Marc Gasol will be looking for a good day on Sunday as he makes his first All-Star appearance in his four-year career. Gasol's All-Star selection is a symbol of his rise among NBA centers. As much as he is growing, Gasol still needs things to go his way in order to have a big night representing the Memphis Grizzlies on the Western Conference team.
Gasol, who becomes the third Grizzlies player to make an All-Star appearance in their 17-season history, has certainly earned his place in the All-Star Game. He's set career highs in scoring (15 points per game), rebounding (10.1 per game), blocks (2.2 per game), field goal attempts per game (11.2), free-throw percentage (75.1 percent) and assists (3.1 per game).
He's fourth in blocks per game and defensive win shares (2.3). Also, Gasol's second among centers in assists per game.
The Spaniard will be fighting with several other big men on the Western Conference roster for attention. Including starters, the Western Conference team features six power forwards and centers.
Other reserve big men include Dirk Nowitzki, LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Love.
Love and Nowitzki are likely to garner the most minutes out of the four backup big men. Nowitzki's reputation precedes him. Nowitzki has played in 10 All-Star games and started two. He's scored 22.9 points per game in his 14-year career. He's recovered from a slow start to get up to 19.6 points per game.
Love is a burgeoning player. He's averaging an amazing 25 points and 14 rebounds per game, fourth and second, respectively. Last season, Love led the league with 15.2 rebounds per game.
He's also a popular player, and popular players tend to get more playing time in the All-Star Game.
Between Marc Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge, there's no question who's more advanced. Aldridge is a more established player than the Grizzlies' man in the middle. He's significantly better, scoring 7.3 points more per game. That scoring edge and higher reputation will earn him more playing time.
Two things play in Gasol's favor among Western Conference backups. First, he's the fourth youngest among the seven reserves. With his relatively fresh legs, Gasol is a better fit than Nowitzki and Tony Parker for the high-flying, above the rim style of the All-Star game.
That could earn him a few extra minutes.
Second, he's the only player on either team from a Spanish-speaking country. Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world. As stated on NBA.com, the All-Star game will be broadcast in 215 countries, and at least 20 of those countries are Spanish-speaking countries.
David Stern probably won't be whispering in Scott Brooks' ear, "The Spanish-speaking fans are waiting for their guy to get in the game." Still, the significant following from Spanish-speaking fans plays just a tiny role.
Anyway, Gasol probably won't play a great number of minutes or score a ton. Those points will go to the likes of Love, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant, who demand the ball.
Guys who take 11.2 shots per game like Gasol generally don't get many looks.
Typically, all Western Conference All-Stars score and play at least 10 minutes. Eight of the last 10 Western Conference teams had all players score at least two points. One of the two who didn't score was Marc's older brother Pau, who didn't drop a bucket, but managed to pull down 12 rebounds in 14 minutes in 2006—his only appearance while with the Grizzlies.
Blocks, at which Pau Gasol has excelled this season, aren't very important in the All-Star Game. With the fast, open style of the game, he likely won't block multiple shots.
Now, what will Gasol post in his first All-Star Game?
Projection: 15 minutes, 4 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 2-of-3 FG