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Season in Review: The best and worst of Marc Gasol

In a down season, some career highlights still shined for Big Spain.

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Marc Gasol

Season Points per game Assists per game FG% 3 point FG % Off. Rating Def. Rating Net Rating PER Usage Win shares per 48 min
Season Points per game Assists per game FG% 3 point FG % Off. Rating Def. Rating Net Rating PER Usage Win shares per 48 min
2017-2018 17.2 4.2 42% 34.10% 104 108 -4 17.4 25.60% 0.08
Stats provided by basketball-reference.com
Brandon Conner, nba.com/stats

Marc Gasol in several ways had the worst season of his career.

Aside from being a part of a 22-60 squad, the lowest amount of winning he’s ever been a part of as a Memphis Grizzly, he posted a career low win shares per 48 minutes (.080) and net rating (-4). He has never shot worse on two point field goals (45.6%), and has never turned the ball over more (2.7 per game) in his entire career. He slowed the game down to a fault at times, and seemed to be a step slow on both ends more than every before.

In these ways, Marc had a campaign to forget.

But Marc Gasol also, in several areas, had the best season of his career.

It was the first time in the better part of a decade that Gasol spent so much time on the floor without Zach Randolph, Tony Allen, or Mike Conley by his side. The lone basketball survivor of the Core Four era, at least for this season, had to scratch and claw alongside players he probably barely knew, much less could trust. Yet Gasol played the role of mentor leader well, helping the young Grizzlies through the toughest stretches of this lost season for Memphis. He also rebounded at a higher clip than he had in six seasons, helping to make up for the absence of Z-Bo, and showed resilience in the face of adversity. Some of it was of his own doing (David Fizdale to an extent, for example), but instead of asking for a trade or to be sat out to avoid injury he did all he could to the end.

That deserves praise, and should not go unnoticed.

Best Game

Before the true identity of the Grizzlies came in to being (i.e. before Mike Conley was essentially out for the season), there was a time where they were considered the best team in the entire NBA. The zenith of that early happy time was a big win at home over the Warriors, and Gasol was dominant. 34 points on 8-16 shooting, 16 of 17 from the free throw line, 14 rebounds...he looked very much like the Marc Gasol who was All-NBA and an All-Star starter at points throughout his career. He was at the peak of his powers, and it is a reminder that with Mike Conley by his side he is capable of these types of performances against the very best of the NBA, even at this stage of his career.

Reason for hope heading in to next season.

Worst Moment

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The firing of David Fizdale was not Marc Gasol’s fault.

But he didn’t help matters.

Throughout their relationship, there was strain. This information became public in the days and weeks following Fizdale’s dismissal, but it was evident to those that worked with/followed the team that the two did not see eye to eye. Fizdale did not pay enough respect to what the Core Four had accomplished and was not able to sell many of the Grizzlies, Gasol being chief among them, on his vision for the future. Big Spain was not interested in trying to remedy the situation. It appears that in his eyes, despite Fizdale’s youth and promise as a coach, the damage was already done. If Marc wanted Fizdale here, he would still be here.

Yet here we are, preparing for another coaching “search”.

J.B. Bickerstaff held the tattered remains of Memphis together the best he could, but the removal of Fizdale did not save anything for the Grizzlies except money on playoff growl towels. Without Conley it would have been a tough situation without a coaching change, but the distraction and disruption that came with Gasol’s benching against the Brooklyn Nets (and Fizdale’s firing the next day) made things that much more difficult.

Is Gasol a coach killer? There’s evidence on both sides to make an argument. His actions in the aftermath were admirable, as mentioned earlier, but the fact remains that when it comes to relationship building it takes two to commit to making it work and sometimes admitting when they are wrong. Fizdale’s approach was misguided...but so was Gasol’s in not being able to find common ground with his now former head coach.

Thing to Improve

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Portland Trail Blazers Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Considering the fact that much of the roster that was so bad this year will likely return, with a hopefully healthy Mike Conley helping turn things around, Gasol’s tied for career-worst defensive rating is worrisome. Regardless of scheme, Marc will remain a key cog in making perimeter players right in help defense and in rim protection. Regardless of draft pick, even in this big-heavy draft where the likelihood is Memphis will take a new young big man and start him alongside Gasol, it will be Marc who will have a large hand in how much better that group can be from this past season to next.

He turns 34 at the end of next season. He has never been the most fleet of foot, but every step lost is another step toward real problems that cannot be fixed since so much money is tied up in him, Conley, and Chandler Parsons. He must commit even more to being sound in his defensive movements and an anchor on that end, or Memphis won’t have a chance to turn things around because the elite offenses of the NBA will run them off the floor every other night.

Overall Season Grade

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Portland Trail Blazers Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

In a year where he lost a lot, both literally and figuratively, Gasol was still productive in multiple ways for Memphis. He’s not able to carry this team for extended periods anymore, but he was never supposed to have to do it alone. Mike Conley was 1B to his 1A, and without him Gasol was lost at times. The Conley/Gasol pick and roll game, a strength of both players, is hard to do when one player is absent most of the season. The presence of Conley steadies the defense, revs up the offense. Gasol is better with Mike by his side.

Without him, he is worse.

Given how perimeter-based Gasol’s game has become, a repeat of this season’s scoring, or even improvement in the form of a bounce-back campaign in 2018-2019, is possible as long as Conley returns and is basically his former self. Marc didn’t thrive this year, but considering his supporting case that is understandable to an extent. If Parsons was healthy, Conley was healthy, Tyreke Evans was a part of the team all year long, and Marc put up these numbers? It’d be a D or an F.

Since they weren’t? Marc gets the benefit of the doubt and gets a slightly above average grade for his 2017-2018 season.

GRADE: C+

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