The Wizards are currently hovering around .500. Throughout the season, there have been plenty of uncertainties surrounding this team’s defense, leadership, and who will be coaching the team next year. The one certainty? Marcin Gortat’s rock solid play at both ends of the floor.
Gortat is having arguably one of the best seasons of his career averaging 13.7 points and 10 rebounds per night. Gortat has 32 double-doubles this season making him and John Wall the only pair of teammates in the NBA with 30+ double-doubles apiece. As the Wizards make their final playoff push, let’s not take for granted the season Gortat is having.
When the Wizards started playing small, it was expected that would free things up in the lane for Gortat and boy has it.Gortat leads the NBA with 7.9 touches in the paint per game and scores 7.6 points out of the post per game, the second-best mark in the NBA behind Dwight Howard.
Now I know what you’re thinking… “Gortat isn’t better, he’s just benefiting from the change in system.”
Yes, Gortat is taking advantage of this space as he’s shooting 55 percent from the floor this year which is the second best shooting percentage of his career he’s had as a starter. But what’s equally impressive is that Gortat has been able to keep his shooting numbers up even though he has faced more attention from opposing defenses this season.
Thanks to all the injuries the Wizards have suffered, he has been the second or third best scoring option on the floor most of the time, which makes it easier for defenses to sag off poor shooters and clog the paint. Despite this, he still rarely makes the wrong play and has the second highest PER on the team outside of Wall.
Also, On a team hit hard by the injury bug, Gortat has no problems playing with nicks and bruises as he’s played in 56 of the Wizards’ 62 games (3 missed due to injury, 3 due to personal issues). His presence has been critical for a team that has struggled keeping backup centers healthy this season.
On top of all that, Gortat carries a heavy burden defensively. Just like the Wizards, most of their opponents are also playing small ball so Gortat is often left on an island guarding the other team’s big man one-on-one. The Wizards are the worst rebounding team in the NBA so it is up to Gortat to get the majority of the defensive rebounds for this team. The Wizards’ defensive rebounding percentage stands at 77.4 percent when Gortat is on the floor but dips to 75.8 percent when he’s off the floor as he’s really the only big man on this roster equipped to play this style. This is critical because the Wizards need people who can snag rebounds to trigger fast breaks for John Wall.
The numbers on the offensive glass will hurt your eyes even more. The Wizards are the second-worst offensive rebounding team in the NBA and corral just 22.4 percent of their missed shots when Gortat is on the floor. This number drops to 17.4 percent when he is off the floor. The Wizards aren’t getting too many offensive rebounds unless Gortat is on the floor to bat it out or gather the loose ball himself. If he’s unable to get the offensive rebound, he has to hustle back to play one-on-one defense with little or no help.
Thankfully, Gortat is one of the best big men in the game at running the floor. Let’s look back at an example from last Friday’s game against the Cavaliers. Gortat got switched onto LeBron, played great one-on-one defense, then sprinted down court to get into position on the low block:
Gortat was the second Wizards player to cross half court and get into his position. This is one of the little things that can go unnoticed but helps the Wizards on both ends of the floor.
Lastly, his leadership cannot be understated. He’s unafraid to call players out who may be exaggerating injuries, has no problem speaking his mind when things aren’t going well, and brings toughness that sometimes this team lacks.
It’s easy to overlook Gortat’s contributions because they’re not all that flashy. But the fact of the matter is that the Wizards would be in no position to make a late-season playoff push without the stellar, consistent play of Marcin Gortat this season.