What factors led to the Wizards trade for Gortat ?
The deal that sends Marcin Gortat from the Phoenix Suns to the Wizards for Emeka Okafor doesn't just make sense.
It makes cents, financially speaking, for both parties.
Players such as Okafor, who is in the final year of a contract that will play him $14.5 million, are valuable assets for a team such as the Wizards. They're dead set on making the playoffs for the first time since 2008. What many would regard as a mid-level talent -- and in Okafor's case, an injured one, too, because of a herniated disk -- becomes a blue-chip stock because he then can be used to secure a better player.
That's Gortat, a big, physical 6-11 center who the Wizards can run offense through (unlike Okafor), can run the floor well to keep up with coach Randy Wittman's preferred up-tempo style and get on the receiving end of John Wall's passes.
If Gortat doesn't work out? Not a problem. It's a calculated gamble that's a win-win for president Ernie Grunfeld. The Wizards will start the season with more depth in the low post, where they have been weakest personnel-wise all preseason, and with a healthy body in Gortat. They'll still get more out of the center position now than if they'd continued to wait on Okafor, who is out indefinitely. CSN Washington has confirmed that it's unlikely that Okafor will be on the court anytime soon, which will mean early 2014 at best.
Gortat's $7.7 million comes off the books after the 2013-14 season. If he plays well and finds success here, the Wizards will be in good position to re-sign him. If he bolts, the Wizards keep their salary cap flexibility next off-season to lure more free agents. In fact, they'll have about $16 million available to lure another max player.
The benefit for Phoenix? They're able to get rid of Gortat's salary, have one of the worst teams in the NBA -- though the Suns will deny this -- so they can get more lottery balls in the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes for the 2014 draft. It's tanking by the front office which no longer has to root for their players, whose professional pride will result in them trying their hardest to win every game, to bomb.
As for Kendall Marshall, Shannon Brown and Malcolm Lee, also acquired by the Wizards in the deal, they're just throw-ins. In the NBA, when executing trades the salaries must be a close match which is why these players were included. Combined with Gortat's salary, it all adds up to about $14.1 million.
All three will be put on waivers by the Wizards, a person with knowledge of the situation told CSN Washington late Friday, so their roster can be trimmed back to the 15 maximum players by opening night Oct. 30. They'll be on waivers for 48 hours where teams can claim them but must pick up their existing contracts.
Since they're all affordable and have some value, particularly Brown who won a pair of NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers, this is likely to happen. Otherwise, the Wizards would be on the hook to pay for the guaranteed portions. And that would be OK, too. They still won't be over the salary cap and they're just paying them to go away and they become free agents.
And the protected draft pick? How long does it take for a player chosen below No. 12 to pan out? The Wizards made it clear this past off-season, when they traded away one of their draft picks to acquire Glen Rice, that they have enough youth on the roster. Including that to make the deal work was reasonable and consistent.
Gortat can't practice with his new team until he passes the physical. His first one is expected to be Monday.