Marcin Gortat: 2013-14 Washington Wizards Player Review
TAI’s 2013-14 Washington Wizards player continue… NOW: Marcin Gortat (by Conor Dirks)
Previously: Otto Porter (by Sean Fagan); Andre Miller (by Rashad Mobley); Drew Gooden (by John Converse Townsend); Kevin Seraphin (by Kyle Weidie); Trevor Ariza (by Conor Dirks); Martell Webster (by Adam Rubin); Al Harrington (by Kyle Weidie); Garrett Temple (by Adam Rubin); Trevor Booker (by Adam Rubin); Glen Rice, Jr. (by John Converse Townsend); Chris Singleton (by Kyle Weidie).
6-11 : Height
240 lbs. : Weight
30 : Age
7 : Years NBA Experience
3 : NBA Teams
Drafted by the Phoenix Suns with the 57th overall pick in 2005.
Traded to Washington along with Shannon Brown, Malcolm Lee, and Kendall Marshall
on October 25, 2013 for Emeka Okafor and a 2014 first-round draft pick;
Brown, Lee, and Marshall were subsequently waived.
Time as a Wizard in 2013-14
81 : Games
2,655 : Minutes
NBA historical PER contribution equivalent:
maybe Swen Nater for the 1979-80 San Diego Clippers (17.2)
maybe Bill Russell for the 1967-68 Boston Celtics (17.0),
0.146 Win Shares/48 Minutes
NBA historical WS/48 contribution equivalent:
maybe Brad Miller with the 2005-06 Sacramento Kings (.150)
With Gortat ON the court vs. off
The Wizards offense scored 4.0 points more per 100 possessions (OffRtg)
The Wizards defense allowed 7.7 points fewer per 100 possessions (DefRtg)
Plus/Minus per 48 minutes: plus-5.3
Numbers, per 36 Minutes
14.5 : Points
10.4 : Rebounds
1.6 : Blocks
0.6 : Steals
1.9 : Assists
1.7 : Turnovers
2.7 : Fouls
Gortat had 1221 offensive possessions with the Wizards that ended with a FGA, TO or FTs, and he scored 0.99 Points Per Possession (PPP) on those, ranked 87th in the NBA (via Synergy Sports Technology). Defensively, he allowed 0.90 PPP over 660 possessions, ranked 251st in the NBA.
54.2% Field Goals (455-840)
100.0% 3-Point Field Goals (1-1)
68.6% Free Throws (157-229)
What did we expect?
Mere days before the 2013-14 season began, TAI’s Sean Fagan was procrastinating on a season preview of injured Wizards center Emeka Okafor, taking one sip of black coffee per five typed words, when news struck that Washington had dealt Okafor and their 2014 first-round pick to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Marcin Gortat. And just like that, Mr. Fagan’s presumably Pulitzer-level efforts were all for naught. Luckily, the Brooklyn coffee shop which was probably called Flume or something had WiFi. Fagan was able to recover quickly and had this to say about Grunfeld’s acquisition of Gortat:
“[T]he Marcin Gortat trade is the last Hail Mary of the Grunfeld regime. If the Wizards make the playoffs, then the baggage that is being attached to the trade (losing a first-round pick, mostly) all magically disappears as the PR department can start happily printing out tickets to a first-round postseason encounter against the Heat or the Bulls.”
How right he was! Fagan went on, comparing Gortat to a paramilitary contractor (how Gortat would have loved the comparison!), before considering his existential value.
“Gortat is a mercenary. He brings with him skills that the franchise was unable to develop in house, so they had to pay a premium for his services.
Gortat means everything.
Gortat means nothing.”
After trying to adjust to playing with John Wall early in the season (especially after benefiting from the pick-and-roll mastery of Suns Hall-of-Famer Steve Nash), Gortat found a groove within the Wizards offense. While he was not, and probably never will be, the rim protector that the Wizards had in Emeka Okafor, Gortat’s effort on defense makes up for some of what he lacks innately. And while Gortat was, early in the year, regarded as the foil to Okafor’s no-offense/all-defense skill set, reality was far more kind. Washington’s Polish center was a legitimate two-way piece in 2013-14, and no Wizards player had a more beneficial impact to the scoring differential last season, even previous plus/minus (young) king John Wall. Gortat’s net on-court/off-court differential was plus-11.9, compared to Wall’s plus-7.4. Okafor came in at a plus-2.9 in 2012-13, albeit warped by Wall’s absence and the team’s incompetence during that absence.
More importantly, Okafor’s net “production” in 2012-13 was plus-0.8 (as in, his production minus that of the centers he defended). In 2013-14, Gortat’s was plus-2.1. A little worse on defense when you get down to brass tacks, but quite a bit better on the offensive end.
