Marcin Gortat made a surprising revelation about his future in the NBA prior to Friday’s game against the Magic. He spoke with Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel and indicated he doesn’t expect to play in the league once his current deal is up at the end of the 2018-19 season:
“This is a very difficult question,” Gortat answered. “The way NBA politics goes right now, I’m afraid that next year might be my last year. This is how I feel right now. Obviously, we’re going to have a summer, then another year of basketball and then I’m going to think about it. But the way I feel right now, it’s like next year might be my last year of my career.”
Asked to explain why he thinks 2018-19 likely will be his last season, he said, “I’m not saying 100 percent. I would say ‘probably.’ The way everything goes, the way the NBA goes right now and everything that’s going on, I just don’t feel like I’m going to stay in this league for much longer.”
It’s important to keep in mind this isn’t the first time Gortat has expressed concern over his future. At the end of last season, he talked openly about how he was unsure if he was still the right fit for the team, which he walked back later in the summer.
Statistically, it’s clear Gortat is starting to tail off a little bit. His shooting numbers are the lowest they’ve ever been during his time in Washington, as are his rebounding numbers.
Still, he’s been pretty effective all things considered. The team is nearly two full points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor, and he’s improved his passing game to help counteract declines in other parts of his game. He also leads the league in screen assists, a testament to the offensive value he brings to the team regardless of whether or not his shot is falling.
Even though the league is putting a higher emphasis on “unicorn” big men who have guard-like skills, there’s still a place for traditional big men like Gortat who have good footwork and know how to use screens to get people open. If he doubts he can find room in the NBA after next season, he should take a look at his old teammate Nene, who considered retiring at one point in 2013, but is still in the league today producing solid numbers when he’s healthy.
Only time will tell how long Gortat plans on sticking around in the league, but in the meantime, the Wizards need to figure out what they’re going to do with him between now and the end of his contract. His expiring deal won’t provide any value for Washington next summer because they’ll already be well over the salary cap thanks to John Wall’s new supermax deal. So unless they think they can convince him to re-sign for a new deal, they’re probably better off making a trade at some point before his contract comes up to get someone back who will provide more long-term value.
Considering Gortat spoke well of his time with the Magic in that Sentinel piece, people will naturally try to make a connection with Orlando, but a trade won’t be easy. The Magic don’t have much to offer in terms of win-now assets, and they won’t be keen on giving away prospects or picks for someone who might be out of the league by the end of next season. A deal centered around swapping Gortat for Nikola Vucevic would work salary-wise, but Vucevic’s deficiencies on the defensive end are harder to hide and will only get worse with age. Plus, he’s an unrestricted free agent at the end of next season as well, so Washington could be stuck in a position where they either let him walk for nothing or overpay to keep him.
UPDATE: Gortat spoke about his comments after Friday’s game and reiterated he’s still committed to finishing out his current deal in Washington:
“I want to play in Washington. Just because I want to finish my career in a year-and-a-half doesn’t mean I don’t want to play in Washington. I think everything today was blown away a little too much.”