Prior to the trade deadline last season, I wrote a post suggesting it may be time to trade Marcin Gortat. The premise behind that thought was about the art of being proactive in shaping your franchise, rather than reacting to situations the franchise finds itself it.
If you are interested in those arguments, please visit that post HERE.
Since that time, much has happened in way of reshaping our future. Then, it was unknown which "unheralded point guard we traded away early in his career only to bring him back into the fold as our future leader" we would be going forward with. Now that we have settled that dilemma, and because we have added other pieces as well, we now have time to ponder where we go from here.
Currently as this team is assembled, we have an interesting hodgepodge of players. Some have suggested it is the strangest collection in the NBA [and I am not sure whether they mean that as a compliment or not]. Certainly, save for the eternally optimistic and perpetually oblivious few, there are hardly a soul to find that believes this team is constructed for a championship. At best, from what I have gauged, this team is believed to be a 5th or 6th seed in the playoffs [and would be summarily dispatched against certain teams]. At worst, this team is considered a fringe playoff hopeful. Over the long term, most feel we are positioned well to assemble more pieces through the draft and through acquiring talented, yet overpaid players by absorbing their contracts.
That being said, it seems reasonable to think that, while the Suns FO may stand pat for this upcoming season [barring something interesting coming to the table], they most certainly are not done dealing to solidify the future sooner rather than later.
Thus, it behooves me to address Marcin Gortat yet again, as I believe he is our most valuable asset at this time. See why after the jump…
Before I spell out my thoughts on Gortat, let me address who I think he is and what value he brings to the table. When I suggested previously to trade him, there were a few who believed that trading "the best center in suns history" or "a top 3 center in the league" was foolish.
Is Gortat the best center in Suns history?
Well, maybe, but that isn’t saying much. For one, Neal Walk [our consolation prize for Lew Alcindor] was actually an extremely effective player. He improved each of his first four seasons with the Suns and ultimately became a 20/12 guy, before injuries and issues [we traded him shortly thereafter]. Mark West was a beloved player, but certainly was not a premier center in any fashion. Nick Vanos, well… Then there is Alvan Adams. Obviously in today’s NBA, he would be considered a small power forward. Yet one could argue, against the competition named herein, that Gortat has already established something none of them could, he is center size in combination of being alive and not paralyzed [that sounds bad, but it illustrates the ineptitude of our pantheon of centers this franchise has had].
Is Gortat a top 3 center in this league?
Certainly early last season he was playing like it. However he tailed off and eventually settled into being considered a top 10 big man [low post style playing kind of guy]. You could argue that guys like Howard, Love, Bynum, Jefferson, Duncan, Aldridge, Cousins, Pekovic, Hibbert, and Monroe are on that list [they are all ahead of Gortat in PER last season]. I am not sure where Gortat stands on that list, but I don’t believe he is in the top 3.
What Gortat is, is a more than effective big, whose offensive production outstrips his defensive contributions [38th in OFF Rtg. among players who played 20+ games versus 147th in DEF Rtg.]. He is a solid rebounder [29th REB%]. He is a decent finisher [41st in TS%]. And he helped us win games [18th]. At 28 years of age, Gortat is hitting his prime and producing numbers that make anyone stand up and say – "Legit NBA Center".
On the offensive end, Gortat is a good pick and roll player. He has improved his 15-18’ shot enough to knock some down on occasion and force defending bigs to at least consider guarding him. He is no Amare, but hopefully he can improve to the point where he can regularly draw defenders on a closeout and get to the rim with a little more ease.
Gortat has decent hands and seems to be able to catch on the go. He does lack great fluidity and body control, and sometimes that hinders his ability to create off the pass. However, his bulk allows him to bully where finesse is lacking.
In the post, Gortat is a decent player. He has a jump hook and can maneuver to get a post shot up against single coverage. He uses his body well and has some moves to get off a shot, but he lacks the ability to consistently create for himself or others at this point. His vision isn’t stellar and at times will get caught in double teams, delaying the release pass. Ultimately, Gortat can score in the post, but he is not a player that has go-to moves and you are unlikely to try and allow Gortat to work it in the post for a must score opportunity. Gortat is not a go-to scorer.
Defensively, Gortat is again, decent but not stellar. In fact, he is much better offensively than defensively, despite the perception most people have. Gortat makes effort to hedge on pick and rolls, but often finds himself fouling or overcommitting and unable to recover quickly on his man. His best value is his strength and size. As a post defender, Gortat has the strength to battle for position and does his best job when cast in this role. Unfortunately, the league is a pick and roll bonanza and the need for a traditional post bruiser has diminished in favor of mobile shot blockers that can get out on the perimeter and play the pick and roll. That is not to say there aren’t moments or teams where Gortat’s skills are in need [Howard, Bynum, Gasol, Bogut, Jefferson, Duncan, Cousins, Hibbert].
So what you are left with is a very productive big man who is a bit better offensively than defensively, who is pretty darn decently good. However, Gortat’s upside is questionable. Will he continue to increase his productivity, especially in light of losing his point guard to free agency? Will Dragic help, hurt or allow Gortat to maintain his production? What about the mix of other players and how it effects Gortat? Will Beasely’s all-star declaration pull production away from Gortat, or will it draw defenders opening the door for Marcin to increase his potential impact?
But despite the fact I don’t think Gortat is ever going to be a dominant hall-of-fame type player, under the terms of his current contract, Gortat might be the single most valuable big man. Most bigs of Gortat’s production realm command max deals. Roy Hibbert is a perfect example. If you examine Hibbert versus Gortat, Gortat actually produced more than Hibbert, yet Hibbert commanded a max deal from the Pacers, signing a 4 year $58 million deal. If Hibbert is worth that, certainly Gortat is severely underpaid.
So if I like Gortat, and certainly call him one of the most valuable players in the league, why would I suggest trading him?
Here is the problem I see in our future. This season may be a turning point. It is certainly possible that Beasely has put down the pipe and becomes an all-star, that Dragic snatched the pebble from his hand and is now the master, that Keiff becomes the monster we all want him to become, that ShaMin Brown will play like he ended the season and not like the rest of his entire career, that Scola will actually [progress and not regress] shut up and play rather than incessantly complaining to the refs [and cut the stupid hair], and that our bench will be bolstered by Dudz, Telfair, Frye, and Marshall exceeds all expectations and actually becomes our future.
If all of that happens, and Gortat is a big part of that, then we are facing a problem for the entire 2013-14 season [his last under this awesome contract]. Do we pay Gortat on a MAX deal [which would be a 5 year $98M deal]? Certainly if he plays well, we are going to have to pony up.
That is what we are facing. Considering Gortat will have his Bird Rights, and he has no period of restricted free agency, he simply becomes a free agent in 2014. So what to do?