When the list for NBA All-Star starters was released, the first thing I checked was if John Wall made the cut.
He had been leading in the guard position for so long that it seemed like a sure thing and as Washington Wizards fans, we aren’t used to having confidence in anything basketball-related. After a sigh of relief, I assessed the rest of the lineups and noticed how close Marcin Gortat was to making the forward position cut.
Three front-court players start from each conference and unfortunately Gortat was one player away. Gortat has never struck me as an All-Star caliber player, but I’m rapidly rethinking that assessment. I began questioning why shouldn’t Marcin Gortat make the team, at least as a reserve, and eventually I realized I had no legitimate answer.
Let’s start with what reputable NBA sites have as their predictions for All-Star reserves, combined with the already announced starters.
This leads to three Atlanta Hawks making the lineup which is reasonable, at least to me, due to their overwhelming control over the East. Other teams who will have multiple players are the Chicago Bulls, Miami HEAT and Cleveland Cavaliers, all of which have worse records than the Wizards.
These teams, especially the Heat, have been disappointing and underperforming compared to their preseason expectations, yet they will all have more representatives in the All-Star game than a team that is leading them in the standings. The players that give me the most pause are Dwayne Wade and Kyrie Irving.
Wade has already missed 10 games, more than 20 percent of the season, and is shooting his worst percentage from the field since his second season in the league. Furthermore, his team is five games under .500 and 10.5 games back from the Wizards.
Irving, on the other hand, has finally been thrust into the limelight with the increased focus on the Cavs and, besides the last few games, has played average to subpar this entire season. Without LeBron James, his team is 1-8. Is that really All-Star caliber play?
Now, let’s look at the Polish Hammer and his impact on the Wizards.
In his first year with the squad, Marcin Gortat was a major contributor in making the NBA Playoffs and has carried that winning attitude into this season. The team is currently the second seed in the East with a record of 31-15. Alongside John Wall becoming a legitimate MVP contender, a main reason for this squad’s success is their front-court.
Nene and Gortat have become a two-headed monster and an impossible matchup for other Eastern contenders who don’t have the players to stop the Wizards on the boards. Also, Gortat may have a lower usage rate due to the Wizards’ improved ball movement but he is doing more on the touches he does get.
Marcin Gortat is having his best shooting percentage since his first year in Phoenix and has a near double-double for the season with 12 points and eight rebounds. In probably his best game this season, against the Chicago Bulls on January 9, Gortat had 21 and 13 as the Wizards handedly dismantled the Bulls 102-86. When Gortat plays well, the Wizards follow suit.
Gortat may not have previous All-Star experience but that should not stop him from being voted in.
In fact, if Carmelo Anthony had the surgery that he was rumored to have earlier in the season, he would have been forced to forfeit his starting role to Gortat. It’s ludicrous that the second best team in the East would only have one starter, especially in the weaker Eastern Conference.
Marcin Gortat has been a consistent force for the Wizards. When other players miss games, he’s always there and when Gortat is running on all cylinders, the Wizards are damn near unbeatable.
While he won’t be in New York representing the Wizards, Marcin Gortat is an NBA All-Star.