LX
https://www.cbssports.com/nba/news/marc-gasol-already-energizing-raptors-offense-even-if-theyre-not-ready-for-his-passing-just-yet/

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NEW YORK -- Fred VanVleet did not expect the ball to fly his way. It was the end of the first quarter of the Toronto Raptors' first game with Marc Gasol, and the point guard had run a pick-and-roll with his new teammate. VanVleet delivered the bounce pass and stopped, thinking Gasol would go get a bucket. The next thing he knew, he was scurrying back behind the 3-point line and squaring up.  

"I had a wide-open 3," VanVleet told CBS Sports after Toronto's 104-99 win on Saturday over the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. "It kind of caught me off-guard. I haven't been caught off-guard for a long time by a pass."  

VanVleet estimated that 99 percent of big men would have shot the ball. Gasol, the 34-year-old three-time All-Star acquired at the trade deadline, made a better read. The only problem was that VanVleet was too open.  

"I was way open," VanVleet said. "There was no way I was making that shot. I just wasn't even thinking of shooting the ball. But that obviously speaks to what he brings." 

Gasol had seven points, six rebounds, one assist, two steals and a block in 19 minutes in his Raptors debut. Coach Nick Nurse, however, noted that their offense simply flowed when he was in the game. His teammates cut with purpose, used his screens and found easy shots. They just didn't make many of them. 

"He caught a lot of those guys off-guard," Toronto wing Danny Green told CBS Sports. "They're not expecting it as much, you know? Most of the guys in the league don't expect that. He's such a great passing big. It's hard. You gotta be ready at all times." 

Gasol, whose Raptors are back in action on Monday against the Nets (7:30 p.m. ET -- watch on fuboTV), has not had much time to learn all the terminology and wrinkles in Nurse's system. He watched the Raptors' previous two games and participated in a light shootaround, amazing several members of the organization with how quickly he processed information. At MSG, he went over film with Toronto assistant coach Sergio Scariolo, who first coached against him in Spain when Gasol was 18, a full five years before his NBA debut. The two of them have a long, medal-winning history together, as Scariolo doubles as the coach of Spain's national team. 

"He probably brings to this team something which they never had," Scariolo said. "A type of player who never was in this team. He basically is a great passer, somebody who sees the next play a split-second before most of the opponents. And most of the teammates as well. Most of the coaches, sometimes." 

The Raptors suddenly have the luxury of playing through Gasol on the elbows, where he has been picking apart defenses for a decade. His ability to make plays out of the pick-and-roll might be equally important. These are the things the Raptors had tried to teach Jonas Valanciunas to do, but "he was working his way into that," VanVleet said. "Marc has been established for a while now." Having a center who is a threat from everywhere introduces a world of possibility, especially for a coach known for his creativity.  

Toronto wants to be improvisational and unpredictable, and that style works a lot better with high-IQ players. You can expect the Raptors to add to their playbook, but the bigger change will be how Gasol opens up options that are already there, but rarely used.  

"Marc's going to see all those options, he's going to find you if you're open," Green said. "A lot of times, we'll get to the one option, the one that you know is probably going to open or the one that was safe or the one that we're trying to play for a certain someone. He's looking for everybody. So you've gotta be very aware and attentive, seeing the ball when it's coming. I'm not complaining about it." 

Marc Gasol Raptors
Marc Gasol is happy to have a change of scenery and a chance to compete. USATSI

As a member of the San Antonio Spurs, Green met Gasol's Memphis Grizzliesin the playoffs four times. What does he remember from those battles? 

This might seem surprising, as Memphis only won one of those series and Gasol didn't have many high-scoring playoff games. The Grizzlies were always tough, though, and Gasol was never easy to scout. 

"He can score, but he's not a guy that's looking to score," Green said. "He's looking to play basketball the right way." 

Green repeatedly said he is looking forward to playing more minutes with Gasol and seeing him make the team more dangerous. "Once he starts getting comfortable, look out," Green said. Thanks to his experience and intelligence, no one expects this to take long. On the possession where he scored his first points as a Raptor, Gasol passed twice and set two bone-crushing screens.  

"Man, he's just a pleasure to play with as a point guard," VanVleet said. "He's a big point guard out there. He's super smart -- obviously, we knew that, but to see it up close and just to see his reads and his unselfishness and just the way he moves the ball was really fun." 

