What factors led to the Wizards trade for Gortat ?
Less than a week before the start of the regular season, the Wizards faced uncertainty with their frontcourt. So they did something about it.
Washington traded injured center Emeka Okafor and a protected 2014 first-round pick to the Suns for center Marcin Gortat and guards Kendall Marshall, Shannon Brown and Malcolm Lee. CSN's Chris Miller confirmed the trade before the official announcement. Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski reported the first-round pick is protected up to the No. 12 selection.
Okafor did not participate in training camp or the preseason because of a herniated cervical disk in his neck. The Wizards had yet to provide a specific timetable for his return. The trade indicates he could be out a while. Washington opens the regular season at Detroit on October 30.
The 31-year-old veteran has one-year remaining on his current contract and figured to be a potential trade chip for Washington at some point this season.
“We have solidified our frontcourt by adding a player who has established himself as a very consistent and productive inside presence over the last three seasons,” Wizards team President Ernie Grunfeld said in a statement released by the team. “Marcin’s ability to rebound, defend and score will allow us to continue where we left off last season and pushes us further toward our goal of becoming a playoff team.”
The Wizards had the maximum 15 players on their roster before the deal and all with guaranteed contracts. The trade with Phoenix puts Washington in position for additional transactions before the start of the regular season. CSN's J. Michael reports the Wizards are expected to place Marshall, Brown and Lee on waivers.
The 6-foot-11, 240-pound Gortat averaged 11.1 points and 8.5 rebounds in 61 games last season for the Suns. He missed the final 21 games with a sprained right foot.
Both Okafor and the 29-year-old Gortat are entering the final year of their contracts. Okafor is due to make 14.5 million this season compared to Gortat's $7.7. The other players acquired from the Suns helped balance out the trade in terms of salary.
Washington initially acquired Okafor and forward Trevor Ariza from New Orleans for Rashard Lewis shortly before the 2013 NBA Draft. In his lone season with the Wizards, the 6-foot-10 center led the team in rebounds (8.8) and blocks (1.0) while averaging 9.7 points in 79 games. With Okafor and Ariza in the mix, the Wizards finished last season as a top 10 ranked defense.
In 357 games over six seasons, the rugged Gortat averaged 8.6 points and 6.9 rebounds while shooting .547 from the field.
Unlike Okafor, Gortat's game centers more on offensive production than defensive prowess though the Wizards' newest big man averaged 1.6 blocks last season. The six-year veteran brings a strong pick-and-roll game, provides point guard John Wall with another scoring option and lets Nene return to his preferred power forward position.
The Suns are among the NBA teams cutting salary with an eye toward the star-studded 2014 Draft. Brown and Lee also have one-year remaining on their current deals. Based on his rookie contract, Washington has options on Marshall for 2014-15 ($2.1 million) and 2015-16 ($2.98 million).
"There was a lot of interest in [Gortat]," Suns GM Ryan McDonough said during a radio interview following the trade. "The deal came together fairly quickly. Washington expressed a lot of interest, especially when Emeka got injured a month or so ago. The deal just got finalized this morning."
By not taking on hefty and long-term contracts in exchange for Okafor, the Wizards project to have ample cap space for the 2014-15 season. The trade leaves Nene ($13 million) as the highest paid Wizard in 2013-14.
Marshall, 22, was the No. 13 overall pick in the 2012 draft. The former Bishop O'Connell and University of North Carolina point guard struggled as a rookie with the Suns, averaging 3.0 and 3.1 assists. The Wizards added veteran Eric Maynor during the offseason to serve as Wall's backup. Fellow reserve Garrett Temple played extensive minutes at point guard last season.
The 27-year-old Brown played key minutes at wing guard for the Lakers from 2009-2011 before spending the last two seasons in Phoenix. The seven-year veteran averaged 10.5 points in 59 games last season.
Lee played 32 games with Minnesota over the last two seasons. The 6-foot-5 swingman is recovering from knee and hip surgeries back in January.
Wizards coach Randy Wittman now has just a handful of days to see what he has before the season opener. We'll see if Marshall, Brown or Lee ever play for the Wizards. Don't count on it. Gortat on the other hand is the latest addition for a team looking to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2008.