Inconsistent would probably be the best way to characterize the Washington Wizards last season. Up and down defensive commitment, constant lineup shifts because of injury and lengthy offensive droughts pushed the Wizards out of the playoff picture.
But despite the storm of inconsistency around him, Marcin Gortat turned in one of the more consistent rap sheets for the Wizards this year. In a season where most of the team either stagnated or got worse, he actually improved his per 36 averages, shooting percentages, and PER compared to last season.
He's locked in with Washington for the long term, so you're hoping he can show some more improvement in the coming years. But he's a 32 year old center that has never played particularly close to an All-Star level. Could he have a late career surge and become that? Sure, but I wouldn't bet on it.
With that being said, let's dig deeper into what he did do this season.
Higher usage but lower production offensively
Despite all the talk in the preseason about how the Wizards' offense would change for the better, they were still a below-average team this season. They ranked 18th overall averaging 102.9 points per 100 possessions.The pace and space strategy did not work. Though he wasn't the reason why it didn't work, Gortat didn't always help.
He has always been a solid player offensively, but he took on a larger role in the offense this season (his usage rate went up from 17.2 percent last season to 18.9 percent this season) and his effectiveness got a little worse because of it. His offensive production increased across the board this season, but he was asked to operate from the post more and also turned the ball over on 12.4 percent of his offensive possessions.
Gortat was really good in two areas: Transition and the pick and roll game.
Per synergy sports data available via NBA.com's wonderful stats tool, Gortat finished 23.1 percent of his overall offensive possessions as the roll man in pick and roll situations this season. He scored 1.21 points per possession, which ranks him in the 86th percentile of all NBA players. He scored 60 percent of the time in 226 overall possessions.
Of players with at least 50 such possessions, he ranks above Andre Drummond, Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh and Tyson Chandler in points per possession. Those players have traditionally been monster finishers in pick and roll situations and Gortat outperformed all of them this season.
Gortat had some of his most productive seasons in Phoenix playing high pace offense. He's never been the type of big man you can put at the elbow and have the luxury of running an offense through, but he's always been a consistent pick and roll player and has consistently run the floor hard in transition.
Gortat beating his opponent down the floor allows him to position himself deep at the rim and finish on the inside. That allows John Wall to make plays like this, where hits Gortat for over the shoulder lobs under the rim.
Plays like this are why he's finishing at a 68.5 percent rate in the restricted area. Having a passer like John Wall always helps.
The issue with Gortat is that he had too many post up plays where he did not establish good enough position after rim runs. He was consistently pushed off of his block and forced to take tough hook shots and jumpers.
In that instance against Nic Vucevic, Gortat sets a backscreen for Garrett Temple before dumping the ball down into the post. Gortat doesn't have good position initially when the screen is set, but even upon the catch he doesn't keep his balance and is moved a few more inches away from the block.
In the NBA, every inch matters and could mean the difference between taking a turnaround jump shot or throwing up a post hook. According to NBA.com's stat's tool, Gortat shot 32.5 percent from the floor on 305 jumpers this season and scored on just 45 percent of his post-up opportunities.
His .9 points per possession in post-up situations are efficient for the play type (he finished in the 68th percentile of players on post-ups), but not what you want to see for a typical offensive possession. Unfortunately, it was a play the Wizards used far too often this season.
It allows the defense to focus in on one spot of the floor and send smart double teams at the ball handler. Typically, in good post play offense, players continuously cut, move and screen off of the ball to make themselves available quick passes.
The Wizards are not a team that moves particularly well off of the ball. Per NBA.com's player tracking stats, the Wizards only averaged 8.9 miles of offensive movement per game this season. Even when they were moving, Gortat wasn't great at finding them for open shots. He only assisted on 7.5 percent of the Wizards' possessions this season. That's alright for a big man, but that has to be better if the post is going to be an option for him.
Defensive steps back
Gortat has been a good defensive player for Washington in the past, but this season he took a clear step back on that end of the floor. In the 2014-15 season, according to the awesome Hardwood Paroxysm numbers blog, Nylon Calculus, Gortat allowed just 48.8 percent of opponents shots to convert at the rim. Last season, that jumped up to 51.1 percent.
While that doesn't seem like a significant jump, that's way closer to league average at about 55.5 percent. There were also instances where Gortat had to get out and chase ball handlers on the pick and roll earlier in the season. That's not a position where you'd want to see him, but in an effort to play faster and create turnovers, the Wizards experimented with it and failed.
It wasn't all on Gortat. Washington's guards were consistently allowing drives into the lane and Gortat had to adjust and recover. At times, he'd be behind the play and unable to protect the rim. Nene's field goal percentage allowed at the rim is just above Gortat's at 51.9 percent.
There were issues all over Washington's defense. Was Gortat at the core of them? No. But he was definitely a significant part. Having him playing out of position in a difficult scheme was never going to work, but over an 82 game season good teams adjust and the Wizards just never did.
Overall, Gortat had a solid season. It wasn't great, but it wasn't bad either. He took on more of a burden offensively than he has before and was still the Wizards' second best player.
Gortat did miss seven games this season due to personal circumstances and injury, but in the games he did play he provided consistent production on the offensive end.
Defensively, Gortat took several steps back this season. His rim protection numbers are down and his individual points per possession allowed rose this season. Still, as far as impact goes, it's safe to say Gortat had a positive one for the Wizards this season.