Shortly after the news broke, Gasol got a call from Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri. He heard from some of his new teammates, too. Everyone talked about making a run at the title, and he is all-in. "That gets your juices going," Gasol said, adding that he is aware he will only have 26 regular-season games to prepare for the playoffs.  

"It's like, 'OK, this is it,'"Gasol said. "You're going for the chance to go to the very top. What else can you ask for as a player?"

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LX
Some good video content and analysis thru the link -

https://www.theringer.com/platform/amp/nba/2019/2/12/18221918/marc-gasol-raptors-early-impressions?__twitter_impression=true

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“I think Gasol’s helping the ball move, right?” 

Raptors head coach Nick Nurse asked this rhetorically in front of reporters after the team’s 127-125 home win over the Nets on Monday, as though he was processing his own perplexity, as though he hadn’t just coached Gasol’s second game with the team. “I think it’s just kind of catchy, a little bit.” 

Only hours earlier, it was Gasol who was frozen in bewilderment. Standing at the end of the line of Kyle Lowry’s now notorious player-introduction routine, he watched as teammates left and right dropped low to the ground, miming abdominal exercises in a strange, disjointed harmony—all in anticipation of Lowry’s “K-Low” five. All Gasol got was a simple palm-to-palm dap; it was all he was ready for. Players told The Athletic’s Eric Koreen they aren’t sure exactly how the improvisational routine started, only that it did. Sometimes building culture takes time. Sometimes, all it takes is a big-ass catalyst. 

The Lowry-era Raptors certainly seem capable of a certain mind meld, but even on their best nights over the past five seasons, they’ve rarely kept up with the new standards set by the Warriors and Spurs, two teams that champion ball movement as basketball’s platonic ideal. Since 2013-14, the Raptors have the third-fewest assistsin the league, accounting for merely 54.6 percent of their field goals. Chalk it up to convention: For years, Lowry and DeMar DeRozan were the two primary hubs of offense in traditional lineups akin to the nuclear family model of the 1950s. Last season’s bench mob was often so successful because it broke up the monotony, empowering Toronto’s bigs to get in on the playmaking schemes. This season, the shocking emergence of Pascal Siakam as a point forward has further changed the responsibilities and role distribution of the team. But the offense still doesn’t always look beautiful, which, again, is a reflection of the primary star. Kawhi Leonard, for as steadying a presence as he can be, doesn’t always demand much from his teammates; if plays aren’t developing, he can hunt for his own openings and create his own space. With Leonard on the court, the Raptors’ assist rate hovers just above that paltry 54.6 percent encapsulating the past six seasons.

So when Nurse laughs almost giddily during postgame about Gasol’s integration into the team dynamic, it’s less about the here and now, and more about what the team might look like 10 or 15 games from now. It’s been only two so far, but the Raptors are already seeing results. Gasol’s influence is almost ambient—his identity is slowly permeating the rest of the team. Over the past two games, the Raptors are assisting on 71.1 percent of their field goals; Kawhi matched his season high in assists against the Knicks in Gasol’s first game and then set a new one against the Nets. “And I just think that’s kind of him, what [Gasol] brings,” Nurse said. “He’s not out of rhythm with us like you’d think he would be. … He makes a quick-hit [pass] and that guy moves it on, and sometimes there’s three quick passes after his one quick pass.”



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Two games in, and it’s clear Gasol is the best passing big man in franchise history, and one would have to go back nearly two decades to find no. 2—a grizzled, 35-year-old Charles Oakley. In Gasol, the Raptors have a proto-Jokic, a player who can seamlessly transition from banging down low and dropping sweeping hooks over young centers who have no recollection of the ’90s to inverting the court by serving as a facilitator out on the perimeter. Gasol has never been particularly fleet of foot, but his quickfire instincts make him dangerous as a second-level playmaker out of the pick-and-roll.


