Can Big Spain top his performance last season?

Mike Conley and Marc Gasol are the remains of what was the “Core 4” of the Memphis Grizzlies. Conley and Gasol have been through it all together, and they both face new challenges this season with this new-look Grizzlies team. Marc Gasol has more pressure than ever on him to perform and help carry Memphi. Will he be up for the challenge, or will he regress after his stellar showing last season?

2016-2017 Season Overview

NBA: Playoffs-San Antonio Spurs at Memphis Grizzlies
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, Marc made the third trip of his career to the NBA All-Star Game. After having an injury-riddled season in 2015-2016 (he only played 52 games), he had a major comeback performance last season, boasting a career-high in both points (19.5) and assists (4.6) per game. So not only was Big Spain scoring more, but he was distributing the ball to his teammates better as well.

In addition, he had a career-high in three point attempts per game (3.6), and he made 104 of them total on the season.

After many feared that Gasol wouldn’t be able to top his 2014-2015 season, he instead has evolved his game by expanding his offensive range. He was almost everything the Grizzlies could have hoped for.

Projected Role

Undoubtedly, Marc will start at the center position alongside Conley and (maybe?) Chandler Parsons. Gasol will have a decent minute load this season, and he’ll be relied upon a lot offensively with players like Zach Randolph gone. Gasol played for Spain over the summer, so he seems as fit as ever physically, and mentally he seems ready for the unknown this season.

Big Spain will have his work cut out for him with some new younger guys under him. His leadership will be leaned on as it’s been in the past, as he co-pilots the team alongside Conley.

Gasol started taking more threes last season, and he needs to take even more this year to help spread the floor and take his game to the next level. In addition, it’s important for Gasol to be strong on the boards this season with ZBo gone.

Big Spain’s role will be similar to what it’s been in the past few years, but this year more than ever, it’s vital for Gasol to be the stoic leader and offensive force for the Grizzlies if they want a chance at the playoffs.

Best Case Scenario

NBA: Playoffs-San Antonio Spurs at Memphis Grizzlies
Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Marc Gasol takes the next step up in his game. He shoots more threes this season than ever before, and he’s a consistent force on the boards for Memphis. He doesn’t regress offensively after his explosive previous season, and his health remains solid throughout the year, ensuring that he’s healthy for Memphis’ playoff push and ensuing postseason stretch.

He averages around 20 PPG and 7.5 rebounds a game, and he tops his record for three-pointers made in a season. He maintains his field goal shooting percentage around 45%, and he continues to take charge offensively. Big Spain has another big year, and he makes it to the fourth All-Star Game of his career.

Worst Case Scenario

Marc Gasol is already dealing with ankle problems during preseason. Let’s say his health continues to be an issue off-and-on throughout the season, and he plays only around 60 games. He regresses offensively and reverts back to his shell, and his three-point shooting was just a fad that we’ll occasionally see glimpses of again.

He averages around 16 PPG, his overall offensive game declines, and his increasing age starts to show with his health.

Then, the trade rumors begin…

Overall Expectations

Marc Gasol has a lot of pressure to repeat how he performed last year. With key players like Zach Randolph no longer on the roster, Gasol has a new challenge ahead as a leader. With more young players on the team, Big Spain will need to be a positive example on the court and in the locker room, and not let the outside noise get to him if/when the Grizzlies go through rough patches.

His mentality this season is key. Physically, we all know what level Gasol can perform to. When he doesn’t take charge when he’s needed on the court, that’s when the Grizzlies struggle.

Coach Fizdale wants to enforce a faster style of play than the Grizzlies have been running the past handful of years. Gasol seems in the physical shape to keep up, and his new arsenal from three-point range will help propel him and the team forward. But it’s important for him to be a strong force on the boards and on the block still with ZBo gone. This year is vital the direction of the Grizzlies’ future, and it’s equally vital for Marc Gasol as a cornerstone of this franchise.

Follow @sbngrizzlies


Article first appeared on https://www.grizzlybearblues.com/