Washington Wizards 2017 Season Review: Marcin Gortat

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 30: Marcin Gortat #13 of the Washington Wizards talks with John Wall #2 during the third quarter of Game One of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden on April 30, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 30: Marcin Gortat #13 of the Washington Wizards talks with John Wall #2 during the third quarter of Game One of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden on April 30, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat was one of the teams most debated players during the 2016-17 season. He played in all 95 games, and averaged a double-double, but his fit in the modern NBA came into question in the playoffs. The arrival of  backup center Ian Mahinmi also added complications for the 33-year old big man. The 2017 season review for our eldest statesman, Marcin Gortat.

Regular Season Stats: 82 Games, 10.8 PPG (57.9 FG%), 10.4 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.7 BPG, 31.2 MPG

Playoff Stats: 13 Games, 8.1 PPG (50.5 FG%), 11.0 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.5 BPG, 31.5 MPG

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be posting individual player reviews for the guys that ended the season in a Washington Wizards uniform. So far we’ve reviewed:

Kelly Oubre, Jr.

Jason Smith

Tomas Satoransky

Trey Burke

Brandon Jennings

Bojan Bogdanovic

Ian Mahinmi

Markieff Morris

Bradley Beal

It’s hard to believe Marcin Gortat just finished his 4th season in Washington. On one hand, it feels like he’s been here forever, while on the other hand, it seems he just came from Phoenix before the 2013-14 season.

Since coming over, he’s been a seemingly perfect fit for John Wall. He and Wall have been one of the most effective pick and roll duos in the league.

Additionally, the Wizards have a long history of injury issues to their starters, but Gortat has been as close to an ironman as the team has seen in my lifetime. In his four years in Washington he played in 320 regular season games, averaging 80 a season.

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Meanwhile, last season Gortat played in every game (all 95!) and averaged a double-double during the 2016-17 season. So everything’s going swimmingly for the Polish center right?

Not exactly. Let me tell you a story.

It’s July 2016. The birds are chirping, and people are enjoying the July 4th weekend. NBA players, agents, coaches, and fans are waiting for Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant to make his decision on where he’ll be taking his talents.

Before that domino falls, Washington Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld signs a starting caliber center named Ian Mahinmi to a 4-year/$64 million contract. Gortat, like the rest of the Wizards fanbase is confused, but gets the message loud and clear. The team is preparing for the end of the era with him as the starting center.

Now we know the Ian Mahinmi signing didn’t go well. He got hurt, played, got hurt again, and finished the season playing 31 games. While we thought Gortat could be traded before February’s deadline, there was no way the team could make that move with no backup center to take his place.

So suddenly Gortat was tasked with being the defensive anchor in the middle, and continue to be an offensive threat.

In November and December, Gortat averaged 35 minutes per game and 36.5 minutes in those months, respectively. The heavy workload was necessary, and he provided solid production.

The problem for the team, was that the Wizards played better with a small ball lineup. A lineup of Wall-Bradley BealKelly OubreOtto PorterMarkieff Morris, gave Washington a lineup with more shooting and defensive versatility.

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Gortat is not a rim protector, so having Morris at the center position didn’t hurt the Wizards defensively. Additionally, the frontcourt had the ability to switch with its length and above average speed.

Washington famously started the season 2-8, before improving by leaps and bounds after the new year.

Although Mahinmi was still out with an injury, Gortat’s minutes decreased, and Morris’ play increased at the same time. January and February were Markieff’s best months of play.

Late in February, Mahinmi finally returned from his 50 game absence. And that’s when it all went sour. After the All-Star break, Gortat’s play really fell apart, he spent fourth quarters on the bench, and the pick-and-roll chemistry with Wall began deteriorating. He averaged only 25 minutes per game after the break.

Coach Scott Brooks couldn’t trust Gortat late in games. Mahinmi was more agile, a better rim protector, and could move laterally. He couldn’t shoot like Gortat, but defense was such an issue for Washington during the season, that they needed to make a change.

If Mahinmi hadn’t gotten hurt in the second to last game of the regular season, we may have seen an even less effective Gortat in the playoffs.

In the first round against Atlanta, he did a solid job keeping Dwight Howard in check. Gortat and Howard have plenty of experience battling each other from their days together in Orlando. Gortat ultimately got the best of him in the series despite only averaging 6.5 points per game. Howard was pretty ineffective overall, and sat in the fourth quarter during a few games.

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In the second round against Boston, is where things changed. Gortat was utterly outmatched against Al Horford. Wizards fans knew the matchup would be tough, but couldn’t expect Gortat’s inability.

In that second round series, Gortat averaged 9.4 points per game and 11.3 points. But those averages don’t tell the full story. He was actually chasing Horford and Kelly Olynyk around. Gortat was used to playing strictly post defense the series before, but against Boston, both centers could stretch the floor.

When he ran out to contest the three-pointers, he was driven by. If he didn’t run out fast enough, the Celtics got plenty of open three pointers.

As with the regular season, his effectiveness declined just as Ian Mahimni returned from injury. One had to think that some of Gortat’s troubles were mental. The leash with Mahinmi healthy was much shorter. It’s never a good situation when players are spending time looking over their shoulders.

After the 7 game series, Gortat questioned whether he was part of the team’s future.

I still think Marcin can play at a starter level, but Washington can only go so far with the current lineup. Every other starter still has the best years of his career ahead. It may be time for Washington to upgrade, but the fact that the team has $28 million invested in Gortat and Mahinmi leaves the team strapped for cash.

Despite his age, Gortat is still one of the team’s best trade assets (sad!). He won’t fetch a superstar or high draft pick, but the team could certainly decrease salary and use Gortat to add some bench help.

Having those two players, at their price, simply isn’t sustainable. They can’t play at the same time, and there’s only 48 minutes of game play available. Add in the fact that Morris should play close to 10 minutes a game at center, and you see the problem.

If I had to bet, I’d wager on Gortat being moved during the season, but the team still has to see Mahinmi stay on the court. It’s hard to trade Gortat without knowing if his replacement can be the ironman he was.

If the team wanted to trade Mahinmi instead, it will be hard to get rid of a $16 million 30-year old center who has a history of injuries. The team would likely have to pair him with a first round pick to make a trade enticing. The Wizards have a long history of trading 1st round picks to correct mistakes. That would just be too perfect.

Gortat gave his all for the Wizards. Seeing him show up every day and play through minor injuries was great for a young team looking to move up in the conference. Without Gortat’s regular season production, the Wizards don’t finish with 49 wins, and may have not been able to even reach the second round.

Grade: C+

Next: John Wall, Best Recruiter in the NBA

Still, with two years left on his contract, and his abilities decreasing, Gortat can likely see the end of his tenure in the nation’s capital.