Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Underrated to Overrated: Marc Gasol and Paul George

Before I say anything, let me make it clear that I'm a huge fan of both guys. They are both smart, talented players who bring the two-way abilities that separate good players from stars. However, these guys, due to their postseason performances, have gone from being underrated to overrated.

Marc Gasol won the Defensive Player of the Year, and while this is a fine choice, he is not the consensus best defensive player. Tim Duncan still got First Team All-NBA and Tyson Chandler and Joakim Noah both got more votes at the center position for All-Defensive First Team. These awards should be taken with a huge grain of salt, but suffice to say, Gasol was underrated this season. He's a big guy who can shoot, pass, rebound, and play defense both one-on-one and in the pick and roll. He's young, he's got a high basketball IQ, and he is likely one of the twenty best players in the NBA. He was underrated because of his brother, playing in Memphis, and bringing skills that don't make the proverbial box score (they don't actually print box scores anymore right?)

However, he is not the best center in the league. All of us who were quick to anoint him, as Duncan aged another year and Bynum and Howard were injured, were wrong. Marc Gasol is a fabulous player, but he quickly went from underrated to overrated. Against the Spurs, a team not afraid to go at him on defense, or content forcing him to score 20 points a game, he did not look anything like the best player at his position. Gasol seemed tentative. He was reluctant to drive even when Splitter was guarding him instead of Duncan, and was part of the reason why the Grizzlies got swept. The Duncan Spurs have made plenty of other great players look horrible, including Z-Bo and Mike Conley this series, but this series should teach us a lesson about giving someone a status before they are quite there.

Tim Duncan proved that he is a better center than Gasol and that's okay. Tim Duncan is one of the best players to ever play the game. Gasol needs to improve his scoring and probably get into better shape. Gasol scored 14 points on 39% shooting against the Spurs. He probably will be the best center at some point in the future, but until then, let's just go back to rating him properly.

Paul George is in the same boat. He plays in Indiana and he plays for a defensive-minded team. A casual fan probably had no idea who he was until game one against the Heat. George is another great player--someone capable of scoring in the high teens for himself while guarding the opponent's best wing player. He's a huge part of the Pacers' success this season and stepped up after Danny Granger basically missed the entire season. George was underrated going into this season and has announced that he's actually good by dunking on Birdman's head and sinking three I-have-Cassellian-balls free throws.

However, there are still holes in his game. He earned the Most Improved Player despite his per-36-minute stats going down in just about every category. George has the athleticism and defensive ability to be a top-15 player in this league, but this postseason, he is shooting 41% with nearly 4 turnovers a game. The Pacers' offense has not been good this year or this postseason, and he deserves some of the blame for that. George also benefits a ton by having arguably the best rim defender behind him in Roy Hibbert. George is not a consistent #1 scorer and is still figuring out how to use his athleticism on offense. This makes sense because he is 23 and only in his third season.

Yet, he's already being talked about as a superstar, in large part because of his awesome Game 1 against the Heat. He's not a superstar, but he probably will be one soon, so until then, again, let's just properly rate this fucking guy.

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