Marcin Gortat began like a bolt of lightning and was having the best season of his career but by mid-January he was in a funk. He was being benched in fourth quarters when the Wizards faced small lineups, complained out his team’s individual defense which drew the ire of Paul Pierce and admitted that he wasn’t giving 100% every game. Then there were the frequent spats with John Wall over pick-and-roll concepts. It all led to a lot of criticism and Gortat responding by going into a shell and having his overall numbers slip from a year ago. His play skyrocketed after the All-Star break when he averaged a double-double but it ended with a whimper when he had food poisoning as he was a non-factor in the Game 6 elimination to the Atlanta Hawks in the second round.
The stats: 12.2 points, 8.7 rebounds and 56.9% shooting (3rd in NBA).
The accolades: Gortat came within about 70,000 popular votes of being selected as a starter for the All-Star Game.
The improvements: His help defense was a major factor in the Wizards being a top 10 scoring defense for the third year in a row. Gortat has a soft touch and can score away from the basket but when he’s at his best he’s running pick-and-rolls with Wall. Gortat with a full head of steam going to the basket is a tough cover.
The ranking: Centers are a dying breed and the pickings are slim in the East with an aging Al Jefferson and Roy Hibbert’s disappearing act. Gortat can easily ascend to the No. 1 player at his position but it has everything to do with how he syncs with Wall. Jefferson usually gets the better of him head –to-head and his stats across the board are significantly better.
The next step: As efficient was Gortat was with his shooting, he could be much better if he finished stronger (more dunks, less finger rolls). He’s a physical player but relies a lot of soft touches which can backfire. Like a lot of bigs, he can become disengaged if he’s not getting the ball or having so split touches with Nene in the low post. Gortat can impact a game just by playing solid position defense, making Wall and Bradley Beal better just by his help. He has to do it even when he’s not getting the shots or the touches on offense.
2014-15 grade: B-.
2015-16 outlook: If coach Randy Wittman stays true to his word and can find a competent stretch four to play next to Gortat instead of Nene, it’ll open up more pick-and-rolls for him with Wall which will result in more production.