Is "Skinny" Marc Gasol good for the Raptors?

Aaron Rose

Toronto Raptors center Marc Gasol has undergone a rather dramatic transformation during the NBA's almost three-month hiatus. 

The 6-foot-11 Spaniard came into the season weighing 255 pounds, according to NBA stats, but if recent photos are any indication of his weight now, he's lost more than a few pounds.

"Skinny" Gasol been a topic of conversation not just among Raptors fans, but within the Raptors organization and among players.

"He's chiseled. He's cut up. He looks great," Nurse said, according to TSN's Josh Lewenberg. "I think it's motivating to the other guys. ... If his conditioning improves him as a player that's a super added bonus for us."

Norman Powell said Gasol looks drastically different, almost like a Spanish soccer player.

Whether "skinny" Gasol is actually a good thing for the Raptors remains to be seen. On one hand, Gasol has been one of the best defensive bigs in the NBA for quite some time.

Last year, he spent 78.5% of his time defending bigs, according to Krishna Narsu's versatility statistic, and ranked in the 96th percentile in post defense, according to NBA stats. He allowed just 0.47 points per post touch, the tenth fewest among NBA players.

On a recent Dunc'd On podcast, NBA analyst Nate Duncan mentioned part of Gasol's defensive success comes form his size.

"For an NBA player he's a little more corpulent," Duncan said. "He is just the master of that, of just holding his arms up yet still moving his fat body into guys as they're driving and knocking them off balance and making them miss while he holds his arms above his head."

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Losing that weight could hinder Gasol's ability to defend the paint that same way.

On the other hand, however, Gasol has increasingly moved away from the paint in recent years. While he still spends the majority of his time defending bigs, opposing teams have tried to put Gasol in switch situations, forcing him onto smaller, quicker players. This season he's spent nearly 20% of his defensive possessions defending either point guards or shooting guards, according to Narsu's versatility statistic.

On the offensive end, the story is very much the same. Last season Gasol took 31.4% of his shots from 3-point range, this year that number has skyrocketed to 53.7%, per NBA stats. He's also seen a slight uptick in how often he runs the pick-and-roll this season, going from 20.6% of the time last year, to 26.8% this year, per NBA stats.

If a new thinner, more mobile Gasol can continue to stretch the floor for the Raptors, his weight loss could be a huge boost heading into the playoffs. But if he's lost the defensive post prowess that has made him so special for so long, "skinny" Gasol might want to put those pounds back on.