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Playing with Gasol adds a different kind of pressure on the rest of the team. Gasol’s teammates learn quickly that the best way to take advantage of his abilities is to cut incisively, whether he has the ball in his hands or not—because you never know when he will get the ball in his hands, but you do know that it won’t stay there for long. That connection requires a different kind of muscle memory than what had developed playing with Jonas Valanciunas, who, at 26, was only just starting to develop the court awareness to make plays out of the post. Given how quickly Gasol has acclimated to the talented Raptors roster, however, the onus turns on Nurse to properly implement him—and figure out what exactly that entails. Nurse, who wears his dad-rock, mad-scientist vibe proudly, is already well into the experiment. In two games, Gasol has been a part of 25 different lineup combinations.
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LX
https://theathletic.com/813440/2019/02/12/with-marc-gasol-here-and-jeremy-lin-coming-pressure-shifts-to-raptors-coach-nick-nurse/

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The crowd at Scotiabank Arena gave him an obligatory standing ovation, and he would have them on their feet again in the fourth quarter. Gasol had the defining stretch of the evening early in the fourth quarter, and the Raptors held on to win an entertaining 127-125 game over Brooklyn.

“It gives you the butterflies in your stomach when you get those,” Gasol said of the cheers. “Makes you feel like a rookie again. It’s a good feeling, a great feeling.”

His play gave Raptors fans other positive feelings. Gasol started off the push with a sweeping hook shot, essentially a skyhook, and had a second one a bit later. He had a driving layup off a feed from Powell, the first player to form a really nice connection with Gasol. He sniffed out a play to help the Raptors force a turnover and then drilled a three-pointer to really get the crowd to lose its collective mind.

Then, he let his passing do the work. The Raptors seem to be learning that it is a good idea to cut when Gasol has the ball in the post, and Patrick McCaw was rewarded with two free throws, while Pascal Siakam got a layup. It was enough to make you think Gasol should not have gone back to the bench to close the game, although he conceded he was out of energy after 10 minutes of consecutive playing time. Still, Gasol finished with 16 points, six rebounds, two assists and two blocks in 22 minutes. It is tempting to think what he will be able to accomplish once he gets truly comfortable with his teammates.

“Yeah, when you start to see the ball go through the net a little more you start to feel good, and you see your teammates and your coaches getting excited as well,” Gasol said. “It’s a cool moment to have.”

“I think he makes a quick-hit (pass) and that guy moves it on and sometimes there’s three quick passes after he’s one quick pass,” coach Nick Nurse added. “I think it was like that in New York (on Saturday) as well. Probably should have shot a few of those but it’s good, we’ll circulate the ball for now. It’s good.”

It is badly needed for an offence that has looked stagnant often this year. Leonard, who has often looked apart from the Raptors’ core offence, had tied his career-best in the regular season with eight assists. The Raptors had 32 assists on 50 buckets. They were, gasp, overpassing.

“He changes their dynamic a little, even with his passing,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. “I can see Nick using him in the post as a passer, as an excellent passer. The scary thing with him is the ability to stretch the floor with him now. You can’t be back and protect the paint. We love our bigs to be back. We’ve got to go chase him at the three-point line. The way he distributes the ball, it fits the way Nick wants to play and Toronto wants to play. I’m always impressed how they move it. He’s a huge, huge addition.”

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LX
Really good piece from Jackie Mac

https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/26897291/marc-gasol-was-once-basketball-dinosaur-becoming-raptor
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LX

Blake Murphy looks at Marc’s game so far.

https://theathletic.com/1378419/2019/11/15/yes-marc-gasol-needs-to-be-more-assertive-on-offence-but-theres-plenty-of-reasons-for-optimism-too/


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The middle ground was supposed to offer as much space as playoff defences offered Marc Gasol beyond the arc: A lot.

Arriving in Toronto from a declining, yet higher-usage, role in a poor offence on a middling Memphis Grizzlies team, Gasol had no choice but to change his game last February. He’d been thrust into a far superior offence with an established hierarchy on a team with title aspirations. He suddenly shifted into a much lower-usage, more playmaking-oriented role that nudged him even further away from the post than his declining back-to-the-basket game and the increasingly space-reliant NBA game already had. It was a selfless assignment that suited Gasol the teammate and Gasol the 34-year-old veteran.

And it worked. Gasol won his first NBA Championship and then shifted back to a much larger offensive role this past summer to help lead Spain to the World Cup. With the loss of Kawhi Leonard, it looked like Gasol’s task for 2019-20 would be to strike a balance between the load he shouldered in Memphis and China and the one he accepted down the stretch in Toronto.

Things have not gone according to plan quite yet.

