The Memphis Grizzlies are the only NBA home that Marc Gasol has ever known, having been a part of the city since his high school days—where he attended during older brother Pau’s early NBA career.
So it was hardly a surprise when he re-signed with the Grizzlies long term without a second thought. Memphis’ grit and grind mentality is something Gasol has worn very well.
The team is comfortable in their identity, even as it become a less comfortable fit in the modern NBA. That they’ve been able to maintain their place near the top of the Western Conference despite playing such an outdate style speaks to how fantastic Gasol is as one of the 10 best players in the NBA:
When you think of Marc Gasol, individual and team defense may come to mind first. And while much harder to quantify, the defensive aspect of his game should not go without praise. But perhaps the most significant development in his game last year was his heightened interest in scoring the ball himself. Being the dominant scorer often comes at a cost—most players have to choose where they want to place their effort—because being the defensive ace and offensive first-option is close to impossible. However, Gasol was able to remain an elite interior presence and on-ball defender while tweaking and refining his offense to achieve full on seek-and-destroy mode on both ends of the floor.
And, of course, Randolph:
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It’s a relationship that’s shifted in the past few years, as Randolph cedes more real estate and possessions to Gasol and Conley. Age has taken some of the fluidity out of Randolph’s attack, diminishing his capabilities as a first option. He’s adjusted, channeling his efforts into rebounding—where he’s still almost impossible to keep off the boards—and filling in the gaps in the Grizzlies’ spacing starved offense.
A soft shooting touch presents enough of a threat to keep defenses honest from midrange, and a carefully cultivated synergy with Gasol helps to counter most of the fronting and sagging tactics of all but the most dialed in defenses. Of particular joy is watching Randolph lurk on the weak side, away from the primary ball action, before quickly slipping into position for a quick high-low, ball reversal, or offensive rebound—leaving defenders buried under the glass.
The NBA is all about working in space—it’s a pleasure watching Randolph still carve out some for his own.
A heroic performance from Mike Conley, returning from a broken face, provided the Grizzlies with hope against a dominant Golden State Warriors team in the second round of the playoffs. Alas, the Warriors were too dominant a team once they schemed out Tony Allen by switching Andrew Bogut onto him and making the offense untenable.
And therein lies the Grizzlies’ problem. They’re too good to break up, and possibly possess too small a margin of error to make it all the way through the Western Conference Playoffs. So for now, the tinker on the margins. Reshuffling their frontcourt rotation with a new skillset in Brandan Wright, and hoping for wing depth with a return to health of Vince Carter and the acquisition of Matt Barnes.
Of all the contending teams, the Grizzlies probably require more to fall in place than any other, but similar teams have seen it happen—the 2010 Dallas Mavericks, for example.
This week on the Instant Offense Podcast, Josh Coleman of 3 Shades of Blue (@3sob) talks about some of the Grizzlies offseason moves and predicts Memphis in the NBA Finals within the next three seasons.
(Credit and big thanks to the Instant Offense Podcast’s new producer Paul Henderson (@HendoHoops on Twitter) for the hard work he does making the show THAT much better.)