Everyone knows about the Warriors. They are the reigning champions of this league, and they are currently gunning for a three peat. They’ve won both games at home against the Rockets, with their vaunted “Death Lineup” going ballistic on the opponent. To be honest, the only knock on the Warriors’ roster is that their bench unit is getting old. Other than their starting 5 is still good, with everyone contributing. We all know what their all stars do: their is a reason that they are known well across the league. No starting 5 is quite as cohesive as the Warriors: they have perhaps some of the best team chemistry in the league. At the heart of it is a man: Draymond Green. He is a true winner, as real as they come. He doesn’t care about the stats, his box score reflects that. Draymond Green is interested in doing whatever it takes to will his team to victory, whether it be scoring, playing defense or just starting some trash talk. Draymond Green has all star appearances and a DPOY award for a reason. He is the engine of the team: not in the way that Curry is, but he is what raises their motivation from 50 to 100 right quick.
Bigger than numbers
Recently, Nick Nurse mentioned that Marc Gasol took “A winner’s role” in Toronto. Less touches, floor spacing and good defense seem to be the confines of that role. The Raptors are down 2-1 to the 76ers. That “Winner’s Role” position is admirable, it truly is. However part of the reason that Draymond Green is an all-star is his ability to still score when required. Game 7 of the 2016 finals it wasn’t Green that had a bad game. Throughout history there have been people who didn’t usually score, but stepped up when scoring needed to happen (See Cedric Maxwell. 1984 Finals). Draymond Green similarly, finds another gear when important games are on the line.
Role players such as Draymond Green know when to step their game up and can sometimes carry the team when need be. Green is an all star because he does whatever the team needs. That includes scoring. Marc has similar attributes to Green within the Raptors offense, so in a similar vein it may be time for him to score more, the way Green does in the playoffs. Draymond Green has elevated his scoring 8.5 PPG in the regular season to 12.6 PPG in the Playoffs. Toronto needs similar production from Marc Gasol. Simply put, Gasol needs to elevate his scoring, so that the Raptors may be able to withstand the 76ers.
Pascal Siakam and Kawhi Leonard cannot win this series by only scoring themselves. Not against a lineup of 4 All-Star caliber players with Embiid leading them.Marc Gasol did a good job leading the team defensively, shutting down Joel Embiid for the first two games, before his explosion in game 3. Gasol is an amazing post defender and floor spacer but that isn’t enough. The Raptors need more. They need someone who will pick up the scoring when it matters. Marc Gasol is a seasoned veteran, a former All-Star and DPOY. Marc Gasol needs to be involved more, and it is up to Nurse to have him transition from a “winner’s role” to “potential 3rd option”. Jusuf Nurkic summarizes the Raptors use of Marc Gasol: inadequate.
— Jusuf Nurkić (@bosnianbeast27) May 3, 2019
Real recognize real, that’s all there is to it. The team has tried to put Marc Gasol into a floor spacing center who shoots catch and shoot 3s. However, he is so much more. On his career he is a 13.6 PPG scorer. Just this year, he put up 15.7 points on 44.4/34.4/75, as a second option behind Conley. Toronto has cut his shot attempts as well, increasing his 3P% to 44.2% with Toronto in the regular season. Marc Gasol is still shooting well, but his talents are so much more than just being a stretch 5 and a good defender.
Gasol was a point center before Nikola Jokic was the big thing. With Toronto in the playoffs, Marc Gasol is averaging 3.1 assists per game, despite having a usage rate of 11.9%. What I would like to see is for Gasol to hold the ball more in the post. It is ridiculous that Toronto is wasting an amazing passer and scorer at the 5. Gasol has improved ball movement on offense, but now the team needs him to score as well, what with Kyle Lowry’s slump. Sometimes, a team just needs a bucket in the post. All baskets are created equally, except long 2s. Gasol IS a scorer: Toronto seems to have forgotten that.
All of Gasol’s attributes by themselves don’t make him a good player: it’s not that he’s a particularly amazing shooter, or that he is the best defender. It is the fact that all of those things have come together in one body that makes him great. A Center with above average shooting and passing doesn’t come by often. It is time for him to be utilized properly. Gasol can do a little bit of everything: a smart player who plays the game the right way. Toronto needs Marc Gasol to score as well as playmake: he has the potential to do both. It’s just time for Marc Gasol to go to work, rather than sitting back.
The fact that Marc Gasol isn’t touching the ball more is ridiculous. Nick Nurse may well have to give him shots to get him going. Gasol being in the post, and being able to facilitate not only from the perimeter will add a new dimension to the Raptors offense. It may also get Embiid in foul trouble, which would be welcome for the Raptors chances to win this series. If teammates cut then Gasol finds them with his passing, which leads to open shots. With Pascal Siakam injured currently and possibly out, the Raptors will need their seasoned vets to step up. Out of Ibaka, Lowry and Gasol, I know that I am picking the man who has shown to shut down Joel Embiid and lead by example. Now the team needs Marc Gasol to score more than ever, and I believe that he will rise to the challenge.