Surprisingly, Gasol’s usage has cratered even further. Among 295 players who have logged at least 100 minutes this season, Gasol’s share of the offence — he’s finished 13.5 percent of Raptors’ possessions with a field-goal attempt, drawn foul or turnover when on the floor — ranks 254th. Instead of adding scoring back to his game to help fill the hole left by Leonard, Gasol has gone in the other direction, deferring to two thriving point guards and the ascendant Pascal Siakam.

This is the type of passivity that plagued the Raptors offence at times in the postseason, as Gasol was hesitant to shoot even with swaths of daylight. Even as he knocked down 38.2 percent of his playoff 3-point attempts, defences showed little concern, opting instead to send extra bodies to Leonard, Siakam or Kyle Lowry. Gasol eventually got the message and began letting it fly a little more freely, at the same volume (4.4 attempts per-36 minutes) he took at the end of his Grizzlies tenure. Even in a lower-usage role overall, that willingness to shoot became important, either because it punished teams for loading up in the paint or it made them think twice about doing it altogether.

The more aggressive Gasol is the one the Raptors need this year. Gasol appears smart and unselfish to a fault, fully aware of where his game stands in the team’s pecking order at this stage of his career, rarely seeking to take a decent shot when he may be able to set up a better one.

That he’s been struggling when he does shoot may be adding to his indecision. Gasol is managing to convert on just 28.2 percent of his 2-point field goals, a woeful 40.7-percent mark inside of 10 feet and 0-of-12 between there and the 3-point line. His post-up game, which has been in decline in efficiency for a few seasons, has abandoned him, as he’s managed six points on 11 post-ups. Gasol last graded as above-average as a post scorer in 2016-17, per data from Synergy Sports. And that’s fine, to a degree. The Raptors should not be asking Gasol to work in the post often, and when they do, it should be expressly as a facilitator.

But it’s not the way the Raptors’ offence is built unless Siakam has a mismatch. And it’s not how Gasol is best deployed anymore. Gasol’s ideal role is that of a perimeter-oriented big. He’s knocked down 41.2 percent of his threes so far, pushing him to 36.8 percent on nearly 1,000 attempts over the last three-plus seasons (including playoffs). That’s not a defence-altering percentage, but for an offence currently scoring 1.08 points per-possession, an expected point value of 1.1 points on a Gasol three is a good look. That Gasol is often trailing behind the play after protecting the rim as the Raptors’ whirring transition attack takes off only drives this home — 32 of Gasol’s 34 long-range attempts haven’t had a defender within six feet, per NBA.com. They’re good looks he’s taking, and often good looks he’s passing up.

Utilizing Gasol frequently at the top of the key also opens up the primary strength in Gasol’s game: His playmaking. Gasol operating from the top or from the elbows allows him to survey the floor and pick out cutters, or work in snug dribble hand-offs where he can use his body more effectively than in standard pick-and-rolls where opponents aren’t so worried about his rolls to the rim.

The Raptors have scored more efficiently in Gasol’s minutes than in any other players’, with the team’s true-shooting percentage increasing by 6.7 percentage points when he’s on the court. The team’s shooting with and without him will normalize in a larger sample, but some of it is real and points to the other ways Gasol can help an offence. Teammates are shooting 44.7 percent on threes immediately following a Gasol pass, and role players who don’t create as much for themselves like Norman Powell, OG Anunoby and Terence Davis II have all shown an early appreciation for playing with him.

Gasol’s ability to get easier looks for teammates lower on the ladder is sometimes an argument for him playing with the bench. Be careful there. Offensive conduits like Gasol also make things easier on the team’s best players, to where the effect of placing him with elite shooters makes his passing even more valuable. Any transitional lineup with Gasol and without VanVleet right now should have another shooter out there.

That Gasol’s assist percentage is the lowest its been since 2010-11 is a function of him not having the ball as much, and the dramatic spike in turnovers may be due to a combination of fatigue, rust after a partial preseason, or discomfort in a somewhat new offensive ecosystem. If Gasol isn’t going to shoot much — and he should freely, at least from outside — he still needs to be involved as an initiator to maximize his value. He has five assists in each of the last two games, helping make up for 6-of-18 shooting.

