A few NBA seasons ago, Marc Gasol would have found it difficult to make an argument involving him being the best basketball player in his family, let alone the Memphis Grizzlies. Given that Marcís older brother, Pau Gasol, was an essential part of the Lakersí team that won two back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010, we can also understand why. But with Marc winning the 2012-13 NBAís Defensive Player of the Year and the Memphis Grizzlies making it to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history, the younger Gasol has finally made a mark outside Pauís exploits in the league.
Marcís taken his time to get here. Although he was drafted in the second round, 48th overall, by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2007 NBA Draft, it was the subsequent trade to Memphis on February 1, 2008, in a deal that sent brother Pau to the Lakers, that raised hackles around the league. Memphis GM Chris Wallace received a fair degree of criticism for the deal, which as NBA.comís Jeff Caplan explained in a recent post was owing to, ďStunning criticism crushed Wallace for getting fleeced while being backhandedly credited for handing the post-Shaquille OíNeal Lakers the keys to certain championships.Ē
But the deal that couldnít be judged for what it gave Memphis immediately eventually bore results. After winning the Spanish League MVP (Liga ACB) in 2008, Marc made an impact with the Grizzlies in his rookie season, finishing the 82-game regular season averaging 11.9 PPG and 7.4 RPG. Meanwhile, Wallace made another smart deal that landed Zach Randolph in 2009 from the Los Angeles Clippers because the LA franchise were set to draft Blake Griffin with the No. 1 pick and wanted to clear out the power forward position.
Then, with Tony Allen joining the Grizzlies in the summer of 2010, a new chapter began in Memphis basketball history. With Randolph bringing his A-game to the 2011 postseason, the eighth-seeded Grizzlies stunned the top-ranked San Antonio Spurs in six games before bowing out to the Oklahoma City Thunder in a keenly contested seven-game series in the following round. Marc, who experienced the NBAís postseason for the first time during that Memphis run, put up solid numbers himself, averaging 15.0 PPG, 11.2 RPG and 2.2 BPG.
But while Randolph was the Grizzlies best player in the 2011 postseason, there can be little doubt of Marcís significance in the 2013 Playoffs. Through two rounds against the LA Clippers and the OKC Thunder, Gasol has posted 17.3 PPG and 19.4 PPG respectively. His rebounding numbers improved from 7.5 RPG against the Clippers to 8.4 RPG against OKC. In Game 4 against the Thunder, Marc served up the perfect dominant-center performance as he blocked six shots, put up 23 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to give the Grizzlies a commanding 3-1 series lead.
Where he was the only Memphis player with a player efficiency rating of over 20 (20.5) during the 2012-13 regular season, that rating has further improved to 22.3 during the playoffs. Of all the players left in the 2013 postseason, only LeBron James, with a rating of 27.4, has a higher player efficiency than Marc. Memphis point-guard Mike Conley and Randolph, in comparison, score 19.5 and 19.3 player efficiency points respectively.
And the Grizzlies have looked to Gasol in the clutch as well. As Caplan noted in his preview of the Western Conference Finals between the Grizzlies and the Spurs, ďIs anyone more clutch than Gasol at this moment? The burly 7-footer scored critical points late in Games 3, 4 and 5 to get by the Thunder. He hit two free throws with 1:03 to go in Game 3, knocked down a 15-footer with 22.8 seconds to go in Game 4 and hit a 19-foot dagger with 27.1 seconds left in Game 5.Ē
Surely, those conversations involving the best basketball player in the Gasol family are to Marcís liking these days.
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