Marcin Gortat’s tenure with the Washington Wizards will be over after five seasons. A source told Hoop District on Wednesday, the day before the 2018 NBA Draft, that they were “100% sure” that Gortat would be traded. At that time, three teams were at the forefront as possible landing spots: the Phoenix Suns, New Orleans Pelicans, and Los Angeles Clippers, all Western Conference teams. Ben Standig of The Sports Capitol reported the likelihood of Gortat’s departure on Tuesday.
Phoenix holds the No. 1, 16, 31, and 59 overall picks, New Orleans holds the No. 51 overall pick, and Los Angeles holds the No. 12 and 13 overall picks. It is plausible that the Wizards move Gortat in a trade down situation from their current No. 15 overall pick, but that is still up in the air as Washington does not want to forfeit that valuable asset. It is likely that the deal is made during Thursday night’s draft festivities, but if things do not fall right, the Wizards may wait until later in the offseason.
Having already been traded twice before in his career, Gortat was not surprised by this move and has been expecting it for some time, the potential move reached its climax with the developments over the past season. Moreover, given that the team’s core has been unable to get out of the second round, a change was needed, which Gortat understood would likely be him because he is the oldest.
In the 2017-18 season, Gortat averaged just 8.4 points on 51.8 percent shooting and 7.6 rebounds in 25.3 minutes per game. All four of those averages were the lowest he has put up since his Orlando days of backing up, also recently traded (again), Dwight Howard nearly a decade ago. It is not surprising that Gortat’s play took a bit of a tumble given his age, outdated bruising style of play, and reduced playing time, but it was ultimately his falling out with franchise point guard John Wall that did Gortat in.
After a 122-119 victory over the Toronto Raptors on February 1 where Washington had 30 assists on 44 made field goals, Gortat sent out the below tweet that many, including Wall, perceived to be a shot at the team’s point guard who was out recovering from knee surgery. The Wizards were adapting without their best player with ball movement and extra passes, which led to initial success. Gortat maintained that he never meant the tweet as a dig at Wall, but in the court of public perception, he was guilty and a relationship that was once as solid as their pick and roll combination went up in flames.
In a lengthy exit interview with the media, Wall, without naming names, called out Gortat for not knowing his role and not truly wanting to be in Washington. On January 12, Gortat told the Orlando Sentinel that he would enjoy the idea of finishing his career with the Magic, the team that drafted him. Gortat later told Hoop District that he felt like the whole thing was blown out of proportion and that he did want to be with the Wizards. As much as he wanted to control the damage, the first domino in his departure fell and there was little he could do about it.
Gortat was acquired by the Wizards prior to the 2013-14 season from the Phoenix Suns for a 2014 first round draft pick that ended up being Tyler Ennis with the No. 18 overall pick. Notable selections after that pick include Gary Harris, Rodney Hood, Clint Capela, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Kyle Anderson, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Nikola Jokic. It is hard to say and probably unlikely that Washington would have hit on any of those players so the five years of service from Gortat is probably warranted. The center signed a five-year, $60 million contract after his first season in D.C., but will now play out the final $13.6 million year of that deal elsewhere. His somewhat reasonable expiring contract made him the only substantial piece that could be moved as no one will touch Ian Mahinmi’s remaining two-year, $31.5 million.
Affectionately known as The Polish Machine for his durability, Gortat played in 402 of a possible 410 regular season games and all 40 of the Wizards’ playoff games in four of the last five years. Gortat will leave Washington as the franchise’s seventh leading rebounder (3,697), eighth leading shot blocker (449), and third most efficient field goal shooter (.555). Despite the drop in classical box score production this past season, Gortat still left his mark on the team by leading the NBA in screen assists for the second straight season. This past season, the center had 365 screen assists along with Steven Adams.
The Gortat era in Washington ended on rocky terms, but he was a piece that helped change the culture and important part to each of the Wizards’ four playoff campaigns.