Time to put “The Big Three” in the game . . . 3SOB Founder Josh “Red” Coleman; The Jedi Master Chip Crain . . . and lil ol’ me, Lee Eric Smith. In our third round of 3 on 3, we tackle . . . well just read it . . . .
Marc Gasol’s 2012 season was. . . .
Red Coleman: Encouraging. After a somewhat lackluster 2010-11 season, the big Spaniard turned it on in the postseason and wowed a lot of people who didn’t know about the talented 7-footer. He continued this high level of play through much of the season before slowing down due to the toll of playing heavy minutes. If he takes another step forward next season, he’ll unquestionable be a Top 3 center — although I think you can make that argument now.
Chip Crain: A tale of two seasons. The first season leading up to the All-Star game Marc was arguably the second best center in the league. Unfortunately Gasol’s post-All-Star break performance was less than inspiring. After the All-Star break Gasol’s rebounding dropped (from 10.1 RPG to 7.6 RPG), FG%, points and blocks were down too. Fatigue played a major role but his decline hurt the team.
Lee Eric Smith. Revealing. We already knew about his rebounding, his skyhook, his elbow jumper. We also knew about his passing. But with the team dynamic shifting when Zach went down, and the team running more pick and rolls, we truly got to watch him pick apart defenses with his pinpoint passes, court vision and awareness. The guy just seems to keep adding dimensions to his game. And I love it.
Pick one: Darrell Arthur, Dante Cunningham or Marreese Speights.
Red: Marreese Speights. I think that DA has a higher upside and that DC has a better work ethic/motor, but out of the three, Speights has the best offensive game and unquestionably had the best 2011-12 season. I’d like to keep at least two of the three (and DC is still under contract through next season) — and I’d love to keep all three of them. If forced to pick between Speights and Arthur though, I’m taking the guy who isn’t coming off a serious, season-long injury though.
Chip: Speights. Darrell’s injuries worry me both from a rust standpoint and a loss of athleticism. Cunningham is a great energy guy but his offensive weakness hurts. Speights finally cracked a lineup and contributed well during the season and in the playoffs.
Lee: ARRGH! You’d think I wouldn’t hate this question, seeing as I came up with it. I miss Darrell’s energy and I hope he returns in full health to hit that elbow jumper. If he does, it means reduced minutes for Dante Cunningham, whose jumper isn’t as reliable, but has that infectious Tony Allen energy. Then again, Mo may be even more accurate than Darrell on that jumper. AARGH! I’m gonna wimp out and say “you can’t teach height.” Meaning I’m going with the tallest guy, the one who can more ably sub for Marc. Meaning, I’m going with Mo Speights. But I like all three of these guys, and wish they’d add to the 48 minute clock so they could all get playing time.
“The main area where the team exceeded my expectations was . . .”
Red: Wins and losses, following the injuries to Darrell Arthur and Zach Randolph. After those two key players from last year’s roster went down, I thought they would be lucky to go .500. Instead, they put on their big boy pants and proceeded to kick butt. I think that’s a testament to the job that Chris Wallace did in making moves to shore up the depleted roster and that Lionel Hollins did in molding them into a team.
Chip: The regular season record. If someone told me the team would be 1-4 and Z-Bo was going to miss the next 37 games I never would have given them a chance at home court advantage in the playoffs.
Lee: How the team stepped up after Zach went down. Marreese stepped in for Zach and the team kept rolling — he’s no Zach Randolph, but he didn’t have to be either. Just get boards, make that elbow jumper and play good team defense. Perhaps most importantly, Mo played well enough to cover what we lost with Zach, but not so dominantly that the pecking order wasn’t clear. The team’s success was a huge credit to Coach Hollins’ system and the work ethic he instills in his players.