Maybe Gasol is just better defensively than any of us realize. His teammates rave about him.
“He’s been great for us. I just try to tell other bigs, ‘Watch how Marc talks, watch how he communicates, just look at his body positioning,'” teammate Tayshaun Prince said. “Obviously he’s not the fastest guy in the world … but just the way he positions himself and things like that, it makes up for a lot of things. Just the little things is what makes things so important and he does those things.”
''Somebody else would've got Defensive Player of the Year, I would've been highly upset,'' Tony Allen said.
Then, Gasol says something like this:
''Now I think my kids are going to believe me when I tell them I played in the NBA,'' Gasol said Wednesday.
Now does that sound like a Defensive Player of the Year?
That just happened
And the Defensive Player of the Year Award goes to … Marc Gasol?
Pardon our collective “Huh?” but this is the time of year when Dwight Howard, or another imposing big man, collects his hardware. Think Tyson Chandler, Kevin Garnett, Ben Wallace, Dikembe Mutombo.
Apparently, the new capitol of defense is Memphis, and a European is the new resident bad-ass. Anyone else buyin' this?
Gasol is clearly no six fouls waiting to happen. The guy averaged 1.7 blocks this season (tied for 12th in the league with ... Utah's Derrick Favors. More on him later...) and was one of only six players to average at least 1.5 blocks and a steal per game. Memphis led the league by holding teams to 89.3 points per game, the first team to hold opponents below 90 since 2005-06 when both the Grizzlies (88.5) and San Antonio (88.8) accomplished the feat.
Last month, FOX Sports North's Joan Niesen watched Gasol and wrote that he might be the best big man in the NBA.
But Gasol might not even be the best defender on his team. Grizzlies guard Tony Allen, who finished fifth in the voting, has long been regarded as one of the toughest perimeter defenders. Not to mention that LeBron James guy, who finished second in the voting, the Thunder's Serge Ibaka, who led the league in blocks and finished third, and the Clippers' Chris Paul, who led the league in steals but finished 11th. (More on him later.)
But you watchin' this?
If Gasol is the best defensive player in the league, why aren't we seeing more of this? Why is Zach Randolph doing the bulk of the tangling with Blake Griffin in their first-round playoff series with the Clippers? Griffin went for 21 and 8 in LA's Game 2 win.
Oklahoma City center Kendrick Perkins didn’t take it well that Gasol won the award over his teammate Ibaka. He tweeted this:
“I'm not hating but the NBA just give awards away. Serge don't get defensive player of the year. That don't make any sense. SMMFH.”
The Grizz are down 2-0 to the Clips. Gasol is being outrebounded by DeAndre Jordan. And then there's an even bigger problem ...
Can't contain CP3
Sure, Gasol's job isn't to guard Chris Paul. But like the rest of the Grizzlies, he's having zero effect on the Clippers star, who's averaging 23.5 points and 8 assists in the series, including the winner in Game 2.
“To be honest, on my mind right now is how to stop Chris and that pick-and-roll,” Gasol said Wednesday after receiving his award.
Some NBA wonks praise the choice for noticing the defensive intangibles Gasol brings. Memphis is second in the league with a 97.4 percent overall defensive rating and boasted a +7.5 score differential when Gasol was on the floor, compared to a -3.9 when he was on the bench. Gasol helped Memphis rank among the elite in several defensive categories: third in field-goal percentage allowed, second in 3-point percentage allowed, first in total rebounds and sixth in forced turnovers.
“He’s our anchor. He controls a lot that goes on on defense. He keeps me and TA (Allen) and Tay (Prince) all in the right positions and when we mess up, he’s there to help us,” teammate Mike Conley said.
He's a shoe-in
Gasol even used his shoe, which came off while running back on defense, to poke the ball away from Derrick Favors in Utah earlier this year.
“I was just trying to stop the game. I’m not really fast. Without the shoe, I’m a lot slower,” Gasol said, “so I had to stop the game somehow.”