Why is Marcin Gortat’s production down this season? Because that’s what the team wants from him.
According to my overall player rating metric, Player Production Average (PPA), Gortat’s production has fallen from a well-above average 171 last season to a 128 so far this year. (In PPA, league average is 100, and higher is better.) This is his lowest mark since joining the Wizards, and only slightly better since his final year in Phoenix. PER tells a similar story -- in that metric, Gortat rated a 19.0 last season; this year a league average 15.0.
There are few indicators that his diminished production is connected to being past 30 years old. His blocks and steals are down a bit, but his rebounding, turnovers, fouls and at-rim FG% are within career norms. His minutes, due to the continued unavailability of Ian Mahinmi, are at a career high. These aren’t the numbers of someone getting overwhelmed physically or losing his ability to keep up with the game.
Nope, the production dip is mostly about how much he gets the ball on offense.
So far this season, Gortat has a usage rate of 14.2 percent, which would be the least busy he’s been on offense since his second and third seasons in the NBA when he was a low-minute backup to Dwight Howard. Last season, his usage rate was 18.4 percent.
Gortat’s efficiency (how often he scores per possession) is normal for him — 115 points per 100 possessions, in line with his career offensive rating of 113. He’s shooting .570 from the floor; since joining the Wizards, he’s shot .542, .566 and .567 in successive seasons. His free throw percentage is on the low side for him, but the difference from his established level is five or six made free throws for the entire season; an additional made free throw every fifth or sixth game.
What’s behind the drop-off in Gortat’s usage? At first glance, the cause would seem to be increases from John Wall and Bradley Beal (Wall is up about 2.1 percent; Beal 1.4 percent). Except, Gortat’s usage doesn’t climb when they’re off the floor — in fact his usage drops even more (to 13.3 percent) when both Wall and Beal are on the bench.
So what gives? The NBA’s data on touches suggests Gortat may be a symptom of the team’s reduced ball movement. Last season, the Polish Hammer averaged 76.0 offensive touches per 48 minutes. This year: 70.7. His time per touch is down a little too: from 1.26 seconds per touch to 1.21.
His combined post and paint touches are down 6.5 per 48 minutes. His overall frontcourt touches are down a whopping 9.63 per 48. In other words, he’s getting more touches away from the basket where he waits to give the ball to a teammate, and fewer near the rim where he can attack.
Overall, the team’s ball movement is down about 6.8 percent — from nearly 419 touches per 48 minutes last year to 390 in 2016-17. It’s not a pace issue. While they are playing slower, their touches per possession are down slightly from 4.2 to 4.0. The drop in ball movement is due to the time per touch being longer -- up three-tenths of a second on average. That may not sound like much, but it adds up over a 48-minute game. The ball is stickier so far this season.
The “stickiest” players:
- John Wall -- 5.82 seconds per touch (up 1.13 seconds from last season)
- Trey Burke -- 4.70 (up 0.60 vs. Ramon Sessions, last year’s backup PG)
- Tomas Satoransky — 4.11 (compare with Garrett Temple’s 2.17)
- Bradley Beal -- 2.78 (down from last year’s 2.92)
The least sticky regulars? You guessed it:
- Gortat -- 1.21 (down from 1.26 last season)
- Otto Porter -- 1.38 (down from 1.61)
- Markieff Morris -- 1.48 (up from 1.27)
Play tracking tells the same story. Last season, Gortat was involved in 20.7 plays per 48 minutes — this year: 15.8. The only play type that hasn’t dropped: put-backs, which happens to be the one play that’s not dependent on teammates getting him the ball or coaches calling a play for him.
Gortat Plays per 48 Minutes
The Gortat “decline” isn’t so much a drop in the quality of his play, but of decisions made by coaches and teammates.
For more on this subject and a discussion of what the Wizard can do to improve, check out the Becker & Broom podcast on Bullets Forever.
Player Production Average
Player Production Average (PPA) is an overall rating stat I developed that credits players for things they do that help a team win and debits them for things that hurt the cause. PPA is pace neutral, accounts for defense, and includes a “degree of difficulty” factor based on the level of competition a player faces while on the floor. All stats are per 100 possessions — adjusted for game pace for each player during his time on the floor. In PPA, average is 100, higher is better, and replacement level (the production level of the league’s worst 11th man) is 45.
Here are some PPA benchmarks for reference:
- 225+ -- league MVP candidate (seven players at 225 or higher so far this season)
- 200+ — typically All-NBA level (top 15-20 in the league — 16 players this year)
- 150+ — All-Star level
- 125 — approximate level of an average starter
- 100 — league average
- 75 — valued reserve
- 45 — replacement level
Wizards Player Production Average
The good news: the team’s encouraging December was fueled by Wall, Porter and Beal. The bad news: they still lack an elite producer (though Wall is inching closer), and their bench is still garbage.