StrategyMarch 8, 2009

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Keeper Case: Marc Gasol

By Phil Londen

With trade deadlines now in the rear view mirror in most keeper leagues, it is now time to evaluate what you are left with and who you should keep. Surprisingly, rookie center Marc Gasol has been making a strong case for keeper consideration over the past few weeks.

Let’s look at Marc Gasol in more detail and consider his prospects as a keeper.

League Settings and Team Composition
Of course, league settings play an important role in determining which players are valuable enough to keep. A league with a large number of managers (any league with fourteen or more managers) will have a different keeper quality than a smaller league. Similarly, a league with a large number of keepers (five or more) will have different keeper quality than a league with fewer keepers. Also, scoring categories play a role, as the inclusion or exclusion of values affects keeper values. Gasol is a player who would more likely be in keeper consideration in a deep league or a league with a large number of keepers.

Another factor in the keeper debate is team composition. Certain teams are absolutely stacked and have maybe seven or eight legitimate keeper candidates. Other teams have a couple of quality keeper candidates and some other borderline candidates. These teams may also have older fantasy stars whose careers are trending downward and may be better acquired through the redraft. In these cases, the younger Gasol may make a good off-season trade target or keeper consideration if he is already on your roster.

Age and Ceiling
Before considering Marc Gasol’s age and physical tools as a player, let’s get the inevitable comparison to his older brother Pau out of the way. Comparing Pau and Marc’s rookie seasons in Memphis, it is clear that the two players statistics reflect their different styles as players while also containing many similarities. Pau’s higher scoring average is a result of being the primary offensive weapon on the Memphis Grizzlies (Shane Battier and Jason Williams were the other two main threats) and is evidenced in his usage percentage of 22.6 percent (usage percentage is an estimate of a team’s possessions a player uses while on the floor). Marc’s lower scoring average is probably a result of being teamed up with high scoring rookie O.J. Mayo and Rudy Gay and is evidenced by his usage percentage of 17.8 percent.

At age 24, Gasol is a young big man with his best years ahead of him. However, Gasol certainly entered the NBA as a more polished rookie than many of his peers after playing professionally in Europe. While often overpaid for, youth is a desirable trait of keepers. In Gasol’s case, you can expect increased fantasy production each season as Marc continues to acclimate to the league and until he enters his prime.

Physically, Marc Gasol has everything a starting NBA center needs to be successful in the league. At 7′1″ and 265 pounds, Gasol can hold his own on the low block. He possesses a nice back to the basket post game and has even shown to have a decent mid-range game. Like many other European big men, Gasol has shown to have solid fundamentals and a good understanding of the game. Similar to his brother, Marc has also proven to be an able and willing passer with a respectable A/T ratio from the center position of about .939 (for comparison purposes look at Emeka Okafor’s A/T ratio for this season of .316).

Considering his skill set and physical tools, there is nothing to stop Marc from improving and becoming a premier big man in the NBA as well as in fantasy. At the risk of being cliche, Marc’s best case scenario is similar to his brother’s current production, who is having one of his best seasons ever. Thus, the sky is the limit for the younger Gasol brother.

Averages: Per-36 and Last Two Weeks
Gasol has had a solid rookie campaign but has really turned up the heat over the last couple of weeks. Consider his per-36 minute averages this season and his average over the past two weeks, which covers the Grizzlies’ last six games, including matchups against the Rockets and the Lakers. For leagues that include offensive rebounds, Gasol is even more valuable as he has been a beast on the offensive glass.

Past 2.673.66716.

Gasol has everything you want from a fantasy center. He shoots a high percentage from the field without completely killing you from the free throw line. He provides very respectable production in rebounds, blocks and steals. He also provides assists at about the same rate at which he accumulates turnovers, which is much better than many other NBA centers. Marc’s production over the past two weeks has been absurd, providing early third round value according to Basketball Monster’s Player Rankings. Obviously, he has been red hot from the field and cannot be expected to maintain 67 percent shooting from the field. However, if he can maintain averages anywhere near what he has done over the past couple of weeks, Marc will certainly merit near-universal keeper consideration.

Memphis Grizzlies: Team Composition and Future Prospects
A player’s fantasy value and keeper value is strongly related to the player’s NBA team situation and future prospects. This season’s Memphis Grizzlies find themselves lottery bound once again. Last season, the lottery gave them future All-Star O.J. Mayo to play alongside Rudy Gay. Add in second year point guard Mike Conley, Jr. and Marc Gasol and the Grizzlies have a very dangerous young core who should develop and mature together.

At center, Gasol’s primary competition has come from Darko Milicic, whose main claim to fame is who he was picked before in the 2003 NBA Draft. Milicic has proven to be a capable backup center but does not provide any threat to Marc’s starting role in Memphis. The only other true centers on the Grizzlies’ roster are Chris Mihm, who recently underwent surgery, and Iranian Hamed Haddadi, who is nothing more than a project at this point in his career. Unless they draft or trade for a player who can threaten Marc Gasol’s grip on the starting spot, his starting job is secure for the near future.

That begs the question of how likely the Grizzlies are to draft a player who will threaten Gasol’s playing time next season. Or to rephrase, what are the Memphis Grizzlies’ team needs? When looking at their young core, Memphis biggest weakness is at the power forward position. Darrell Arthur and Hakim Warrick are the primary players who play the four in Memphis but neither seem to have the ceiling to be elite power forwards in the NBA. Another weakness in the Grizzlies’ roster is the backup point guard position. They recently sent backup point guard Kyle Lowery to Houston and could use another point guard or combo guard to improve their depth at the point guard position. With what will most likely be an early lottery pick, it seems more likely that Memphis will draft a power forward or guard before they try and acquire more depth at center.

With all that being said, is Marc Gasol a legitimate keeper candidate this season? In deeper leagues or leagues with a high number of keepers, Gasol is absolutely a player who should be seriously considered as a keeper. He has the primary attributes of a keeper: solid current production, immense upside, and youth. If Gasol does not make sense as a keeper for your team this season, he is definitely a player to aggressively pursue in the redraft. The window to buy low on Marc Gasol is rapidly closing as he should qualify as a legitimate keeper under most formats by the end of next season.

Phil Londen is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Phil in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of plonden.
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