Just as important, Gasol’s defensive impact has remained. The Raptors continue to win his minutes significantly, with the healthy starting lineup owning a plus-15.4 net rating over 129 minutes. That’s still good enough for fourth in the league in minutes despite the recent absences. Only Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, in a quarter of the minutes, boasts a better net rating or defensive rating than Gasol. While some of that is baked into Gasol logging heavy minutes alongside the starters, it also suggests he’s helping keep transitional lineups afloat.

The Raptors’ strategy of aggressively sending bodies at stars has suited Gasol. If perimeter defenders force their man outside, Gasol is an excellent high-waller to cut off the floor. And if they get to the middle or the block, Gasol’s long arms and hefty mitts are magnets for deflections. Gasol’s rim protection has been solid, too: opponents are shooting 55.9 percent at the rim when Gasol is defending and he’s had an 86th-percentile impact on deterring attempts at the rim in general, per Cleaning the Glass. He’s also continued a career-long trend of his teams defending well with low opponent free-throw rates, which is hard to assign direct credit for, but appears at least partially personnel-driven. All told, Gasol is a big part of why the Raptors are a top-five defence and the league’s best rim-protecting unit so far.

If there’s a shortcoming in Gasol’s defensive profile — other than the occasional aesthetic complaints about ground-bound rim-protection — it’s been on the glass. Gasol is grabbing only 19.5 percent of opponent misses while on the floor, well below his mark from the last two seasons and a few percentage points below his career mark. He’s oscillated between average and good, relative to his position, in his career, which was fine for a long time because Gasol drove team-level rebounding. That is, his presence and boxing out abilities still helped his team rebound better with him than without. That skill appears to have eroded this season and last, with the Raptors only rebounding slightly better with Gasol on the floor.

Still, Gasol has been a pretty big plus on defence. Jacob Goldstein‘s Player Impact Plus-Minus grades Gasol as a bigger plus on defence (1.4 points per-100 possessions) than he is a drain on offence (1.1), which feels accurate. There’s also more room for regression optimism on the offensive side, where Gasol can be deployed more as a playmaker and can’t possibly shoot this poorly inside the arc all year, than on the defensive side, where the Raptors’ at-rim defence will come down to earth, but so too should some torrid opponent corner three shooting. Gasol will also be asked to do less when Serge Ibaka returns to health, pushing him back from his recent 33-minute range to about 26 per night.

The Raptors need Gasol to be more assertive on offence, especially with Lowry and Ibaka sidelined and VanVleet and Siakam carrying such heavy offensive loads. He should be shooting threes with more conviction and continuing to shift his game from the paint to the perimeter, where his playmaking can thrive. There’s almost certainly an element of Gasol’s shortened offseason still taking a toll, but even allowing for that, he has more to give. That he’s remained a defensive positive and that the Raptors have still thrived with him on the floor should be encouraging.

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Northern Neighbour
Gasol’s defence has been terrific, and it’s too often overlooked by fans given his poor shooting and struggles at the rim. As DanH has frequently noted and as shown in the article, the Raps perform way better on both ends with him on the court. I wonder how many screen assists he has, which would provide more context of his offensive value. 
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JeffB
Gasol’s defence has been terrific, and it’s too often overlooked by fans given his poor shooting and struggles at the rim. As DanH has frequently noted and as shown in the article, the Raps perform way better on both ends with him on the court. I wonder how many screen assists he has, which would provide more context of his offensive value. 


It has? His at times turnstile like defense has been pointed out here on occasion so far this season, not just by me either (before anyone goes on a rant about me). Often times he just puts his arms up and proceeds to let an opposing player to blow by him. He's had good moments, second half of last game being one of them. But to say his defense has been terrific is not true imo, at least not consistently. Another concern for me is his rebounding.

Rebounding is this teams biggest weakness and we need more than 6rpg from our starting center....I get that his offensive rebounding is practically non existent because he can't play inside much, but I think that is somewhere he needs to do more. And clearly 34 FG% isn't cutting it either and yes, we're allowed to bring it up because that's sad. His 3pt% is fantastic though, but he hits just over one per game so I don't know how much that matters tbh.

He's been better lately so hopefully it's a sign that he's getting over the fatigue is the previous 5 months.
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LX

The defense at the rim has been astounding for this team, so it’s really hard to see where he’s simply been a turnstile. On occasion you say? Who cares if the overall numbers are impossibly good? He puts his arms straight up and provides great presence inside, and is always ready with really good hands. He knows where to be. Positioning, positioning, positioning. He’s a one man wall. 


it would be good to see more rebounding, if for no other reason than to not have me in any way comparing him to Bargnani again.

