Memphis Grizzlies: Remembering Pau Gasol’s phenomenal rookie year

Memphis Grizzlies

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Looking back on Pau Gasol’s phenomenal first season with the Memphis Grizzlies.

In 2001, the Memphis Grizzlies took a big risk. They finished the previous season, their last as the Vancouver Grizzlies, at 23-59, and because of that, had earned a sixth overall pick in that summer’s draft. With the pick, they selected Shane Battier, but their night wasn’t done yet.

Shortly after, Memphis sent away Shareef Abdur-Rahim, one of their top players and a staple of the Vancouver Grizzlies days, to the Hawks for their third overall selection, an international player by the name of Pau Gasol.

Gasol was unproven in American basketball, and he was coming into a league where Shaquille O’Neal was dominating big men throughout the league, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett were establishing themselves as the league’s next top big men, and he was coming into a draft with top big guys like Zach Randolph and Tyson Chandler.

As it turned out, this risk paid off.

Gasol had a phenomenal rookie season, averaging 17.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks, and 0.5 steals per game, all while shooting 51.8 percent from the field, 20.0 percent from 3 point range, and 70.9 percent from the free throw line.

With those stats, Gasol was able to rack up a number of prestigious rankings. He was fourth in field goal percentage (51.8), sixth in total blocks that season (169), eighth in 2 point field goal percentage (51.9), ninth in blocks per game (2.1), 12th in attempted free throws (477) and offensive rebounds (238), 13th in 2 point field goals (550) and total rebounds (730), 14th in rebounds per game (8.9), and 18th in defensive rebounds (492).

All of these numbers lead to Gasol being the recipient of four awards, which included three Rookie of the Month awards and the Rookie of the Year award, as well as being named to the first team All-Rookie team at the end of the year.

Gasol’s rookie season was astounding, but it’s almost inarguable that his best seasons came after being traded from Memphis. Since leaving the Grizzlies, Gasol has been a member of five All-Star games (he made one with Memphis), as well as winning two NBA Finals with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Next: Best Grizzlies Rookies Ranked

As of now, Gasol isn’t a member of any NBA team. After 18 seasons in the league, Gasol’s season ended after being cut by the Portland Trail Blazers last season. At the point of writing this, Gasol hasn’t retired yet, but judging by some recent statements he’s made it’s certainly on his mind. After such a long and storied career, Gasol is almost a certain for the Hall of Fame, and his first season in the league showed everyone the potential he’d later fulfill.