It’s been the summer of the center for the Washington Wizards. After going all-out for Al Horford and falling short, the team moved quickly to sign Ian Mahinmi to a four-year, $64 million deal. And that was only after the team reportedly expressed interest in Joakim Noah and Zaza Pachulia.
They also signed Jason Smith to a three-year, $16 million deal, signed Daniel Ochefu to a partially guaranteed deal, and offered Summer League standout Michael Eric a deal for training camp, according to J. Michael of CSN Mid-Atlantic.
Given how much the Wizards spent on improving the center position this summer, it’s only natural to assume Marcin Gortat is on his way out. Still, despite all the money they’ve spent on big men this summer, the team is still reportedly planning to go with Marcin Gortat as their starting center net season, and that’s the right move. Here’s why:
Gortat is on a great deal
He’s only making $12 million this season, which accounts for just 12.7 percent of the current salary cap. He’s going to be making a little over $300,000 more than Miles Plumlee next season. That’s great value for someone who was one of only three players to average 13 points and 9 rebounds per game while shooting 55 percent from the field, posted a PER of 19.0, and finished with the 20th-best RPM at the center position last season. You shouldn’t just get rid a guy playing that well because there are other options.
Better yet, the Wizards still have him locked up for two more years after the upcoming season. So even though his production will probably dip in the future as his salary increases, it’s going to be hard for Gortat’s salary to be an albatross at any point for the Wizards over the next three seasons.
It would be difficult for the Wizards to get fair value in a trade
Sometimes the challenge with having a player on a team-friendly deal is that they’re really hard to move. It would be silly to trade Gortat for cap space, because the Wizards wouldn’t be able to sign someone as good as him with the money they’d get back.
Trading him for someone of equal value at a different position is also easier said than done. There just aren’t many players on the perimeter who make similar money to Gortat, could provide comparable production, and are available in a trade. Most of the guys out there who are reportedly available (Rudy Gay, Monta Ellis, etc.) just wouldn’t have the same impact in Washington as Gortat, and would come at the cost of limiting playing time for younger options like Kelly Oubre and Tomas Satoransky.
Trading Gortat to fix the glut at center would only create a different problem next season
The Wizards just spent big money on the wing this summer, locking up Bradley Beal to a five-year max deal. By next summer, they’ll have to shell out some big money to keep Otto Porter as well. As this summer has shown, teams are not afraid to throw big money at young players who are available in free agency (Hi Harrison Barnes!), so Washington is going to have pay big to keep Otto in D.C. beyond 2016-17.
So if you trade Gortat for wing depth now, you’re probably just going to have to flip that player for something else next summer when Beal and Porter are combining to make around $40 million per year, if not more. And since you’re not going to be flipping that asset for help at point guard (knock on wood), you’re probably just going to have to reallocate that money next summer to get another big man.
Washington spent big this summer to address their depth in the paint. While there’s certainly a place to debate how they chose to address that need, there’s no question this had to be the year where the Wizards invested in the position, because they won’t get another chance to spend big at the position until the end of the 2018-19 season, when several key players on the roster hit free agency.
The Wizards’ logjam at the center position may prove to be untenable long-term with three solid options who can’t share the floor together, but now isn’t the time to address that issue. Washington needs time to figure out how the new roster will sort itself out before making any rash decisions. Trading away a perfectly solid center on a perfectly fair deal right now wouldn’t solve anything for Washington.