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DanH
The Raps' DRTG with Gasol on the court is 99.9 so far this year. Turnstile might not be the word.
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Northern Neighbour
Yeah, Gasol's defence has been excellent - from his help defence to trapping guys at the right time to contesting shots at the rim. Rebounding is definitely still an area of concern (not just for Gasol but the entire team) and his scoring has cratered, but he does so many of the little things that impacts winning. If people are looking for big, highlight-reel plays, then they should go watch a team like the Wizards. If they want to see a team that wins with a "turnstile" centre, they should watch the Raptors, who are a +11.7 when Gasol is on the court compared to just +2.1 when he's off the court.

For comparison, while some people comment on great of a year Ibaka is having, the team is just +0.1 when he's on the court. When he's off, the team is +10.7. That's a 10.6 difference. Just goes to show that looking at people need to look at the whole picture and not just individual plays in a game.  
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DanH
Yeah, Gasol's defence has been excellent - from his help defence to trapping guys at the right time to contesting shots at the rim. Rebounding is definitely still an area of concern (not just for Gasol but the entire team) and his scoring has cratered, but he does so many of the little things that impacts winning. If people are looking for big, highlight-reel plays, then they should go watch a team like the Wizards. If they want to see a team that wins with a "turnstile" centre, they should watch the Raptors, who are a +11.7 when Gasol is on the court compared to just +2.1 when he's off the court.

For comparison, while some people comment on great of a year Ibaka is having, the team is just +0.1 when he's on the court. When he's off, the team is +10.7. That's a 10.6 difference. Just goes to show that looking at people need to look at the whole picture and not just individual plays in a game.  


Some of this seems like lineup context, with Gasol playing more with the starters and Ibaka playing more with the bench.

But even diving in deeper, the difference is stark between the two players. In fact, Ibaka's minutes with the starters have been rough, though in a small sample since he and Lowry got hurt so early in the season.
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DocHolliday
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[image]
So when Gasol did finally win that title with Toronto, he had “GRIT&GRIND” inscribed on his Raptors championship ring. “Zach, TA, Mike, they go beyond what basketball means to me,” he said. “We spent so much time together. Not all on the floor, but on the downsides, on the losses. You go out to dinner, and you go out and have each other’s backs. “That’s what makes it bigger than basketball.”
 
Like Leonard, Gasol played a part in Toronto’s transformation into a championship team — particularly with his defense against Joel Embiid in that epic clash with the Sixers in the second round. By the time the playoffs were over, he was exhausted. “That was the toughest thing I’ve ever done, mentally and physically,” he said of winning the NBA title. “It was very challenging mentally and physically, and it was awesome. Just staying in the moment.”
 
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DocHolliday
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Toronto Raptors Report Cards: What grade does Marc Gasol deserve for the 2019-20 season?

How much does the 35-year-old's defensive IQ and passing ability make up for a significant drop in offensive production? How much does time missed due to injury factor in? And what about his role in a potential playoff series against Joel Embiid or Giannis Antetokounmpo? All of that played into determining Gasol's grade for the 2019-20 season.


The 2019-20 season has been a total team effort from top to bottom for the Toronto Raptors, one of the reasons that our team report cards so far have been glowingly positive with As being handed out like Monopoly money.


Unfortunately, not everyone gets to pass GO and collect $200. In this case, that applies to the 35-year-old Gasol who has endured an odd season.

Not necessarily a bad season. Just odd.

Coming off that first elusive championship still soaked in champagne from an unforgettable ride to a ring, Big Spain entered the season with the Raptors somewhat in limbo given his contract status and the overall direction of the franchise.

MORE: Raptors report cards for the whole team

In the final year of a contract paying him over $25 million on a team which just lost Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green in free agency, Gasol - along with Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka - could have easily been flipped for future assets if President Masai Ujiri opted for a rebuild. Ultimately, a strong start took the rebuild off the table.

After an emphatic road win over the Utah Jazz on December 1 which put the Raptors at 15-4 overall, there was truly no other option than a legitimate title run at a title defense. At that point in time, the only teams with better records were the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers.

