Marc Gasol’s skill-set is quite captivating for a 7-foot center. Though he can’t cover much ground defensively, he has served as the anchor for a strong Memphis defense for much of the past decade, using his smarts and his communication skills to counteract his deficiency in speed. He’s not going to blow past a defender like most of the modern NBA centers, but he has a skillful post game that usually leads to beautiful fadeaway jumpers. He’s unpredictable in the pick-and-roll, as he’s adopted a consistent 3-point jumper.
While these aspects of his game has led to many accolades over the past decade, Gasol’s passing is the most dazzling. The way he sees the floor resembles a 10-year veteran point guard, as some of his delicious dimes will leave you in awe.
While he’s flashed this component of his game for years, next year might be the season where it’s put on display the most.
Gasol has been a consistent dime-dropper for Memphis, averaging 4 assists a game for the past four seasons. It’s crazy to think he can actually improve on those numbers, reminding everyone that he’s still one of the best — if not the best — passing big men in the league.
This offseason, the Grizzlies have constructed a roster that could yield to one of the most efficient offenses in franchise history. And it all starts with their playmaking big man.
Rev up those assist numbers for the big fella, because it’s time to unleash ‘Point Marc.’
In past years, the Grizzlies have had a number of ball-stoppers — in this instance, I’ll refer them to a more accurate term, “assist killers.” Zach Randolph, Rudy Gay, O.J. Mayo and Tyreke Evans all had a tendency to kill potential assists with heavy isolation or post games. Coming into this season though, the Grizzlies have a plethora of weapons that can serve as spot-up shooters or cutters — something that should delight Big Spain.
Marc Gasol operates well in the high-post, as his high-low attack with Zach Randolph demoralized opponents for years. In addition, he built a camaraderie with Tony Allen — his primary cutter — and it should be something he looks to build with guys like Kyle Anderson, Dillon Brooks and Wayne Selden.
Having him at the top of the key opens up opportunity for his great 3-point and mid-range jumpers and for the other 4 guys on the court. More importantly, it could maximize the offensive value of JaMychal Green and Jaren Jackson Jr. — two big men that currently lack the above-average ability to create their own shot.
Over the past two seasons, Green has benefitted from Gasol’s dimes — serving as both a cutter and a low-post partner. Building this sort of chemistry with Jaren Jackson would ease him until the league and build his confidence on the offense end.
With a spacious offense, Gasol could find some easy targets in the under-the-radar surge in 3-point weapons. Chandler Parsons is an obvious 3-point target for him, as he shot a career-high 42.1 percent from deep last season. In addition, he has sneaky weapons in Wayne Selden Jr., Omri Casspi and Garrett Temple — all capable of shooting 38+ percent from 3-point range. The way defenders gravitate to Gasol in the post will open up scoring opportunities for their 3-point snipers.
JUST IMAGINE HOW OFTEN THIS COULD HAPPEN WITH GOOD SHOOTERS!
This team’s modernization should benefit the offense, as the coaching staff could maximize it around the 7-footer’s playmaking prowess and their versatile 3-point weapons.
For the Grizzlies to really compete in the Western Conference, they need someone to emerge as a 20-23 point scorer. The only player suited to do so is Mike Conley.
In 2017, David Fizdale unlocked an off-ball dynamo in Mike Conley, and JB Bickerstaff to look to do the same.
But who will pass Conley the ball, you ask.
Marc Gasol and Mike Conley have obviously had great chemistry over the year, torturing opponents in the pick-and-roll for years. Having “Point Marc” at the top of the key could allow Conley to work off the ball and come off screens for open daggers.
In addition, they’ve developed a great give-and-go game that should definitely be a point of attack next season. Their most effective give-and-go typically comes in a screen/handoff from Gasol that yield a Conley bucket:
Utilizing the Conley-Gasol connection will be a major key for the Grizzlies, as it maximizes more scoring opportunities for its best shot-creator and generates more assists for Big Spain.
Maximizing on Gasol’s playmaking abilities is a major key for the Grizzlies to return to Western Conference prominence. For the first time in years, Memphis has a roster that caters his passing prowess — unleashing an army of versatile weapons capable of making cuts to the basket and nailing jumpers from outside. In addition, it gives their go-to-scoring point guard more opportunities to...well...score the basketball.
In the process, they’re able to unleash their best scorer in ways that most teams in the NBA can’t: with an elite passing center. People are quick to anoint Nikola Jokic as the NBA’s supreme passing big, giving Big Spain little recognition in the process. This year is Marc’s season to shatter his career high in assists.
He’s certainly capable of averaging about — or more than — 5 assists, as he’s shown in multiple months over the past two seasons. However, with the abundance of 3-point weapons and slashers, as well as the lack of ball-stoppers, why not capitalize on Gasol’s passing abilities? Rev up those numbers to give your team a 7-footer capable of tallying 6-7 assists a night. It gives your team a luxury that many squads don’t have.
Gasol is surely capable of that type of workload, and it may be just what the Memphis Grizzlies need to return to postseason basketball.
Video credit to nba.com and the NBA Youtube Channel.