Northern Neighbour
(Note: maybe this can be merged with the Marc Gasol player profile after the playoffs)

When the Raptors acquired Marc Gasol at the trade deadline, there were varied opinions on what his impact could be and how much of an improvement he would be over Jonas Valunciunas, the soon-to-be 27-year old Lithuanian centre and fan favourite. The optimists cited Gasol's high basketball IQ, playmaking and shooting skills, leadership, and defensive credentials (he won Defensive Player of the Year in 2012-13). Those on the fence expressed concern with his declining mobility and athleticism as well as his diminishing offensive output. Could he finish in the paint in the same way that Valanciunas did? Can he be an effective screener? Can he lift the Raptors' floor and ceiling? 

Gasol's Raptors tenure started slowly with him coming off the bench and learning the playbook. Chemistry was also being developed, as he needed to understand his teammates' tendencies during and even pre-game. His contributions were minimal at first, as he was passive offensively, opting to defer to his teammates rather than shoot the rock himself. Defensively, he solid in the paint but concerns about his footwork on the perimeter were raised. There were, however, glimpses of greatness, namely when he ran the pick-and-roll with Lowry or Leonard and how his communication on defence led to fewer breakdowns.

It wasn't until a three-game suspension to Serge Ibaka open the floodgates and made Gasol the indisputable starting centre. As a result, the Raptors started to roll and find their rhythm. Gasol's numbers were still pedestrian by standard measures - 9.2 ppg, 6.8 rbg, 3.8 apg in 25.9 minutes in March compared to 10.9/6.3/4.3 in 22.8 minutes in February - but his impact was witnessed elsewhere. The team was a +14.3 with him on the court. His offensive rating surged to 112 from 106.

The team's performance also surged. The Raptors were hovering in the low-20s to high-teens in 3-point shooting prior to Gasol's acquisition. They ended up in 6th, including shooting 41% since February 8th which was good for tops in the Association. Their assist rate increased from 24.4 pre-trade to 27.7 post-trade. Their point differential increased from 5.6 to 7.0. The defensive rating went from 107.2 to 105.8. 

In the playoffs, he has been even better. Whether it's making the extra pass, creating a huge screen to free up a teammate, hitting an open 3, blocking a D.J. Augustin three-point attempt, or calling out defensive assignments, his impact has been immeasurable. In other words, don't look at traditional stats to see his impact. He's only averaging 8.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.5 steals, and 0.5 blocks in 26.3 minutes, but he's shooting a blistering 56.5% from the field and 60% from three (on 2.5 attempts per game). More than that, however, is that when he's on the court, the team excels.

He has a team-best 148 offensive rating, which is miles ahead of Pascal Siakam (12) and Kawhi Leonard (115). This number provides an indication on how valuable he is offensively due to the different things he does. Defensively, he has a stout 89 rating, which again is tops on the club. The difference of 59 (59!!!) is also a team high. 

Digging deeper into the analytics, Gasol's 6.9 OBPM is second to Leonard. His 5.0 DBPM and 11.9 overall BPM lead the Raptors pack by miles. Same thing for his win shares of .311. When he's on the court, the team is a +15.5.

As such, all worries about Gasol's play and impact should be washed away. He's been outstanding and a key reason for why the Raptors are up 3-1 on Orlando. 

(As an aside, for the Lowry critics, the Raptors are a +24.6 when he's on the court and a -21.4 when he's off. The net difference of 46 is by far the biggest margin.)

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moremilk
Gasol has been awesome, and Kyle has been quite good after the first game. As a side note, we haven't played either of the other top teams in the east with gasol, so it will be interesting to see the impact he will make.

Given that we handled Philly easily, and did fairly well against Boston, it bodes well.
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Jakkal

What... we can't have scoring too? [wink]

Have to admit I was doubting the trade for JV. Gasol has played really well this series. Still want to see how well he does against other teams but I'm becoming a fan.

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Rene_13
What I find really impressive about Gasol is that the eye test tells you that he’s helping his teammates succeed and we generally play well when he’s on the court. The offence seems much more fluid and his defence has been very sound. But, you’ll look at the box score and he’ll have only scored 2 points, grabbed 5 rebounds and had a few steals and assists. Statistically, his production looks pretty insignificant, but he finds a way to be very important to the team without having to score much or generally put up big numbers.

I wonder if he forced his offence a bit more, as needed if he could provide that as well. There’s been some signs that he’s more than capable, but he hasn’t made much of an effort to impose himself offensively. At this point, we haven’t really needed it. But, its certainly another option as we progress further in the playoffs.
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moremilk
We don't need scoring from the center position, no team since the 2000 Lakers have won a title, or even made a final with scoring coming at that position - except for the magic's one lone final and maybe the San Antonio wins.

That's double true in this era of 3pt shooting, even the most dominant center can't really compete in efficiency with the superstar scorers on the wing.

Gasol needs to be respected as a scorer, not to actually score. Sure, if they leave him all alone to double elsewhere, he needs to make them pay - and he did. Outside that, kawhi and green and siakam can score more efficiently.

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LX
Nice post NN. Whereas I don’t put much stock in the individual analytics, seeing the team moving towards the kind of defensive dominance that I envisioned is fantastic. And the offense has not been that far behind. That is of course picked up by all the individually positive data, so there is that. I just find team performance and numbers to be a more solid reflection of reality. And he sees and thinks the team game so perfectly. Just having that on a team like this has to have a huge impact for sure.
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elT
Awesome post NN!

I just have no words. Dude is everywhere. He pick pockets guards coming of a screen! That is freaking crazy for a guy that size and perceived slowness. One of the quickest and most precise on court basketball minds that I've ever seen. Everything is better and more fun when he is on the court. Amazing effective and stylistic impact.
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DanH
Gasol has been everything hoped for in the playoffs. Trade, and risk therein, paying off big time. 
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LX
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Clifford says Gasol makes Raps super difficult to defend because extra spacing he provides and also the playmaking he can provide from there.


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Besides completely erasing Nikola Vucevic, Marc Gasol's also been outrageous on offence. Clifford just credited Gasol for opening everything up for Toronto. Says only 3-4 guys can shoot threes and make penetrating passes. Gasol one of them. Also Gasol .691 TS% in series.


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MikeToronto
DanH wrote:
Gasol has been everything hoped for in the playoffs. Trade, and risk therein, paying off big time. 


So far. I am keeping my fingers crossed. He’s been nothing short of spectacular, especially on defence.
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Raptorman
First thing I noticed, and I know its not that big of a deal, is that Gasol wins the opening tip.

JV almost never won it (are there numbers?).

Nice way to start games.
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ClutchCity
Gasol has been everything the Raptors could've hoped for
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JeffB
ClutchCity wrote:
Gasol has been everything the Raptors could've hoped for


Yep, the next series will test him a lot more though.
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LX
I loved how last night in the third quarter, with a bit of a defensive letdown cutting into the huge lead, he got demonstrably pissed. Having no time for letdowns ever is maybe better than all the upticks he helps create.
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ClutchCity
JeffB_STR82DVD wrote:


Yep, the next series will test him a lot more though.


He's faired well against Embiid in the past. Embiid has never scored more than 15 points in a game against Gasol. Obviously that will change, but it's telling.

Additionally, Philly's poor spacing will allow Gasol to roam the paint defensively.

I think Philly plays right into his strengths defensively. He's one of the best post defenders in the league and a great paint protector if he can roam.

I think he would tested a lot more against MIL and BOS as he won't get away with just roaming the paint. He'll have to get out on the perimeter and defend which is not his strength.
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