Scaletta’s Summer Top 100 is a ranking of returning NBA players. For a full explanation of our methodology, read our intro.
Marc Gasol had a troubled season last year, which ended early after he broke his right foot and needed surgery. But even before that, he wasn’t playing on the same level as he did in 2014-15.
According to Basketball-Reference.com, his Box Plus-Minus was down from 4.8 to 1.0, his Win Shares per 48 was down from .182 to .098 and his Player Efficiency Rating fell from 21.7 to 17.7. He’s back to full health now, and he took the summer off from the Olympics to get that way, but can he get back to his 2014-15 form when he was named the All-NBA starting center?
Gasol’s season ended with the broken foot, but he never seemed healthy, playing through ailment after ailment. Now that he’s back in good health, Grizzlies fans are hoping that he can return to his All-Star form.
In addition, Gasol now has more help. With the addition of Chandler Parsons to the fold, Gasol doesn’t have to be the primary scorer, and for the first time in his career, the big Spaniard has a three-point threat who can stretch the court for him and open up space for him inside. Gasol has two-way talent, but he’s not quite on the level of being the guy you run your offense through. Adding a scorer the caliber of Parsons should give him more low-post chances and make him more efficient from the field.
A defensive captain with solid production and efficiency from the field should put Gasol back into the All-NBA conversation at the very least, and land him back into the neighborhood of top-20 player.
Working against Gasol is age. He’s 31 already, and last year’s injury woes could be the first signs of attrition. Should the injury bug be a permanent thing, the best years of Gasol might be behind him.
Big men do age slower, though. And, in Gasol’s favor, his brother Pau has aged well and not lost significant time, so the gene pool seems strong. It’s not likely that Gasol’s career is in a spiral, but it is possible. If he has another year of compounding injuries, it’s a big cause for concern for Memphis.
As noted on his Insider page at ESPN, Gasol is a beast operating out of the elbow. Last season, according to NBA.com, he led the NBA in elbow touches at 12.7, which led the NBA for the third season in a row (as far back as the tracking data goes). With his ability to pop (48.2 field goal percentage on catch-and-shoots), roll (1.09 points per possession) or pass (3.8 assists per game), he’s a secondary source to run the offense through.
His Offensive Real Plus-Minus is one of the places where you really see how his injuries affected his impact last year. In 2014-15, his ORPM was 1.70, third-best among centers in the league, according to ESPN.com. Last year, he fell to 28th at -.90. Granted, that’s still better than 44 other centers, but it’s not on the same level as a healthy Gasol. To some degree, the plethora of other injuries Memphis faced could account for some of that, but ostensibly, RPM is supposed to be adjusting for such things.
The former Defensive Player of the Year is still effective on defense, but maybe not quite as effective as he was at his peak. He’s not a shot-blocking rim protector, but he’s very intelligent. His DRPM last season was still +2.01, a more than respectable figure. According to his defense dashboard, opponents shot 3.4 percent below their season averages with him on the court.
Most telling, though, is that the Grizzlies’ defense was 4.5 points per 100 possessions worse without him on the court. Having a center who recognizes what offenses are doing and is vocal from the post can be huge in making a defense work. Communication is one of the more unheralded aspects of the art, and Gasol is one of the best at it.