Last week, the great debate over the value of analytics was rekindled by Daryl Morey and Charles Barkley's back-and-forth on the subject. Odds are, the latest round of discussion did little to actually change your stance on the subject. If you valued the eye test more than anything else going in, you probably came out of last week's discussion still tooting that horn. If you came into last week's discussion on the analytics end of the spectrum, Charles Barkley's comments probably didn't too much to change your opinion.
On a smaller scale, the same holds true about your stance on Marcin Gortat. Watching Gortat play this season, it seems like something isn't quite the same this season. And it's not just the fans buying in to Gortat's decline. The coaching staff is also responding to Gortat's slump by giving him less playing time this season, particularly in the fourth quarter.
Marcin Gortat is the new Carlos Boozer. pic.twitter.com/qjsa9geKcm— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) February 9, 2015
So, what's going on? The easy answer would be that Marcin Gortat is getting older and he doesn't have to play for a contract this season, so his play has fallen off a bit. If you wanted to go for the searing hot take, you could even throw in something about how he should have been spending less time maintaining his mohawk and being a goofball on Twitter.
But a deeper look at the numbers show that it's hard to quantify what exactly it is that Marcin Gortat is doing worse than he did last season. Production-wise, Gortat's numbers per 100 possessions (which we're using here to rule out the effects of playing time and pace) are nearly identical to what he posted last season.
Other than a minor dip in Gortat's assist numbers, everything else is identical or close to it. Gortat is filling the statsheet the same way he did last season, he's just getting less time to do now than he did last year. And before you try to blame it on his shooting efficiency, well, that's about the same as last year too:
Some of the advanced all-encompassing metrics show Gortat has fallen off a touch. His PER, RPM and PPA are all down slighty from last season. But as you'll see, I think a key part of his struggles this year are connected to his use, or lack thereof, in the final quarter. On the surface, you can understand why the Wizards stop using Gortat in the final quarter, based on how the team performs. Here are the team's quarter-by-quarter splits on offense and defense when Gortat is on the floor.
|Quarter||Offensive Rating||Defensive Rating||Net Rating|
The numbers are concerning, but they're not isolated to Gortat. His struggles are a symptom, not a cause of the Wizards' struggles in the final period. In the fourth quarter, the Wizards go from being a top-ten defense into one of the worst in the NBA.
Wizards Defensive Rating, quarter by quarter: 1Q: 96.8 (4th) 2Q: 99.0 (8th) 3Q: 96.6 (2nd) 4Q: 107.5 (27th) OT: 112.4 (22nd)— Bullets Forever (@BulletsForever) February 17, 2015
Yes, as bad as the Wizards' defense has been, in the fourth quarter, it's been even worse when Gortat is on the floor. But is that because Gortat's performance falls off a cliff, or because he's being used in the wrong situations? Based on Gortat's numbers quarter-by-quarter, I'd say it's fair to argue the latter.
As opposing teams resort to using more exotic lineups to pace and space the floor in the closing minutes to make a comeback, there will be situations where Gortat should be on the bench. But at the same time, you can't help but wonder if all the options the Wizards now have off the bench are leading the team to over-analyze matchups and ignore Gortat's strengths, which are still useful in the closing minutes of games.
Perhaps the Wizards should try to zag where they've zigged and zig where they've zagged to see if things get better to close the season. Because as the numbers show, Marcin Gortat hasn't fallen off from the player he was last season, and he can be just as useful late in games as he is early in games.