After many years, the Los Angeles Lakers have reunited with Marc Gasol.
“With the 48th pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Lakers select Marc Gasol!”
Of course, Marc Gasol never actually played for the Lakers. Six months after he was drafted, he was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies for his older brother, Pau Gasol.
Marc finished out the season in Spain then signed with Memphis the following offseason. Pau went on to win back-to-back championships on the Lakers.
Playing alongside Zach Randolph in Memphis’ frontcourt, Marc developed into an old-school bruiser with an innate passing ability and a nice shooting touch. Gasol, Randolph, Tony Allen and Mike Conley became the Four Horsemen of Memphis’ Grit-and-Grind era.
Sadly, unlike Ric Flair, Memphis could not win a championship. They went as far as the Western Conference Finals back in 2013 – all the while turning each of their playoff games into old school wrasslin’ matches.
Nevertheless, when the Grit-and-Grind era ended a few years later, Gasol got his championship – albeit with the Toronto Raptors. Having come over in a midseason trade, he was instrumental in leading Toronto to their first-ever NBA Championship in the 2018-19 season.
Once their title defense fell short in the bubble, rumor had it Gasol would return to his native Spain and sign with FC Barcelona to finish out his career. That rumor was quickly dispelled. Shortly thereafter, Gasol became one of the hottest free agents on the market.
Now the Lakers got him.
How does this impact the Los Angeles Lakers?
Gasol opens up the floor for LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Last season, he would have been the team’s best three-point shooter, shooting 38.5% on 3.4 attempts. He assisted on almost 20% of the team’s made field goals, which is remarkable for a center.
Running the offense through Gasol in the high post would decrease the burden LeBron James and Anthony Davis must incur each game. As it stands now, LeBron and AD must expend a tremendous amount of energy to keep the Lakers’ offense above water.
Nobody else (with the exception of Rajon Rondo in the playoffs) was able to create offense on the team. With Gasol in the lineup, they would be able to finish plays as well as create them.
This is huge. LeBron and AD can now play fewer minutes in the regular season. And in those minutes, their workload on the court will be much lighter.
Real load management.
Assuming AD stays in LA, he can form a wink-wink synergy with Gasol as he did with Rondo previously. Gasol, as a trail man on the fast break, can feed AD on lob passes from the top of the key. AD can quickly seal off his man to get his easy post-ups in early offense. If LeBron and AD attack the basket, Gasol is a capable spot-up shooter from three-point range.
Toronto would often run the offense through him at either the high post or on the block. With cutters zooming around him, Gasol was an omnipresent threat to either attack the basket, shoot, or pass.
If the Lakers elect to start Montrezl Harrell, Gasol’s passing can also anchor the second unit. Alex Caruso, in particular, is a savvy off-ball cutter. Caruso will quickly learn to cut off of Gasol’s pinpoint passes.
Dennis Schroder and Marc Gasol would be an amazing pick-and-roll tandem for the second unit. If Kyle Kuzma can get out of his own feelings, the Gasol/Schroder/Kuzma trio would be an impactful scoring punch coming off the bench.
It’s also possible Gasol and Montrezl Harrell can play together in the frontcourt if the opposing front-court is not too perimeter-oriented. Harrell can truck opposing power forwards. Gasol can move opposing centers away from the basket. They can develop an effective two-man synergy in the post as well – with Harrell sealing his man in transition as AD often does.
Of course, offense sells tickets. Defense wins championships. Gasol still has it on defense. If the numbers are to be believed.
Toronto had the second-best defense in the NBA on a per-possession basis. Their defense could be best described as controlled chaos. They frantically pressure the ball and trap the ball any chance they get. Gasol’s role on the defense cannot be quantified just by numbers. He had to be the controls behind the chaos.
This is important. Centers typically call out defensive coverages. The difference between a great and an elite defense is how the center positions the other four players on the court. His defensive positioning and communication skills will serve the Lakers well.
Although they will not be as crazy as Toronto in terms of pressuring and trapping the ball, opposing offenses will take much worse shots thanks to Gasol calling the shots in the middle.
AD is great at this as well. He and Gasol in the same lineup? Not fair!
However, let us temper expectations. The Lakers should not be expecting prime Marc Gasol. In Memphis, he would play 35-40 minutes per night and be the go-to guy on the block. This version of Gasol, while almost as capable, can only play a maximum of 25-30 minutes per game. Given the Lakers also signed Montrezl Harrell, Gasol may not even finish games.
Nor did he always finish games in Toronto. Serge Ibaka finished most games at center. It depended on the opponent. Gasol will not play as much against younger, faster teams such as the Miami Heat or Golden State Warriors.
Gasol is not as good as he was in Memphis. At the very least, signing him keeps the Lakers one step ahead in the arms race against the Clippers, who just signed Ibaka. Nevertheless, Gasol’s signing makes the Lakers heavy favorites to win back-to-back championships.
The last time that happened, Pau Gasol was on the team.