Five months later, those are still the only two teams with superior records.

Those glowing report cards previously mentioned? Well deserved!

This is a team after all that's missed more games due to injury than any of the 16 projected playoff teams. And it's not inflated by one season-long injury either, but rather a constant revolving door leading from the floor to the infirmary and back again.

It's impossible to evaluate Gasol and not start with the injuries. After appearing in the team's first 27 games, he's been in the lineup for just eight of their last 37 games thanks mostly due to a nagging hamstring injury. Originally injured against the Pistons back in December which caused him to miss 12 games, Gasol re-aggravated that same hamstring against the Atlanta Hawks eight games into his return. He's played in one game since, logging 16 minutes off the bench against the Sacramento Kings on March 8 in what was the Raptors' second-to-last game prior to the season being suspended.

When healthy, Gasol exhibited some obvious signs of decline on the offensive end where he was shooting a career-worst 41.9 percent and scoring just 10.0 points per 36 minutes, significantly down from 15.8 last season.

It is worth mentioning of course that Gasol's worth has never been manifest in his scoring and much of it can be chalked up to shot selection as he's mostly become a spot-up 3-point shooter. Over half of his total attempts have been catch-and-shoot 3s, a shot which made up just 30% of his volume last season. Anytime that large of a percentage of shots are coming from 3-point range, it's important to consider when mentioning overall field goal percentage which will in those situations be deflated, just as it is with players like James Harden or Damian Lillard.

Marc Gasol Shooting
SeasonPct of Att from 3Avg Distance
2015-160.4%10.2
2016-1723%13.9
2017-1831%14.3
2018-1931%14.3
2019-2054%17.3


And yet in this case, looking at Gasol's effectiveness in other areas signals some noticeable slippage.

Like the fact that he's just 4-23 on mid-range shots.

Or the fact that his post-ups have been cut in half from a year ago.

Or the fact that he's drawing almost a foul fewer per game.

While some of the change in his utility is by design and scheme, it's hard to consider the total body of work and not attribute some of that to declining ability. Which is OK! A mostly ground-bound five that's never been the fleetest of foot, if anything it's somewhat surprising there wasn't more of it prior to turning 35 this season.

He's able to help make up for that reduction in scoring efficiency in other ways.

His passing remains critical on a team that lacks a true "give him the ball and get out of the way" iso scorer. Whereas Gasol's passing unlocked the Raptors last season and helped put them over the top, it at time as kept Toronto's offence afloat. With him on the floor, the Raptors assist on over 64% of its made baskets, a figure that would rank fourth in the entire league. Without Gasol, that number dips to within a point of league average.

Offensively, he remains a crafty passer and operator from the top of the key and either elbow, surgically threading well-timed passes to cutters and knocking down open 3s on sagging bigs or lazy closeouts.

Make no mistake - he remains vitally important on the defensive end. His acumen and ability to see the floor helps keep switches and rotations sharp for one of the league's smartest defensive units. Even though he's blocking fewer shots per minute than ever before, it's no surprise that Toronto allows 6.0 points per 100 possessions fewer when he's on the floor compared to when he's off the bench, by far the biggest defensive impact of anyone in the regular rotation. It's where on a macro level his impact really shines through.

2019-20 Toronto Raptors
 Gasol On FloorGasol Off Floor
Offensive rating110.6110.3
Defensive rating100.2106.2
Net rating+10.4+4.1


That impact is hard to overlook especially when looking ahead to potential postseason matchups with either the Philadelphia 76ers or Milwaukee Bucks. While Serge Ibaka has had a career year and replaced Gasol well enough throughout his nagging injuries that it's fair to ask whether Ibaka should replace Gasol in the starting lineup, there's no question that the Raptors would rely on Gasol immensely in order to get by either of those teams which routinely bludgeon anyone and everyone on the inside.


In a pinch, Gasol can still bring it. There will be moments and sequences - especially in big spots - where he looks every bit the part of an irreplaceable narrative-shifting centre. And he may prove to be that still should basketball return and the defending champs find themselves with their backs against the wall.

But given the injuries and offensive drop-off, it's clear that age has started to catch up with the Spaniard.

Grade: C




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DanH
Ugh, I hope when they get back on the court they definitely don't consider even for a second starting Serge over Gasol. 
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LX
Adrian Griffin on the new Marc

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