Marcin Gortat, Just How High Is His Ceiling?

There's been a lot of talk in the past few days about how good Marcin Gortat is and how great he might become. Both in the comments on this site and on local radio, he's being touted as the a future All-Star and was called by KTAR's John Gambodoro as the best center the Suns have had in the last 20 years. Even assuming Gambo considers Amare Stoudemire a power forward, that's still a bold claim after just 20 games in a Suns uniform.

First, let me say that I've always appreciated Gortat's game and even in a trade that I didn't like, considered him by far the most valuable piece. I am not "anti-Gortat" either personally -- he's a pretty cool dude who gives great quotes -- and on the floor. I just don't see him being nearly as good as some people might believe. 

Here's the numbers that people are using to make these claims (or maybe unaware of):

  • 10.6 points and 7.8 rebounds through 20 games with the Suns. Shooting 58.6% and a career-high 75.9% from the line.
  • Advanced stats show his rebound rate as a Sun at 16.4 which is 19th among centers with at least 15 minutes per game. 
  • His PER is 16.42 (avg is set at 15) which is 20th among centers with at least 15 minutes per game.
  • Of course, that includes some early games as well as his recent stretch in which he's recorded six double-doubles in his last eight games. He's averaged 15 points and 10.9 rebounds over that stretch while playing about 27 minutes. That's very productive and the Suns are 5-3 over that stretch.
  • Of course, those six double-doubles all came against inferior competition. Cleveland, Washington, Detroit and then a tired and/or depleted Boston, New Orleans and Milwaukee. The two games out of those eight that weren't as productive came against Philadelphia and Charlotte. 
  • Offensively, 75% of his baskets are assisted which ranks ninth among centers with at least 15 minutes per game. He's behind guys like Chris Anderson, Kwame Brown, Anthony Toliver and yes, Channing Frye. This points out how dependent he is on Nash to get him the ball in scoring position.
  • In pick and rolls, which account for over half of his offensive possessions, he's done very well with a FG% of 56.9% (Robin was 68% on pick and rolls last season). Interestingly, he's FAR more effective on high pick and rolls versus right side or left side action.
  • Gortat is just 7-19 in post ups or isolation situations versus 37-65 in pick and rolls. He's also 6-12 as a spot up shooter which is surprisingly very good and shows his discipline in not taking bad shots.
  • Defensively, he ranks in the top 30% in pick and roll defense against ball-handlers and isolation defense. He's average (around 50%) in defending the roll man or post ups. He's very poor (bottom 10%) defending spot-up shooters.

The thing that jumps out at me is how skewed his big games have been against inferior competition. It's GREAT that he's risen to the occasion but calling a guy who got killed by Elton Brand and had very pedestrian games against the Nets, Nuggets and Trail Blazers a future All-Star because he's had six fantastic games is...premature.

The Suns next face the Thunder which should be an interesting test for Marcin against the undersized but highly athletic and energetic Ibaka and the big, lumbering, skilled Krstic.

After that comes two games against the Warriors with Biedrins and Lee and then another game against the Kings. (Remember DeMarcus Cousins dropped 28 points on him a few weeks ago.) Then comes Al Jefferson and the Jazz (twice) and Tyson Chandler and the Mavs before the All-Star break. 

If Gortat can continue having good games (15 and 10) against these teams then maybe I'll start believing in The Hammer as anything more than an average NBA center.

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