Marc Gasol took an important step in his development during the 2011-12 season. He stepped up as a scorer, passer, rebounder and defender. The Memphis Grizzlies center set career highs in scoring, blocks and assists per game.
Gasol has started to become one of the few really solid centers in the NBA.
However, Gasol still has strides to make to continue his assent in the ranks among centers. He has some areas where he needs to improve. He doesn't come through in tough road games.
Still, he's still a young, bright star who can become an elite center by making certain adjustments.
Follow along to see what Gasol can do to take his game to the next level.
The most pronounced area of need for Marc Gasol is his road play. Gasol plays far worse on the road than at home. He shot 45 percent from the field on the road, compared to 51.3 percent at home. He also blocked 1.3 shots per road game, compared to 2.4 blocks per home game.
He had 8.5 rebounds per road game, compared to 9.3 rebounds per home game. His free throw percentage was 76.2 percentage at home, as opposed to 73.2 percent on the road. The man in the middle in Memphis committed 3.2 fouls per game on the road, as opposed to 2.9 per game at home.
Notably, he shot much worse against .500 teams on the road. The Spaniard shot 38.5 percent in 19 road games against .500 teams. Meanwhile, he shot 56.6 percent from the field on the road against losing teams.
Gasol has only had protracted shooting issues on the road in the last two years. His field-goal percentages on the road in his first two years were only 2.7 percent worse than his home rates. In 2010-11, he shot 6.3 percent worse from the field on the road than at home (49.7 percent on the road, 56 percent at home).
He also turned it over more on the road than at home (2.1 turnovers per game on the road, 1.5 per game at home).
However, that was the only category that was problematic for the Grizzlies center on the road in 2010-11. He scored more, shot better at the free-throw line, rebounded better and had almost twice as many assists on the road.
If Gasol wants to step up to become one of the elite centers in the league, he'll have to bring his "A" game when he's away from home, not just when he's in the friendly confines of the FedEx Forum.
Another area that would bring Gasol closer to the top is if he could improve is his playoff performance. Generally, Gasol did a fine job in the 2011 playoffs. He averaged 15 points and a superb 11.2 rebounds, along with 2.2 blocks and 1.1 steals per game. He shot a decent 51.1 percent from the field.
However, he shot 40 percent or worse from the field in six of 13 games.
The fourth-year player's numbers dropped significantly in the 2012 playoffs. He averaged 14.6 points and a measly 6.7 rebounds, 1.9 blocks and just 0.3 steals per game. His field-goal percentage for the series was a respectable 52.2 percent.
He had just 6.5 rebounds per 36 minutes. He had just two games with more than seven rebounds.
Meanwhile, he committed a galling 3.6 fouls per game in that seven-game series against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Gasol was a non-factor in the first four games of the series. He had 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting, but had just four rebounds and no blocked shots in Game 1. He put up eight points on 3-of-9 shooting, along with seven rebounds and two blocks in Game 2. He had 11 points and 10 rebounds in Game 3, but committed five fouls.
In Game 4, he had just eight points and five boards.
This poor start to the series prompted Ron Tillery of The Commercial Appeal to write a blog titled "Missing: Marc Gasol. Reward: A Series Win If Found." Tillery remarked, "He's not a factor. He's not scoring. He's not rebounding. He's not defending. He's fouling. ... He's been passive and easily taken out of this series."
Gasol bounced back to post 23 points and seven rebounds in Game 5 and 23 points and nine rebounds in Game 6.
But the 27-year-old's late-series revival wasn't enough to bring the Grizzlies back to win a series in which they had several problems besides him.
In order to help his team fulfill its potential, Gasol will need to dig into his reserve from the start of the postseason and play big consistently throughout the playoffs.
Marc Gasol has had a profuse problem trying to keep himself from committing fouls. Gasol was sixth in personal fouls in 2011-12 (201). He was sixth in 2010-11 (265) and fifth in 2008-09 (265).
Granted, Gasol and Blake Griffin were the only two of the top 10 in the category who averaged 36 minutes per game. Still, Gasol struggled with discipline in this aspect.
Gasol has put himself in foul trouble numerous times. He committed four or five fouls in 26 games last season. To his credit, he didn't foul out. In 2010-11, he committed four or more fouls in 34 games, fouling out twice.
That's four or five fouls in 40 percent of games last season and 42 percent of games in 2010-11.
Gasol needs to do a little bit better keeping his hands to himself. If he does, he could prevent opponents from getting free opportunities against a Grizzlies team that allowed the ninth-most free-throw attempts in the league.
Marc Gasol watched his production fall off down the stretch last season.
Gasol averaged 14.7 points, 10.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game in January and 15.6 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game in February. Then, he averaged 16.4 points, 8.8 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game in March and 11.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game in April.
Indeed, the Spanish Olympian of the London Games played only 31.7 minutes per game in April. Still, he averaged only 13.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per 36 minutes. His scoring per 36 minute rate was just a shade above that of January's (13.53). His rebounds per 36 minutes rate in April was the worst of any month of the season.
Gasol had his worst field-goal shooting split in March (46.4 percent) and second worst in April (47.1 percent).
Every player has periods during the season when his game isn't right. However, the end of the season isn't a good time for a player to falter. For Gasol, playing on a team that's on the brink of being an NBA Finals contender, it's important to go into the playoffs with a strong finish to the regular season.
The Grizzlies need their center to be playing strong going into the playoffs. Gasol will be playing more than 35 minutes every game in the playoffs since Lionel Hollins doesn't put much thought towards giving Hamed Haddadi more than 10 minutes in a game often.
The one thing that separates Marc Gasol from the three best centers in the league (Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum and Al Jefferson) is scoring ability. Like these three, Gasol is a terrific defender and rebounder. He's as good a passer as any center.
However, he isn't quite as good a scorer as these centers are. Each of the top three centers averaged more than 18.5 points per game last season, leading the pack in that category. Among centers who played at least 65 games, Gasol was eighth in scoring average at 14.6 points per game.
Howard and Bynum were both in the top five in field-goal percentage while shooting 57.3 percent and 55.8 percent from the field, respectively.
Jefferson shot 49.2 percent from the field, but he isn't as tied to shooting from the post as Bynum and Howard are.
Gasol, who shot 48.2 percent from the field, doesn't shoot jumpers as much as Jefferson, but the man Tony Allen calls "Big Spain" is generally a versatile offensive player who can bang it in the post and hit mid-range and outside two-pointers.
Thus, Gasol could stand to hit shots at a rate three or four percent higher. He could hit perimeter shots at a slightly higher clip and become more consistent on the inside. Also, he can up his shooting by shooting better on the road and hitting shots towards the end of the season.
Gasol was the Grizzlies' No. 3 scorer in 2010-11 and was their No. 2 scorer in 2011-12. He and Zach Randolph are both at crossroads in their career. Randolph is heading into the backside of his career. Gasol is about to head into his prime.
Randolph may still be at the point in his career when he can command shot opportunities and drop 20 points per game. Gasol can still get up to at least 16 points per game if he simply shoots better.
After the 2012-13 season, Gasol should make strides towards being the leading post scorer. Randolph, who isn't that athletic, won't be able to gain positioning the way he has over the course of his career. Gasol, who is a legitimate athlete, will be able to offer Mike Conley better looks than Randolph will down low.
Thus, Gasol should earn more shot opportunities down the road.
As that happens, the burden is on Gasol to connect on shots and raise his scoring profile.