Marcin Gortat returns to Phoenix, seems to be in Wizards' long-term plans

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

One rumor suggests the Wizards will make it a top priority to re-sign the former Suns center this summer.

Because it's Marcin Gortat's return to Phoenix, we get all this from ESPN's Marc Stein.

Forty-one games has given us a pretty good idea of what kind of player the 29-year-old center is. He's certainly helped offensively with his soft hands, useful mid-range touch and developing pick and roll chemistry with John Wall, though he's also fought bouts of passivity and doesn't always go up strong around the basket. He's not quite as good defensively, but has become better at being in the right place, rebounding and contesting around the rim.

To my slight surprise, his plus/minus numbers are off the charts. The Wizards are three points better/100 possessions with him in and over 10 points worse/100 possessions with him out. Those are bigger differentials than Nene, for example. Gortat is clearly helping the Wizards reach whatever success they've reached this year. Then again, those massive plus-minus splits may say more about the players replacing Gortat than Gortat himself.

All in all, he's a starter-quality, solid center, somewhere in the middle of the pack league-wide. There aren't a ton of those in the league, so Gortat has value.

How much is he worth, though? That's a trickier question to answer. Three key factors to consider.

AGE: Gortat is turning 30 next month. That's not old, and it's definitely not old in his case because he's played fewer NBA minutes than most 30-year-olds. That said, given the general aging curve of players, Gortat is probably going to get worse over the course of his next contract instead of better. How much worse is part of the judgment call the Wizards will need to make.

MARKET: Look at the free-agent center market next year. Subtract Greg Monroe because he's restricted and thus does not have a true market for his services. Add in Chris Bosh (maybe a center?) and Pau Gasol if you want. That leaves you with those two guys, Gortat and Spencer Hawes as starting-quality unrestricted big men that can play center. Now, consider that several teams are going to have cap space this summer. Gortat's camp sure has a lot of leverage here.

WIZARDS CAP SPACE: Right now, the Wizards are slated to have about $44 million in committed salary, according to Sham Sports. One should expect the cap level to be around $60 million, so that's about $16 million for the Wizards to dole out, with Gortat, Trevor Ariza and Trevor Booker among their big free agents. It'd be hard, but not impossible, for the Wizards to keep all three. It'd be even harder, though also not technically impossible, for the Wizards to lock in Gortat and simultaneously pursue Monroe or another big fish -- someone would have to go in a sign-and-trade to make that move possible.

***

Obviously, it's early. Politics has a lot to do with this news getting out, as Kyle Weidie astutely observed. Expressing interest in keeping a starting-quality player is not the same as actually keeping said player.

But this is not the easiest situation for any GM to navigate. Gortat should expect a raise on his $7.7 million salary for this year, and someone in the market, Wizards or not, will probably give it to him. What happens then? What's the price point that the Wizards should be willing to reach to keep him?

That's the cost of relevancy.

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