If there was one thing most of the internet agreed upon when this NBA hiatus first started, it was the curiosity of which players would come back fat as hell after doing nothing for a prolonged period of time. With no access to the training facilities and the season up in the air, I don't think it was a stretch to say that some players would blow up.
Well, it appears that the opposite is happening.
Think of the players who you thought would come back fat. Guys like James Harden, Nikola Jokic, Marc Gasol were definitely three names that would be high lottery picks in the Get Fat Draft. The joke apparantley is on us because all three are looking like completely different people
When I first saw that Gasol picture I had to do a double take and make sure this wasn't just a photoshop or something. I mean Gasol has been in the NBA since 2008 and I don't think he's EVER looked like this. To drop that kind of weight at 35 is impressive as hell, but it does now bring up the same question some might have for Jokic. Is Gasol *too* skinny? You look at some of the bigs he may have to run through in the East and who knows if a skinny Gasol is going to be able to hang. Remember what a monster he was defensively last season during their title run? It was his work on the defensive end combined with Kawhi that basically solved their Giannis problem. We also can't forget what he did to Embiid during their series either
GM1: held Embiid to 0-6 shooting on 17 possessions
GM2: held Embiid to 2-5 shooting on 17 possessions
GM3: held Embiid to 4-10 shooting on 19 possessions
GM4: held Embiid to 0-3 shooting on 30 possessions
GM5: held Embiid to 2-6 shooting on 28 possessions
GM6: held Embiid to 4-7 shooting on 28 possessions
GM7: held Embiid to 3-10 shooting on 41 possessions
That was while being a little chunky. The classic player who is in game shape but not the best looking real life shape. But now that he's skinny, will he be able to take the type of abuse someone like a healthy Embiid can give? The positive spin to this is that now that Gasol is in the best shape of his life, maybe his minutes can jump from the 27.5 he played during the regular season to the 30+ he played in the playoffs last year. With no Kawhi the Raptors are going to need all the secondary scoring/defense they can get around Siakam/Lowry, so maybe what Gasol might lose in beef he gains playing time. With a shorter and condensed schedule once games come back, having a key rotation player like Gasol be in shape is a big deal. I think this could also potentially help his playoff shooting from deep if he shows that he can play more and not lose his legs, and as we know the pick and pop is a valuable weapon to that TOR offense.
This is the type of stuff that intrigues me so much about the Orlando return. People talk like there should be an asterisk and all this shit, and I couldn't disagree more. We're going to see all these teams not only compete at 100% health, but key players are coming back in a type of shape that would not exist had the season continued on like nothing happened. If anything, whoever wins the title this year will have had a much tougher run compared to previous seasons in my opinion. Not just because of the bubble and the no fans and all that shit, but because teams are going to look entirely different.
The Raptors owned the #2 ranked defense before the break, Gasol put up a 104 Drtg and a better defensive win share than what we saw last season. If he can find a way to not lose much on the defensive end and bump up his minutes in the playoffs, that's a big deal when it comes to the Raptors quest to defend their championship.