If you've ever tried to count Marc Gasol's various post moves on your fingers, odds are you ran out of fingers. Light enough on his feet to go right around his defender but brawny enough to power through one, there's not much Gasol can't do on the low block.
Unfortunately for the Spaniard, teams have figured that out and now scheme for him in the post with extra care. It's been tough for Gasol to consistently get good looks in the post this season, and that's been an issue for an offense still stubbornly dependent on superior post play above all else.
Gasol is shooting a meager 39.8% on post-up attempts this season which is a problem because nobody in the NBA has attempted more shots from post-ups this season than Marc Gasol, per NBA.com's stats page. Some of this can merely be attributed to Gasol's sporadic form, but a good deal of his struggles stem from defenses taking away some of his favorite options.
Defenders no longer allow Gasol to get to the middle of the floor without facing multiple swipes at the ball, and they rarely let him catch the ball in deep, dangerous positions. This has forced him to adapt and develop new moves, which has brought mixed results.
One of the counter moves he has developed and pulled out of the bag more than a handful of times this season has been a baseline spin move from his favorite spot, the left block. The thought behind the move is shrewd. Ideally, it provides an outlet for Gasol to use either when his man shades him towards the baseline so as to take away the middle of the paint or when a help defender comes to double him.
Execution has not been nearly as magnificent as the thought behind the spin move, which is allowing defenses to continue making Gasol's life incredibly difficult both in and around the paint. Although the move hasn't worked very well, it remains fixable with a few tweaks. To first understand the move's repair, we must first identify its issues.
The following play against the Orlando Magic is a great example of what's causing Gasol's baseline spin to be ineffective.
Difficulties are present the moment Gasol catches the ball on the block. Not being able to use the glass if he wanted to shoot on the catch is generally a telltale sign that Gasol has established post position too close to the baseline, but too far away from the rim as is the case here. Too often, he posts too close to the short corner — severely limiting his options.
There's only one clear way for Gasol to dribble and that's towards the baseline. Gasol's defender is shading him away from the middle of the paint to prevent him from executing his lethal, sweeping hook shot. Additionally, notice the guards packing the paint, ready to completely shut off the lane to the middle of the floor if they even sniff Gasol making a move that way. The Grizzlies not being a good three-point shooting team is partially what allows help defenders to cheat so much, but Gasol posting up so deep doesn't alleviate pressure on the offense either. The entry pass on this play wasn't great, but Gasol would have opened up the floor for himself if he would have posted his man two feet higher (away from the rim and further towards half court).
As the help defender converges and the rest of the defenders take away any solid passing lanes, Gasol realizes his one move is to the baseline. The floor spacing is terrible here, but it might not have mattered if he would have established better position.
With the double team almost on top of Gasol, he executes his baseline spin away from pressure.
Gasol's defender just has to stand his ground and keep his arms up once the move is made because Gasol has spun right into the baseline with nowhere to go. He is now totally exposed because he can neither use his body nor the rim to protect the ball and create a good shot from this position.
The play results in a funky shot from behind the backboard with a slim chance of going in.
Catching the ball so close to the baseline takes away a significant amount of the court that the defense should have to cover, and even as crafty as he is, Gasol doesn't possess the capability to maneuver out of too many tight holes that far underneath the rim. Even on the rare occasion when Gasol is able to spin so deep on the baseline and score, he's pretty lucky to have been able to do so, as is obvious in the following video.
Simply establishing post position at a better angle would help Gasol tremendously. Not only would it allow him to more easily go either way, thus keeping his defender on his toes, but it would also provide him with a better angle to use one of his many secondary moves (up-and-under, reverse spin back to the middle of the floor, or a step through to draw contact if his man bites on a pump fake) or continue on to the other side of the rim for a shielded, reverse layup after his initial spin.
The baseline spin remains a move on the fringes of Gasol's arsenal, but mastering it could reopen a sizable portion of the floor that has been closed off too many times this season. That would only mean good things for Gasol and a pedestrian offense.