Despite playing in the Western Conference with Andrew Bynum of the Los Angeles Lakers, it is Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol that deserves to start the 2012 NBA All-Star Game. Some Lakers fans may disagree with that statement, especially because Bynum is averaging 16.3 points and 12.2 rebounds per game this year. Those are pretty good statistics that are likely to attract the attention of those putting players on the team, but they don't tell the whole story.
Over in Memphis, Gasol is averaging 15.1 points and 10.4 rebounds per game for a Grizzlies team without a true power forward. The loss of Zach Randolph has really hit that team hard and forced everyone else to cover the missing piece of the puzzle. Before the injury to Randolph, it seemed like the Grizzlies could become a surprise team in the Western Conference and possibly contend with the Oklahoma City Thunder for a title. The team has been de-railed though, but it's not the fault of Gasol.
When it comes to offense, Gasol and Bynum bring different skill sets to the table, with Bynum preferring power and Gasol preferring finesse. The two put up very comparable statistics on that end of the court, with Bynum crashing the offensive glass a bit better. On defense though, Bynum can become a liability at times, whereas Gasol is always someone the Grizzlies can count on. This is why Gasol averages 1.1 steals and 2.3 blocks per game, both statistics that measure out better than what Bynum gives the Lakers.
Gasol is shooting 51.9 percent from the field, 73.4 percent from the free throw line and putting up 37.9 minutes per night for the Grizzlies. He is averaging more minutes than any big man in the game right now, including Mr. Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic. It all translates to a great player that simply doesn't get the recognition he deserves playing in Memphis.
It likely has zero chance of happening, especially because the fans get to vote on the most popular players to start the All-Star Game, but it is Marc Gasol that truly deserves to become the starting center in the Western Conference now that Yao Ming of the Houston Rockets isn't stealing that slot from other worthy players.
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*Ryan Christopher DeVault is a hard-core NBA fan that looks forward to an exciting 2011-12 season now that the lockout has come to an end. Ryan is also a Featured Contributor for the Yahoo! Contributor Network.