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Sixers vs. Grizzlies Preview: Learning from Marc Gasol

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The Sixers welcome the Memphis Grizzlies to Philadelphia this evening, and thus open their doors to the best center in the NBA, Marc Gasol. Can Nerlens Noel look to the big Spaniard for guidance?

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Marc Gasol used to hover the line of obesity. He was like the Turtle in big brother Pau's Entourage, a pudgy little guy who you knew he knew where mom always hid the cookie jar in the kitchen.

I had lunch with an Eastern Conference team scout in Boston this week, a scout who played professional ball in Spain. He nearly spit out his green tea cackling when I reminisced about how corpulent Gasol used to be.

Gasol weighed around 300 pounds when he stood about 6'10 his senior year of high school at Lausanne Collegiate School in Memphis. If you don't believe me, here are some extremely attractive photographs.

Today, he stands at 7'1 boasting a chiseled 265-pound frame. He's a bull in the paint, a player many in the NBA consider one of the most physical and difficult to defend one-on-one on the block and the defensive anchor of a 17-4 Grizzlies team that ranks sixth in defensive efficiency in the entire NBA.

The Los Angeles Lakers drafted Gasol with the 48th overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. On Feb. 1, 2008, the Lakers shipped Gasol as an afterthought in the blockbuster deal that delivered Pau to Hollywood and effectively two more championship rings to Kobe Bryant.

Gasol was an impact player from the moment he entered the league based on his sheer size alone. But he put in the work in the gym and the weight room to become the well-rounded, polished inside force he now is in Memphis.

The big Spaniard's size leading to initial success in the league reminds me of Nerlens Noel's athleticism. Based on his length, quickness and jumping ability, Noel will never fail to make an impact on the defensive end of the floor — whether it be blocking shots or getting his speedy hands in passing lanes.

Noel also needs to alter his body, however. Actually, his career depends on his body undergoing the exact opposite change Marc Gasol's experienced. Noel must throw on several more pounds — I'd like to think 15 is a good number — in order to survive in the treacherous paint of the NBA.

Gasol used his natural size and strength as a spring board into NBA stardom. He won Defensive Player of the Year in 2012-13, don't forget. Nerlens Noel has the potential to win that accolade as well. But he too requires the same amount of physical maturation to add on top of his natural gifts.