Last year was a milestone year for the Grizzlies – and not just because they finally had some success in the playoffs – it was the year they finally had a player make an all-NBA team, when Zach Randolph was selected for a spot on the 3rd team. It was a great moment, to see a player on the Grizzlies finally get recognized for having a truly great season.
But it could it happen again?
Obviously, Z-Bo won’t be returning to the all-NBA realm this year, but could anyone else on the Grizzlies have a shot? Well, there’s an outside chance for Rudy Gay, who has played phenomenally at times this year. Still, if there’s going to be a third small forward making all-NBA (Lebron and Durant are guaranteed to be the first two), I would have to guess that Paul Pierce, Carmelo Anthony, and Luol Deng all have better odds of being selected. That leaves just one other competitor for an all-NBA spot on the Grizzlies: Marc Gasol.
Gasol has a had a career season, at times appearing to be the team’s best player, and establishing himself as one of the top centers in the league. He also became the second Grizzly to be named to an all-star team. But will it be enough for Gasol to make an all-NBA team? It’s hard to say. Unfortunately for Marc, the first two spots are already reserved for Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum. I don’t really think that’s fair, especially considering how the Dwight Howard distraction has damaged the Magic right now (they don’t remotely resemble contenders), but that’s the way it is. I’d probably give Bynum the first-team spot even though his numbers are a little worse than Howard’s, simply because he hasn’t had such an adverse affect on the rest of his team. In either case, it’s clear that Gasol’s only shot at all-NBA is the third spot. So, let’s look at his competition.
It’s basically a three-man race for the final slot: Gasol, Tyson Chandler, and Kevin Garnett, who has thrived since being moved to the 5 slot. Marcin Gortat and Roy Hibbert have outside shots as well, but neither one will likely be taken all that seriously, because the Suns are so firmly viewed as Nash’s team, and the Pacers revival tends to be viewed as a collaborative effort, rather than the work of any individual player. Both have had great seasons, but I doubt either one will receive a great deal of all-NBA votes. So, who would make the most sense in this spot. Well, right away I’m skeptical about KG. For one thing, he only played the center role for half the season, and secondly, even though he’s been impressive this year, he’s still obviously past his prime. If we were still stuck in a league with no elite centers other than Dwight, a KG selection might fly, but these days it seems like an unnecessary cop-out.
So, what about Chandler? Well, it depends on how much faith you have in advanced stats, because man, he really shines in that area. He’s an astonishing 5th in the league in win shares, and his offensive rating is 1st in the league for a second year in a row. Based on the advanced numbers, Chandler is way more valuable than anyone might guess.
At the same time, most of that comes from how well he fits into the system. He’s great at getting open under the basket and knocking in field goals, as well as getting to the free-throw line. But he’s not the kind of player who can take over games the way Gasol can. Chandler works best when he’s simply a cog in his team’s system. If you put him on a team where he was the best player, and everything revolved around him, it wouldn’t work. Plus, he’s usually the 4th or 5th option on offense. He’s an extremely efficient player, and an amazing defender, but I wouldn’t take him over Gasol, who also plays some amazing defense, and is capable of taking over games.
Taking all of that into consideration, I think Marc Gasol has a very good chance to make the third and final all-NBA spot. He raised his game to a new level, and became one of the team’s leaders. As pointed out in Lee Eric Smith’s great post yesterday, there’s nothing he wouldn’t do for the team, and at times, it seems like there’s nothing he couldn’t do for them. He’s established himself as one of the best centers in the league, and he deserves to be recognized for that with an all-NBA selection. In all honesty, I’d take him over Dwight for a second team spot, because he’s so much more of a team player, but I’m realistic enough to know that will never happen, so here’s to hoping he becomes the second Grizzly to make third-team all-NBA. He certainly will have earned it.