Washington Wizards 2007 vs. 2015: Brendan Haywood vs. Marcin Gortat


We’ve all heard of the conversations comparing the old Gilbert Arenas led Washington Wizards teams to the most recent John Wall led squads.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be writing about the 2006-2007 Wizards team (41-41 record) and how they match up against the 2014-2015 Wizards team (46-36 record).

Part one: Comparing Beal and Stevenson

Part two: Comparing Nene and Jamison

Part three: Comparing Butler and Porter

Next up, the centers…

Brendan Haywood, 2007 season averages: 6.6 PTS, 6.2 TRB, 1.1 BLK, .56 FG%, 22.6 minutes

Marcin Gortat, 2015 season averages: 12.2 PTS, 8.7 TRB, 1.3 BLK, .57 FG%, 30 minutes

If you look at the list of big men the Washington Wizards had throughout the past few years, it can get quite sad.

The list of once promising bigs includes JaVale McGee, Andray Blatche and Jan Vesely. We could go further back and list wayyyy more, but you should get the point after reading those three names.

To put it bluntly, Brendan Haywood, Emeka Okafor and Marcin Gortat are probably the only starting caliber centers the team has had in the past decade.

None of those players are franchise talents, but Gortat is undoubtedly the best of the bunch.

Neither Haywood nor Okafor were offensive threats. Instead, they made their money on the opposite end of the floor.

If you look at those numbers listed above, I think it’s pretty clear that Gortat has a significant edge over Haywood. And in this case, the simple numbers are telling the truth.

With Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison, and of course, Gilbert Arenas on the roster, the 2007 Wizards rarely ran any plays for their starting center. Etan Thomas played a key role off the bench as well, as he averaged roughly 6 points and 6 rebounds off the bench.

All of those factors made Haywood a forgotten offensive option.

In that single season, Haywood attempted less than 5 shots per game. To compare, Marcin Gortat shot the ball nearly 10 times per game this past season — nearly doubling the total of Haywood.

Haywood was a slow, defensive-oriented big man, which is the opposite of what Gortat has been since he joined the Wizards a few seasons ago.

I tried to think of a big man that resembles Haywood in today’s NBA and the only player I could think of is Roy Hibbert.

Here are the numbers, per-36 minutes, of Haywood during the ’07 season and Hibbert’s All-Star season in 2014:

1Brendan Haywood2006-072777491740.558.5484.
2Roy Hibbert2013-142781812409.439.7703.

Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table

Neither player would be great in today’s league, hence why the Indiana Pacers gave up their former All-Star big man to the Los Angeles Lakers for essentially free.

That, however, doesn’t apply to Marcin Gortat, who’s adapted well to the game.

He’s not the bruising, rim protector that Haywood and Hibbert are, but the Wizards have maintained a top-5 defense since Gortat took over for Okafor a few seasons ago. Along with Nene, Gortat has done a great job of anchoring the Wizards’ defense.

His impact on the offensive end of the floor separates him from players like Haywood and Hibbert, though.

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Gortat is a top pick-and-roll big man in the NBA.

With John Wall running the club, Gortat is a constant threat.

Even when he’s not getting the ball, Gortat is always putting pressure on the defense by making himself available for those passes off screens.

Last year in the playoffs, the Wizards had a tough time finding Gortat in the lanes while diving towards the basket against the Chicago Bulls, but he still put a ton of pressure on Joakim Noah.

That opened up the perimeter for Bradley Beal and Trevor Ariza, which ultimately made the difference in the series.

Gortat gives the perimeter players space to operate. Haywood was never a reliable offensive weapon and never possessed a single move that made him a threat on that end of the floor.

Gortat isn’t someone who’s going to ‘wow’ the opposition with his back to the basket, but his timing on pick-and-rolls isn’t as commended enough.

Despite getting a ton of hate online, especially on Twitter, Gortat is a lot better at catching the ball in traffic than we give him credit for.

As great of a passer as John Wall is, Gortat is still put in tough positions while coming off those screens. He always has the awareness to catch the ball and go straight up with it, even if it doesn’t result in as many dunks as we hope.

Next year, Gortat should become an even greater offensive option.

Washington will continue to play small-ball after having success with it in the playoffs, which should give Wall and Gortat more space to work with inside. Nene often clogged the paint for the Polish Hammer, which makes him ineffective for much of the game.

As weird as this may sound, Gortat is one of the best big men in Washington Wizards history. Haywood was a capable starter for a few seasons in D.C., but his best days are obviously behind him.

This matchup clearly goes to the 2015 Washington Wizards.

Let’s appreciate The Polish Hammer while we still have him. The next time he botches a pass in traffic, just think of JaVale McGee. Things could be a lot worse.

Next: Comparing Otto and Butler: 2007 vs. 2015

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