As soon as Emeka Okafor became sidelined indefinitely due to a herniated disc in his neck, it became pretty clear that Washington’s brass needed to make a move for an available big to help fill the void. The Wizards struggled mightily in preseason against opposing front courts, and Ernie Grunfeld had obviously seen enough of Kevin Seraphin, Jan Vesely, and Trevor Booker, which led to the inevitable deal that went down last night with the Phoenix Suns. The “slide Nene to the center position” officially ended after the Wizards acquired a The Polish Hammer, Marcin Gortat, for Emeka Okafor and a protected first round pick.
Even though there is a split between the fan-base, it’s pretty clear that Nene felt that a move was necessary for Washington to remain a playoff contender in the Eastern Conference:
“Now we have a true center. Look at my face. I can answer the question easy,” “He’s going to help us a lot. He’s a veteran. He has a (very high) IQ. He knows how to play. We feel sad for Emeka. He was a great teammate. But we need the position (filled). They did an amazing job,” They surprised me.”
Nene, who started at center in Okafor’s absence, made it known that he wasn’t necessarily pleased about having to play an unnatural position. Okafor was Washington’s defensive anchor and by far the best rebounding big on the team, and although Gortat isn’t necessarily a tenacious defender, his ability to score the ball in the post and rebound should definitely alleviate some pressure off Nene. According to HoopData, Marcin Gortat had a total rebounding percentage of 15.6 this past season in Phoenix, which is just slightly lower than Okafor, who’s TR% was 18.7 in Washington.
Gortat is also pretty excited to play with Nene:
Gortat will not only help the Wizards in the rebounding department, but he’ll certainly become another scoring option in the post. Unlike Okafor, who had a tendency to hinder Washington’s offense at times, Gortat has the size and skill to bolster Washington’s offense on the low block. He was one of the best pick-and-roll big men in the league with Steve Nash in Phoenix, so that could potentially add another dimension to Washington’s offense once John Wall gains chemistry with the Polish big. Nene, in my opinion, is one of the most fundamentally sound big men in the league, so pairing him up with another dynamic center should certainly help Washington’s offense.
Marcin Gortat is supposed to start practicing with the Wizards on Monday, and judging from Nene’s reaction to the trade, I’m sure the rest of the team can’t wait to add him to the lineup.