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The Evolution of Marc Gasol

Marc Gasol is a three-point threat. There is growing evidence to prove it.

NBA: Washington Wizards at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

In a year or so from now (perhaps even right at this moment) somewhere in the world there will a big kid shooting threes.

It could be someone playing ball overseas, or a young person before or during school getting up some shots before class starts. They will go over all the basics in their mind- set your feet, align your elbow, follow through. They’ll be keeping track of their makes and misses, trying to improve upon the previous day. Low post presence be damned- these centers in the NBA nowadays are working on their perimeter game. And then they will work on their dance moves after making that game-winner against the clock in their minds.

Somewhere in the world, that kid will be trying to be the next Marc Gasol.

NBA: Washington Wizards at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

There have certainly been other big men who have stretched the floor with their ability to shoot from range. But Gasol is the latest and one of the most drastic examples of re-prioritizing and changing your game that has been seen in some time. This has been dreamed of in Memphis for some time, in other places as well as by this writer.

That dream is finally coming true.

Gasol, who had attempted 66 three-point shots in his entire eight-year NBA career prior to this season, has already launched 48 shots from beyond the arc in the 2016-2017 campaign. At that pace, in 18 regular season games he will have taken more threes than he had in the previous 569.

That is remarkable.

It isn’t just the fact he is chucking up more perimeter shots. He is making them. A LOT. Gasol is currently shooting 43.8% from three-point land, meaning that even if he regresses some he will likely settle between 34-38% from beyond the arc. Here are some other guys who shoot that percentage for their careers-

  • Dirk Nowitzki (38.1% on 4,473 attempts)
  • Ryan Anderson (37.8% on 2,686 attempts)
  • Draymond Green (34.1% on 866 attempts)
  • Nikola Mirotic (35.1% on 732 attempts)

Will Marc Gasol ever be Dirk Nowitzki? No, probably not. But he does not need to be. Players like Nikola Mirotic and Draymond Green are viewed as potential three-point threats and average roughly 34.5% shooting from three combined. Marc should be able to settle in to that percentage of conversion as a floor for his productivity from range. He will most likely outperform that percentage as he gets used to playing on the perimeter.

The best part? His attempts will likely increase as he ages. If Marc stays on his current pace of about 3.4 threes taken per game for the remainder of his contract, he will have attempted around 1,000 threes by that point. If he attempts 20% more threes each season on that pace? That number jumps up to 1,300. That many attempts with a 36.5% conversion rate is realistic (maybe even a bit of a low-ball estimate) for Marc- and dangerous for the opposition.

This is a massive development for the Grizzlies. The fact that a team’s best rim defender may be pulled away from the rim to defend Gasol in space creates so many new opportunities for his teammates. And if teams do adjust and put smaller players on Marc, he can take them to the rim and create mismatches based off of size.

How the offense is being built around these opportunities for Marc was discussed by Dane Carbaugh of NBC Sports in one of his latest video breakdowns.

As Dane says, the initial confusion this wrinkle in Gasol’s game creates for opposing defenses is very helpful right now. Teams will adapt, and Marc will not shoot 43.8% forever from beyond the arc.

But it isn’t about the percentage itself for Big Spain. It is about the threat. A player with multiple tools already in his offensive tool kit now has another, and this one is a doozy. The Grizzlies offense is that much more explosive with just this development. It has had an indirect hand in Mike Conley’s offensive renaissance, and it has given players like JaMychal Green and James Ennis more opportunity to play in the paint and clean the glass, something better suited for them at this stage of their careers (and for that matter, Marc’s as he comes off of his foot injury.)

And lest we forget, the fact remains that Chandler Parsons has not played fully healthy yet in this system. There is room for improvement. And if Parsons ever can get right, it will make the new-found range from Gasol that much more terrifying for the Western Conference.

Somewhere, a year from now, a big kid will hit a three and play some air Johnny Cash, or do his best Conor McGregor-esque flailing arms dance. It will be because the Memphis Grizzlies offense has evolved, thanks in large part to the ongoing development of Marc Gasol.

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