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Memphis Grizzlies 2016-17 Player Previews: Marc Gasol

With the former All-Star returning to the court after recovering from injury, which version of Marc Gasol will we see on opening night?

Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

2015-16 Season Overview:

Last year, Marc Gasol only played 52 games and averaged 16.6 PPG and 7.0 rebounds. While statistically it wasn't the worst year of his career, it was definitely a disappointing season after making the All-Star team the season before. He averaged 34.4 minutes per game, which is the second highest of his career (he averaged 35.8 minutes during the 2009-10 season). In February, Gasol suffered a broken right foot and was out for the rest of the season. While we saw flashes of "Aggressive Marc" last season, he was never consistently the All-Star that fans had witnessed during the 2014-15 season.

It appeared Marc wasn't in as good of shape last season, and this could have contributed to increased strain on his foot. That, and Marc's minutes piled up last season, and the Spanish center isn't 25 years old anymore. Therefore, Big Spain needs to really take care of himself this season to prevent any permanent damage and keep himself healthy and on the court for Memphis.

Projected Role:

Not only do fans expect big things out of Marc Gasol this season, but the center himself voiced on media day that he thought he had improved all around and would be a better player in general this season. He said he'd been working on his three point shooting, and it appeared that he had lost some weight. These factors, along with a successful recovery from his injury, will hopefully result in Marc taking on a dominant role this season alongside Mike Conley.

Now that both are locked into contracts with the Grizzlies, they'll have to lead this new roster this season. I expect Marc to return to his 2014-15 form, or at least close to that. However, if Marc plays the way he did most of last season, Memphis doesn't stand a chance in the ruthless NBA playoff scene. His role on this team can take Memphis from mediocre to contender.

Best-Case Scenario:

On the opening night of preseason, Marc Gasol appeared the most eager to hit the court. He seemed renewed and full of energy. Hopefully, Marc will assume the aggressive role he took on two seasons ago. In 2014-15, he averaged a career high 17.4 PPG and 7.8 rebounds. If Marc could average around those numbers, we could be seeing a reappearance of Marc Gasol in the 2017 NBA All-Star game.

He needs to be more vocal this season and take on more of a leadership role than last season. In addition, if he could shoot more threes (which it seems like he has been practicing that), this would help the Grizzlies' offense tremendously by spreading the floor more. Marc definitely has the capability of shooting from long range, but part of this ability can be limited from his level of confidence and aggressiveness. In the best scenario, Marc will reclaim his "Aggressive Marc" role, and he will shoot at almost every opportunity.

Worst-Case Scenario:

The worst possible thing that could happen for Marc Gasol this season is that his foot isn't fully healed, and he deals with that problem throughout the season. For Marc to return to his peak form, he has to be fully healthy. Foot injuries can be a thorn in the side of big men in the NBA, but it appears Marc has made a fully recovery. Nevertheless, as the season goes on it could become an issue. And even if it isn't a major issue, Marc could still revert to his passive ways of last season and be only a shadow of what he was a couple years ago. If this were to happen, Memphis will be looking at struggling to make the playoffs in their competitive conference.

Overall Expectations:

In general, most fans and analysts know that Marc can't have a repeat of last season for the Grizzlies to contend for a title. The fear of his foot not being fully healed is definitely there, but assuming health, the only real limit this season for Marc Gasol is himself. When he asserts himself in the offense and assumes a leadership role on both ends of the court, the Grizzlies win games. When he is more passive, Memphis struggles. Simple as that.

From all that Marc has said to the media and from all that he said he's been working on this summer, I expect a transformed Marc Gasol opening night. While he may never again reach the statistics he maintained in 2014-15, perhaps we'll see something that at least resembles that version of Big Spain this season.

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