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2014-15 Memphis Grizzlies Player Preview: Marc Gasol

With eyes on a max contract in the 2015 season, Marc Gasol looks to return to the level of play that made him the 2013 NBA Defensive Player of the Year.

Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Marc Gasol 2013-14 Season Stats

G MP FG FGA FG% FT FTA FT% REB AST STL BLK TOV PTS
59 33.4 5.7 12.1 .473 3.1 4.1 .768 7.2 3.6 1.0 1.3 1.9 14.6

Friday, November 22, 2013. A date which will live in Grizfamy.

The Grizzlies hosted the San Antonio Spurs in Memphis' 13th game of the regular season. The Grizz were fresh off of a four-game sweep of the California road-trip, and finally feeling some momentum after a disappointing start to the season. Early in the second quarter Marc Gasol made a routine defensive play in an effort to stop a Jeff Ayres hook shot in the paint. But instead Gasol's knee buckled, and suddenly all that momentum vanished.

Gasol missed the next 23 games of the season with an MCL sprain, and after returning never quite got all the way back to the level of play that earned him Defensive Player of the Year and second team All-NBA honors in the 2012-13 season. Big Spain's nagging knee issue should now be a thing of the past, but Gasol still faces a multitude of questions entering the 2014-15 season.

The Mid-Range Jumper

I realize this may be a somewhat controversial statement, but I'm just going to throw it out there: *ahem* Marc Gasol's mid-range jumper was not very good last season. From some spots I'd go so far as to say it was bad. Take a look at the shot chart of his 2012-13 season compared to last year:

2012-13

Gasolbubbles1213_medium

2013-14

Gasolbubbles_medium

Okay, now that we've all taken a moment to push that left-elbow jumper out of our collective memory, let's talk about some positives.

It wasn't all bad for Gasol offensively last season. He actually increased his shooting percentages on shots around the rim and on longer looks from the paint, which probably mostly consisted of 13-foot set shots and that running hook move he always manages to draw fouls on.

The only problem with that is while his efficiency went up, he took fewer shots from those areas. Instead of taking it in close where he excelled, he took more mid-range jumpers than ever before — all while converting them at a decreased percentage. Here's another chart to show that his shot selection was actually pretty poor last season:

Marcgasol_distributionvspps_medium

Unless Marc can regain the mid-range touch he had in the 2012-13 season, he would be best suited to cut down on the two-point jumpers this time around.

The FIBA World Cup

After a season in which he suffered a serious knee injury which he never fully recovered from, the ideal scenario would be for Gasol to take most of the off-season off to give his body time to completely heal and so that he can come into training camp 100 percent fresh. But with the FIBA World Cup taking place this year in Gasol's home country of Spain, that didn't happen.

Marc spent the majority of his summer with the Spanish national team preparing for and competing in the World Cup, where Gasol and Spain came up short with a disappointing quarterfinal loss to France. As we've chronicled on the site multiple times, Gasol appears to be in the best physical shape in his life because of the tournament, but with a lack of a true off-season it's certainly possible that the fatigue could take its toll on Marc throughout the NBA season. That, or he could keep up his current fitness and have the best season of his career. We'll have to wait and see.

2014-15 Season Ceiling

Marc finally does what so many fans have been wanting him to for the last couple of seasons — demand the ball on offense and try to be as dominant offensively as he can be defensively. Gasol's jumper returns to the level it was at in the 2012-13 season, and with his new-found fitness he's more athletic than ever before.

Gasol leads the Grizzlies in scoring, averaging 17.5 points, 8.4 rebounds and 3.8 assists on 50 percent shooting and 81 percent from the free throw line while staying healthy and playing all 82 games.

2014-15 Season Floor

Gasol's jumper doesn't improve much from where it was last season, yet he continues to take the majority of his shots from the mid-range area. In the second half of the season the basketball he played over the summer begins to take its toll on his body, and he picks up a few injuries, causing him to miss several games. He also continues to be passive on offense, and there are concerns as to whether he's truly worth the max contract he'll be demanding in the 2015 off-season.

Marc averages 14.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists on 47 percent shooting and 76 percent from the free throw line, and only plays 62 games.

Likely Scenario

Marc maybe isn't as dominant offensively as some would like for him to be, but does set a career-high in points per game. His jump shot isn't quite where it was in 2012-13, but it definitely recovers from where it was last season and he returns as one of the game's best big men from the mid-range.

He averages 16.1 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists on 49 percent shooting and 79 percent from the charity stripe, playing 80 games.