Gortat’s jump shot (a combined 96-for-335, or 28.7 %) left a lot to be desired, but he was one of the best finishers around the rim in the NBA this season. This, of course, flies in the face of one of the most prevalent Twitter-cisms about Gortat, which is that he “misses a lot of bunnies.” TAI’s Kyle Weidie dispelled that myth back in February, finding that after Kevin Durant and LeBron James, no one in the NBA was better at the rim than Gortat. And Gortat was great in the clutch, too, shooting 60.7 percent during the last three minutes of games where the Wizards led or trailed by five points or less.
Much of Gortat’s success had to do with Wall’s increasing familiarity with his foreign friend’s game and tendencies. Once Wall discovered that his new center was one of the best setters of hard, legal screens in the NBA, and perfectly willing to set multiple screens on each play, their ability to connect on an eventual pick-and-roll blossomed. Gortat’s signature play with the Wizards has been the diving pick-and-roll with Wall, topped off with a contact-mitigating lean that makes his eventual high-percentage finish almost unblockable.
The newly-minted Wizard almost immediately established himself as one of the most candid, outspoken players in the locker room. Within the first few months of the season, Gortat had predicted 50 wins for his team, called out Nene—the tender curmudgeon—for being “too big” to not play through an injury, declared that the Knicks frontcourt (who shifted their biggest players onto Nene) was a litter of puppies, and advocated for a more “lenient” stance towards fighting in the NBA.
Gortat hinted very early on that he was becoming comfortable in D.C., despite his professed hatred for its potholes. After Washington’s first easy win of the season, an early-December game against the Orlando Magic, Gortat commented on his distinguished guest, the Polish ambassador, who came to greet him in the locker room after the game.
“Yes. I was waiting for that question. We had the Polish ambassador, and I was obviously proud that he showed up for the game. It was the first time, actually, that I was able to play in front of the ambassador here in D.C. He just started his term. The next five years he’s going to be here. I’m looking forward to building a relationship with him, and with the embassy, obviously. And you know, I’m looking forward to a great time. For the first time, he’s my lucky charm. He brought me a win, so now, he has to be here at the games every single time.”
When I asked whether he’d be in D.C. as long as the Polish ambassador, Gortat had this to say:
“What about me? I’m going to be here for the next seven months. I mean, I wish. I mean, you gotta ask the gentlemen on the third or fourth floor up there sitting in the office, I mean, that’s not my decision. I wish to play here, is a fun organization, is a great city. Definitely different than most of the places I’ve played, than Orlando and Phoenix, but it’s fun, it’s fun. I’d like to be here.”
Now, commencing his own five-year term in the District, Marcin Gortat has a chance to build on the campaign that made him the best Wizards center since Moses Malone in 1988. That’s twenty-six years ago. We’ve missed you, legitimate centers. His five-year, $60 million dollar deal turned some national heads, and brought many a catcall down from the rafters. A criticism of the fifth year is justifiable, and depending on how necessary it was to outbid other teams early in the process, may turn out to be a questionable cost.
But on balance, the unfavorable inclusion of a fifth year doesn’t outweigh the benefits of retaining Gortat for the four years preceding it. Wall, Beal, and the Wizards need a formidable presence down low to collect the offensive rebounds generated by so many missed jump shots, and Gortat, at least according to one Sloan Sports Analytics Conference submission, was the NBA’s best at offensive rebound positioning. The Wizards also managed to secure a very good NBA center at the asking rate for any above-average NBA center.
There have already been a few Gortat sightings at the Orlando Summer League, and any focus on his new deal may have been defused by his insistence on wearing a “Don’t Forget Your Balls” T-shirt each and every day this summer. When basketball picks back up for the veterans, Wall and Gortat will still have room to grow together. For this team, the Polish Machine—who played 81 of 82 regular season games last year— may have been the most essential piece in their humble, but successful, playoff run.
The Wizards are looking to get more of the same from Gortat, with an improved pick-and-roll game from John Wall and incremental improvements from Beal, Webster, Porter, and others. With that wishlist fulfilled, the hope is that this team can add wins, both in the regular season and the playoffs.
Before a Game 5 win against the Indiana Pacers in the second round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs, Gortat was in John Wall’s ear, according to both he and Wall. After the game, the pair found themselves taking turns at the vaunted postgame podium in front of a national crowd. The Polish Machine’s line from that game? Thirty-one points (on 13-for-15 shooting), 16 rebounds (7 offensive), and a staggering plus-35 in the plus/minus differential department. He utterly dominated every Pacer that Indiana threw at him, including Defensive Player of the Year candidate Roy Hibbert. The Wizards came away with a 102-79 road victory.
After an 85-63 loss to the Indiana Pacers in Game 3, TAI’s Rashad Mobley had this to say in the recap:
“Marcin Gortat only took two shots on offense, but was consistently out of position on defense while guarding Hibbert—so much so that Randy Wittman barked at him throughout the quarter and benched him in the fourth.”
It was a bad time to have an awful game, and the Wizards only got two shot attempts out of the pick-and-roll from Gortat, who let several passes slide through his fingers as if he had been possessed by the spirit of Jan Vesely.