While an increasing number of big men are busy expanding their game out to the three-point line, Marc Gasol is doing just the opposite. He's focused on becoming more aggressive with the ball in his hands and attacking the rim with greater regularity.
When Gasol is aggressive, his footwork, intelligence, power, and touch allow him to score the ball in almost every way imaginable. The key word there is almost.
One thing Gasol has never done over the course of his career is to shoot threes with any degree of regularity. For a big guy that possesses a sweet jumper and great touch, it's not inconceivable that Gasol could take and make threes. So why doesn't he?
In six seasons (2014-15 will be his seventh), Gasol is 7/46 from beyond the arc. Oof.
Many of Gasol's threes have come on desperation heaves either at the end of the shot clock or quarter, thus negatively skewing the percentage quite a bit. When counting only the threes where Gasol had time to get his feet set and get off a decent shot, he was 5/16. That's not good, but it does show that Gasol becoming somewhat of a threat from the perimeter isn't out of the question.
Playing most of his career with a doughy body has prohibited Gasol from getting much air between his feet and the hardwood when attempting jumpers. A great deal of lift isn't a necessity when shooting threes, but there is some truth to the old saying "get your legs into it."
Gasol's three-point shot that we've seen in rare instances isn't completely broken, but there are certainly flaws to point out. To gain a better understanding of where Gasol's mechanics fall short, let's walk through each of the three steps that occur during each of his jumpers: the gather, the rise, and the release/follow through.
Gasol's gather is surprisingly not terrible for a true seven-footer that shoots threes once in a blue moon. His knees could be bent a little more, and he could have a bit more forward bend at the waist to give him the balance necessary for a great rise, but overall his balance isn't bad. Additionally, he dips the ball down about four inches on the catch before rising up for the shot. This allows him to gain balance and load up properly for the shot. In the picture below, notice Gasol's slight bend at the knees and waist.
This step is where the first issue arises. When Gasol rises for a three, his body is nearly straight like a pencil. It's tough to ask a player that big to lean back slightly and kick his feet a bit forward as he releases the shot, but that is what Gasol needs to do to become more consistent from three. Kicking his legs slightly forward will automatically force his shoulders back, creating more arc on his shot. After losing a lot of weight during the offseason, Gasol is in the best basketball shape of his life, and he can finally jump when he shoots jumpers. A leaner frame could help him become a better three-point shooter, because he can perform all the aforementioned steps with greater ease.
The Release and Follow Through
On the release, Gasol pushes the ball to the rim more than he shoots it. Thinning down, cutting down on rigidity, actually jumping, and leaning back on his three-point attempts would help him to actually shoot the ball with some arc and not just push the ball with his arms. Make no mistake, Gasol is obviously strong enough to get the ball up to the rim from beyond the arc, but his mechanics before the shot haven't allowed him to actually shoot the ball properly from that area of the floor up to this point.
Gasol did hit the three illustrated above. Here's Gasol shooting threes in real time.
Gasol's form is decent in the clips above. Given his talent level, it's easy to believe that Gasol could develop a three-point shot if he really needed to.
Of course, there could be a downside to the scenario of Gasol developing a three-point shot. For him to shoot more threes, he would have to spend more time on the perimeter. That would mean less time around the rim for post-ups and less chances to snag rebounds, which is not what you want for him. He serves as the screener in the pick-and-roll a large amount of the time, and he's far more dangerous occupying the defense by either rolling to the basket or popping to the elbow than he likely would be popping all the way out to the perimeter. Also, it makes more sense for Coach Dave Joerger to position Gasol on the elbow, given that he is largely the pivot point of the Grizzlies offense.
While becoming a threat from the three-point line would certainly make Gasol more dangerous and add an element of spacing that hasn't previously existed among the starting five, the Grizzlies would likely be better served with Gasol doing exactly what he's doing right now to start the season - aggressively attacking the paint.