Normally, if you asked this question, people would smirk. Or laugh. Or chuckle. Or call you an idiot. After winning this year’s Defensive Player of the Year award, as well as the unofficial title as the bloggers’ favorite basketball player, Marc Gasol is morphing into a stud. He spearheaded the league’s top scoring defense, averaging 2.7 stocks (blocks plus steals) a night. He dropped 14.1 points and a career-high four assists per game. Almost overnight, he’s become the Grizzlies’ best player (sorry, Zach Randolph).
But after a subpar season that had him as one of the year’s most disappointing players, Roy Hibbert upped his game in the playoffs. When it mattered most, he hit New York with two 20/10 games in the second round, including 21 points, 12 boards and five blocks in the series clincher. Then again Miami, Hibbert went OFF, posting series averages of 22.1 points (on nearly 56 percent shooting) and 10.4 boards. To call him one of the league’s best centers isn’t crazy anymore.
Gasol had the breakout regular season; Hibbert, the breakout postseason. Being mirror images of one another as talented defensive pillars, the Dime office often gets into a debate. Who’s better: Roy Hibbert or Marc Gasol? We argue. You decide.
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The common perception among the ever-changing NBA inner circle is that the old-school center is vanishing. A brick wall in the middle of the paint that stops incoming intruders and a capable pick-n-roll player who can set up camp on the right block and use an array of post moves to score. That doesn’t seem that hard to find, does it?
Well, let’s just take a look at the candidates. Dwight Howard took a step back this year and didn’t display nearly the same defensive and offensive presence we are used to seeing. Brook Lopez is as efficient as any center but still struggles to rebound. Al Horford isn’t as smooth in his pick-n-roll game as other centers. Roy Hibbert isn’t that good of a passer and is still smoothing out some of his offensive game. The remaining candidates are Tim Duncan and Marc Gasol. Since Tim Duncan is mostly considered a power forward and isn’t necessary for this article we won’t gush about his all-around game. This article is for the grizzly bear, Marc Gasol.
Gasol didn’t always have the praise and attention that he does now. He was a second-round pick by the Lakers that would eventually be traded to the Memphis Grizzlies for Marc’s older brother, Pau. Gasol has transformed from that point to become the 2012-13 Defensive Player of the Year. Here are a couple of plays that show how smart and good he is defensively.
In the first defensive sequence against the Utah Jazz, Gasol is able to defend the baseline for teammate Quincy Pondexter and prevent Gordon Hayward from getting to the basket.
Gasol quickly realizes that he has to rotate over to his man Jefferson once Hayward picks up his dribble. Not falling to his right when Jefferson fakes to go in the paint allows Gasol to keep the perfect defensive stand with a hand in the face of his opponent.
Sticking with Jefferson as he attacks the basket, Gasol is able to use his size to prevent Jefferson from bullying him inside and is long enough to properly time the jump to block the shot.
In the third defensive sequence, Gasol smartly goes over the top of the Greg Monroe screen in order to allow Mike Conley Jr. enough time to get in front of Brandon Knight. Gasol does just enough to allow Conley enough time to front Knight before he is able to penetrate to the basket.
Monroe initially beats Gasol off the dribble but Gasol is able to recover and move his feet quick enough where he can get in front of Monroe.
After Monroe is able to make a strong spin move, Gasol disrupts his shot enough where Monroe misses. Give credit to Monroe. He made a strong one-on-one move but Gasol’s discipline allowed him to do exactly what he is supposed to do, which is play good defense and hope that a player doesn’t make a great shot.