one to guard Marc. DeAndre Jordan is the teams best bet, but he's either in foul trouble or Vinny Del Negro has him sitting on the pine. This leaves Blake Griffin, Ryan Hollins, Lamar Odom and possibly Ronny Turiaf to defend Marc. These aren't all-world defenders. It should be easy pickings for Marc on the block. And yet, he remains passive. Some of the problems you can blame on coaching. Some on Marc's style of play and the other on complete foolery.
Look at the last Clippers-Grizzlies game. In 38 minutes of play Marc managed to go 7-14 from the field for 18 points in a narrow lost to LAC. But looking more into the numbers, this game could have easily won by good coaching adjustments, which definitely isn't one of Lionel Hollins sweet spots. Entering the 4th quarter, the Grizzlies were up 73-68. Fast forward to the last five minutes of the game, Clippers up 86-81 and it seems like the prime position for Gasol to put the offense on his back and win the game. Marc Gasol didn't put up a shot the rest of the quarter. Randolph and Conley shot three times, Tony Allen shot twice and Quincy Pondexter hoisted up a failed 3. When the best player on the floor doesn't get an attempt up in the last 5 minutes, you deserve to lose.
But now, these mistakes can't be made.The pecking order has to be made come Sunday with Marc Gasol being the head honcho. Zach Randolph isn't the Z-Bo we saw two years ago when he carried them to the second round. Diminished talent and injuries have contributed that. Though Conley's play has improved since trading Gay, he's not good enough to win you a series. But that Marc Gasol guy. He's good enough. His big brother needed his help going into the last game of the season, but Saturday will be when Marc needs to take a leaf note out of Pau's game plan and carry this team as much as possible.