Has Marcin Gortat Earned A Spot On Next Year's Roster?Posted on January 06, 2014 by Dustin Alwood
When the Wizards traded an injured Emeka Okafor and a 2014 first round pick for Marcin Gortat back in October, fans and analysts alike wondered if this was a panic move by the organization. Gortat (12.5 PPG/8.5 RPG/1.5 BPG), however, has produced better than a healthy Okafor (9.7 PPG/8.8 RPG/ 1.0 BPG) did in 2013. Gortat's offensive game is far more advanced than Okafor's and he has been a better rim protector but his defense within the scheme has been significantly worse than Okafor. While giving up a first round pick and some cap space in 2014 was not ideal, the Wizards seem to have acquired a slightly better all-around player than even a healthy Okafor. With no updated news on his recovery from a herniated disk in his back, he may not play at all this season.
So has Gortat done enough for the Wizards to make bringing him back for 2014-2015 a priority?
While he has played well overall and his presence allows Nene to play the four (his and the organization's preferred position), this is a complicated and evolving situation. The Wizards will have about $16.5 million in cap space for next season, without making any more moves. There will also be decisions to be made about Trevor Ariza, Trevor Booker, Kevin Seraphin, Chris Singleton and Jan Vesely and a bench that needs to be improved. The 2014 free agent class is not the strongest; particularly in the post, where the Wizards' greatest needs exist and some of the more intriguing young big men have already signed extensions with their current teams (DeMarcus Cousins, Derrick Favors). There are some intriguing names (Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki), but it would appear to be a long shot for Washington to land any of them in free-agency.
Greg Monroe seems to be the most likely target of the group, but he hasn't proven to be significantly better than Gortat. Monroe still struggles with defensive rotations and his offensive game can be streaky. He is only 23 years old compared to Gortat's 29 and played his college ball at Georgetown. However, he will probably command a max contract next summer and the Wizards would need almost all of their cap space to do that, meaning they would be filling the rest of the roster with mostly minimum salary players. Gortat will probably be looking for a deal in the $10-13 million dollar range, saving Washington some cap space to make a few other moves. If the Wizards make no other moves, I expect them to bring Gortat back and hope his defense can improve after a full year in the system and that Otto Porter and Glen Rice Jr. can develop into reliable bench options.
That said, the best option may be to look to make a move this year before the trade deadline. Ariza has an expiring deal and his trade value has probably never been higher, as he is shooting lights out from behind the arc (43% - easily the highest of his career) and still able to create havoc on the defensive end. After using a 3rd overall pick on Porter, the Wizards have to eventually see if he can swim in the deep waters of an NBA rotation. Washington may be able to package Ariza and some combination of Seraphin, Singleton or Vesely to acquire another post player. If they can find an option that allows them to save some cap space (with or without bringing Gortat back) to upgrade the bench for 2014-2015, that may be the best case scenario.
In a vacuum, Gortat seems to have good chemistry with his teammates and has probably played well enough to merit the organization bringing him back for the 2014-2015 season - but these decisions are not made in a vacuum. The moves the team makes in the upcoming months and this summer may have a huge impact on whether the organization continues on the rise or becomes stagnant as a middle tier team in the league.