By: Christian Dudley (@ChristianDudley)
Although the Memphis Grizzlies are fighting to reach contender status, Marc Gasol has reminded the sports world that he is still the world’s best center.
Having entered the league as the younger brother of a basketball star (Pau Gasol) and simultaneously transformed into a trade chip for said elder brother, Marc Gasol was thrown for a loop before he could hit the floor in the association.
Those lowly days are long gone.
On Friday, Marc Gasol posted the first triple-double of his eight-year NBA career. In a crucial home victory against the Houston Rockets, the All-Star center scored 16 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, helped his teammates with 11 assists, and also notched four steals. This elite performance adds stability to his status as the NBA’s best all-around center.
Given his versatility and elite talent, it is certainly surprising that it has taken this long for MG to record his first triple-double. Do not expect this to be his last, though.
The Spaniard has solidified himself as the NBA’s best all-around center solely for the fact that he can affect the game – on both ends of the floor – as well as anyone. He can score in a variety of ways (15.7 points per game) and is now attempting to showcase his three-point shot more than ever before. He is a former Defensive Player of the Year, so Grizz Nation is guaranteed that Big Spain will bring the defensive effort every night.
However, it is more in-depth than scoring and defense.
Numbers are not everything, although they can be very telling. Gasol’s statistics are stellar, although he certainly has plenty of stiff competition from rival centers, such as the Kings’ DeMarcus Cousins, Miami’s Hassan Whiteside, and others.
When it comes to this popular trio of center candidates (Gasol, Cousins, and Whiteside), there is something special that sets Marc apart from the Grizzlies’ enemies.
Marc is the ultimate teammate. He is incredibly crafty, especially when creating plays for his teammates. He is averaging a mighty 4.4 assists through 14 contests. Think of MG as a point guard in a seven-footer’s body. This combination of talents is something of rarity, hence the new maximum contract in excess of $110 million received by Gasol in his recent Free-Agency period.
DeMarcus Cousins is a big-time scorer (27.7 points per game) and rebounder 11.2 rebounds per game). He is truly a Mr. Double-Double. But this is the extent of Cousins’ game, even if he is quickly adding some shooting range to his repertoire. DMC’s poor attitude has restricted his dominance in past seasons, which is why the Sacramento Kings explored trade options during the offseason. Sometimes it seems as if he hurts his team more than he helps. It boils down to this: can DeMarcus win in the NBA?
Hassan Whiteside (14.8 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 4.8 BPG) is perhaps a late-bloomer, but his game is still developing. The same can be said for Gasol and Cousins, although Whiteside has nearly the entire league beat when it comes to blocking shots. Yes, he has recorded a triple-double (points, rebounds, blocks) this season, but it remains to be seen if Hassan can develop his offensive game into something more than dunks and put-backs. And can he defend without fouling? Can he take his shot-blocking to the next level by altering shots rather than swatting the basketball into the stands? Even averaging a double-double at this time, he could do the Miami Heat a major favor if he could develop a consistent jumper and some crafty post moves. Whiteside has been a gem pulled from the rough for Miami, but he is a work in progress, granted he has emerged as a great talent.
Marc, DeMarcus, and Hassan all deserve their props and praise – no doubt about it. Some nights, NBA fans will notice that a sane Cousins is one of the best players in the world. Other nights, Whiteside may headline NBATV with eye-popping stats. Overall, Gasol owns leverage because of his versatility. MG is an all-inclusive package of an NBA center. He gives you everything a center could possibly be – and then he overachieves with his playmaking ability as well as having the knack to contest shots without fouling. Plus, he is a winner.
Some critics may point to Gasol’s rebounding numbers (6.6 RPG) as a downfall. While the number itself is not impressive, these critics must realize Marc’s surroundings. Example: Grizz teammate and power forward Zach Randolph. Z-Bo gobbles up nearly every board on both ends of the floor, seldom leaving any rebounds for other Grizzlies to gather. If Marc Gasol was in Cousins’ or Whiteside’s situations by being the only real threat on his team’s front line, MG would be averaging a double-double. No question.
The Memphis Grizzlies are loaded with above-average talent at each position. Yes, Marc Gasol has lots of help. This is the reasoning behind the Grizz being contenders in the Western Conference. Cousins and Whiteside are not as lucky in their respective conferences, hence their double-double averages and
While the race for the NBA’s “best center” is tight and ongoing, the candidate that conquers the leadership category will perhaps be crowned as the top man in the paint. Plain and simple, the quality of leadership will signify the most valuable center in today’s NBA.
Will Marc lead the Memphis Grizzlies to an NBA World Championship this season?
Leadership is the one area Big Spain has stated he wants to improve this season. With the Grizzlies struggling at a 7-7 record, here is his chance.