Setting screens is a nuance of basketball that's taken for granted. But if a team doesn't have bigs who can free shooters, by disrupting coverages by opposing defenses, it won't have very good shooters. Marcin Gortat has long be lauded for his screening.
For several seasons, the Oklahoma City justified having Kendrick Perkins, who was a liability defensively against small-ball lineups as shown in the 2012 NBA Finals vs. the Miami Heat, as its starting center under current Wizards coach Scott Brooks.
Gortat, however, is different. He's more offensively capable than Perkins, more athletic and has 14 double-doubles just 25 games into the season following his 12 points, 14 rebounds and four assists in Friday's 122-108 win over the Detroit Pistons. The John Wall-Bradley Beal backcourt combined for 50 points on 18-for-30 shooting and 15 assists.
Snapshots of the evidence:
"Marcin did a great job. The thing about Marcin and I see it, every team needs good screeners and he's turning into our best screener and I think he's one of the best in the league," Brooks said. "He doesn't get credit but he gets Brad and John a lot of open looks. If it wasn't for his screens we would struggle.”
Wall was complimentary, too. There have been challenges with his big man when it comes to support on pick-and-roll coverages, but the Wizards' half-court is efficient in large part because of Gortat's role.
"Our bigs did a heck of a job screening for us," Wall said.
Indeed, they did. Jason Smith and Markieff Morris had a hand in what happened, too.
There's a back-and-forth banter between the team's oldest player at 32 and his two guards in their mid-20s. Sometimes it gets tense when things aren't going well and that's usually regarding communication on the defensive end. Sometimes Gortat fades on shots rather than going strong to the rim. Sometimes he's reluctant to help because he's overly concerned with his man getting lobs. Gortat wants his backcourt to commit more to stopping dribble penetration to help him out.
The key, however, is having a respect for each other and how each part helps the whole in an 82-game season that's bound to have its ups and down. And the trio seems to be keeping that balance between them better under Brooks' guidance.
"He's realizing how important he is and he's realizing how many more shots he can get when he screens," said Beal with a laugh. "When he does that, it frees us up as guards and it gives us more space and a better opportunity for everybody else. He does a tremendous job at it. We're tough on him sometimes, but he's a key piece to our team. We know he sets some of the best screens on the team and it gets guys open all the time. We definitely need to give him more credit than we give him. He does an excellent job. We just need him to be a workhorse and be as dominant as he is."