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Marcin Gortat is the master of separation

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NBA: Golden State Warriors at Washington Wizards Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The John Wall - Marcin Gortat pick-and-roll has been a staple of the Wizards’ offense since the team acquired Gortat before the start of the 2013-14 season. We all know how Wall uses his quickness and passing vision to set up Gortat for easy shots at the rim, or create three-point opportunities for others if teams overcommit to stopping the pick-and-roll. However, we don’t talk enough about Gortat’s role in making the play so effective.

Wall understands the value of Gortat’s screening ability better than anyone. After a win over the Timberwolves in January, he told The Washington Post’s Candace Buckner that “when he’s dunking the ball and finishing around the paint, he makes us a better team.”

The pick-and-roll doesn’t work unless Gortat can create enough space for Wall to maneuver and then free himself up enough to scoring option on the roll. He can use his raw strength both in the paint and against opposing guards in the roll game to create space to catch and finish, like he does here.

He’s said many times that he wants to be a professional bodybuilder after he retires. It shows in the constant work he does to maintain his strength, mobility, and endurance as he averages more minutes per game this season at age 33 than at any other point in his NBA career.

Although he isn’t scoring as frequently as he has in other years, he’s never been more consistent. He is shooting a career-best 58.5 percent from the field and averaging a career-high 11.2 rebounds per game.

When he was asked about why he’s been able to get more efficient as he ages, he told Chase Hughes of CSN Mid-Atlantic, “You become smarter and you appreciate things more, definitely. You find the little details in the game and that make the game easier for you.”

Watch here as he uses his savvy and his strength to create separation from Nerlens Noel:

Sneaky little moves like this are a big part of why he’s the league leader in screen assists by a significant margin. He averages 6.5 per game, well ahead of Rudy Gobert and DeAndre Jordan who come in second and third at 5.9 and 5.6 respectively.

Gortat excels at screens even though he doesn’t have the same athleticism as some of the other big men out there. He can’t out-quick or jump opponents at the rim, so he uses his arms and upper body to push off and create separation. The contact is different depending on the situation, whether it’s a light push against a guard on the pick and roll, or a blatant push in the lane when the referee isn’t focused on the action in the paint.

The most unappreciated component of Washington’s lethal starting five, the Hammer provides the flow and spacing necessary to create easy offense for the rest of his teammates. Even now as Ian Mahinmi works his way back into form, and begins to show his impressive defensive value, it is important that Gortat remains a key part of the team moving forward. Though his contributions may not always grab headlines or lead to eye-popping traditional numbers, he’s a key part of why the Wizards’ offense has worked so well this season.