The Washington Wizards are reportedly ramping up their efforts to keep free agent center Marcin Gortat in Washington, with a team led by coach Randy Wittman flying to Poland to meet with Gortat before free agent negotiations begin on July 1. With Gortat drawing interest from teams such as the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks, Washington appears to recognize the realistic possibility of Gortat moving on and seems prepared to do whatever it takes to prevent that from happening.
Gortat is going to get paid, whether it be from Washington or another team. Coming off a strong season in which he averaged 13.2 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks, Gortat proved himself as a quality two-way center, a rare commodity in today’s NBA. That kind of rarity is a key reason why retaining Gortat is essential to the Wizards’ future.
The Wizards will struggle to keep both Gortat and fellow free agent forward Trevor Ariza, who should himself command strong attention on the strength of his play during Washington’s surprising playoff run. However, while Ariza was undoubtedly a key player last season, his skill set is easier to replicate than Gortat’s. Defense, three point shooting and athleticism are easier to find than Gortat’s combo of size ( 6’11”, 240) and skill.
In reality, the Wizards gave what could have been Ariza’s money to Martell Webster last year when they signed him to a four-year, 22 million deal. While Webster will miss time this year with a back injury, he should be able to at least partially replicate Ariza’s output. In addition, the team has last year’s no. 3 overall pick, Otto Porter Jr., waiting in the wings. Their presence and the ability to find shooting and perimeter defense on the free agent market makes Ariza’s potential departure easier to swallow.
Gortat, on the other hand, is much harder to replace, mainly because the eccentric Pole is one of the most unique personalities in the game. Whether it be sharing his political aspirations, infiltrating the opposing team's huddle, or debating pierogies with Shaq, Gortat’s antics instantly endeared him to Wizards fans and made him something of an NBA cult hero.
Gortat belongs on the Wizards, plain and simple. While he may not quite be an All-Star, he is an above-average two-way center whose scoring, rebounding, and pick and roll savvy mesh well with the Wizards, in particular with star point guard John Wall. Gortat has also demonstrated a desire to stay in Washington and loves the idea of playing with a promising young team led by Wall and Bradley Beal. Gortat’s combination of production, fit and limitless entertainment value make him an instrumental part of the Wizards’ future if they hope to build on last season’s success.
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