After inciting locker room tensions with a poorly devised tweet earlier this month, Marcin Gortat isn’t in the fans’ good graces right now. His role on the team has diminished - he’s played the least amount of minutes per game since 2010 - and his once-cute antics have become a source of irritation.
But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t contributed this season.
On Tuesday, the NBA announced a series of new defensive and hustle metrics, making it easier to see which players are actually contributing on the floor without necessarily increasing their raw stats.
The league is now tracking box outs which helps better illustrate the value players add on possessions even when they aren’t the player who secures the rebound.
Now the work that a player puts in to get himself – and his team - in the best position for a rebound is noted, even if a shot is made and there is no rebound to grab, or if the ball careens in the opposite direction and there is no chance at securing the ball.
Steven Adams, as the report mentions, is first in box outs, but isn’t even the top rebounder on his team. His box outs allow for his teammates - like Russell Westbrook, who’s averaging 9.4 rebounds per game - to crash the glass and support the center inside.
Gortat isn’t quite as effective hitting the glass (he’s 27th in rebounds per game) but he’s still among the best at holding the other team at bay. He is fifth in the NBA in box outs per game, ahead of players like Andre Drummond, Rudy Gobert and Dwight Howard.
Unfortunately, the effects of Gortat’s box outs aren’t quite as far-reaching as Adams’ with Oklahoma City. The Thunder grab rebounds at the third-best rate in the league while the Wizards sit at 17th. Perhaps if Washington did a better job of taking advantage of the players Gortat boxed out, the Wizards wouldn’t be in the bottom half of the league in rebounding.
Anyone who’s watched the Wizards play this season knows that Gortat isn’t the same player he was even last year. He’s a step slower, somehow misses more “spoon-fed” bunnies around the rim and doesn’t impose his size defensively.
But, as it’s been throughout his whole career, he continues to make underappreciated basketball plays that matter.