Marcin Gortat's New Contract Leaves Washington Wizards with No Wiggle Room

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistJuly 2, 2014

Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat reacts after a play in the closing minutes of Game 6 of an Eastern Conference semifinal NBA basketball playoff series against the Indiana Pacers in Washington, Thursday, May 15, 2014. The Pacers defeated the Wizards 93-80 to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Alex Brandon/Associated Press

Looking only at the upcoming 2014-15 NBA season, the Washington Wizards got their man. 

Marcin Gortat is coming off a year in which he averaged 13.2 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.5 blocks per game for the team that calls the nation's capital home, and now he's going to be spending a whole lot more than one go-round with the Wiz: 

The re-signing kicks in immediately (well, once he officially signs the contract after July 10), which means Gortat is now under control through the end of the 2018-19 season. Needless to say, he was quite happy about the development, a sentiment that John Wall shared on Twitter as well:'s David Aldridge has more details on the contract: 

That's quite significant.

There's no out-clause for Washington if the aging big man sees his level of play decline rather significantly over the next few years. This is locked and loaded, meaning Gortat will be making a substantial sum (presumably a flat $12 million, but more on that later) during the final season of his new deal. 

Focusing on the present, this is a good value for "the Polish Hammer." 

According to, Gortat made Washington significantly more dangerous when he was healthy and on the court in 2013-14. With the big man, the Wizards scored 107.2 points per 100 possessions and allowed only 102.2 over the same span. But when he sat down, those numbers changed to 103.3 and 109.7, respectively. 

Yes, that means the team was 11.4 points per 100 possessions better when he was on the court. Breaking things down further, here's how the on- and off-court ratings would've stacked up among the rest of the league over the course of a full season: 

Gortat's Impact in 2013-14
Offensive RatingNBA RankDefensive RatingNBA Rank
On Court107.2No. 13102.2No 3
Off Court103.3No. 26109.7No. 26

That's a gigantic difference. 

Is it any wonder the Wizards were willing to pay Gortat right now? They're hoping he'll team up with John Wall and Bradley Beal to create a dynamic team on both ends of the court, one that can legitimately hang with the best the NBA has to offer.

$12 million for that type of impact is by no means a bad deal, especially one year removed from Nikola Pekovic signing an identical contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves. This is basically market value, and it's only a slight overpay if it's one at all. 

But again, the contract is five years in duration, and there are no options at the tail end. 

Unlike Pekovic, who turned 28 years old in January, Gortat is already into his 30s. He'll turn 31 during the 2014-15 season, and history hasn't treated aging big men with anything even resembling kindness. There are certainly exceptions—Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Robert Parish and Moses Malone, for example—but the annals of the Association are littered with quick declines for centers boasting a frame as large as Gortat's 6'11" one. 

Mike Prada addresses this same issue in a reactionary piece for

It is hoped that the deal is misreported, or at least not fully guaranteed. This is highly unlikely, of course, but perhaps the deal will be structured so that it declines in value. Something needs to mitigate this price tag. Good centers always cost big money and there is no denying that Gortat (13.2 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, 17.6 PER, .568 true shooting percentage) is that. He's one of my favorites. I Iove Gortat as a player, and he's an extremely good one. But he is going to be one for five years? Four years? Three years, even?

There's still a chance the contract is structured so that Gortat receives less money as it progresses and more on the front end, but there's no guarantee of that being anything more than wishful thinking. For re-signing players, NBA contracts typically follow three overall types of structures:

  • Escalating contracts, which include up to the maximum 7.5 percent raise each year. For Gortat, this would see him make just over $10.4 million in 2014-15 and just under $13.6 million in 2018-19. 
  • Declining contracts, which include up to 7.5 percent decreases in value each year. For Gortat, this would see him make a bit more than $14.1 in 2014-15 and slightly less than $10 million in 2018-19. 
  • Unchanging contracts, where the salary is the same each year. For Gortat, that's $12 million.

Even though the first option is most common across the league, it's unlikely Washington would agree to that in this situation. Why pay him more as he's declining?

Something close to the middle choice would be best, even if it's not that full 7.5 percent decline, but the last is the safest bet. So for now, we're best off assuming $12 million per year until we hear otherwise. 

INDIANAPOLIS, IND - MAY 15: Marcin Gortat #4 of the Washington Wizards looks to pass the ball against the Indiana Pacers in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the Verizon Center on May 15, 2014 in Washington, DC
Ned Dishman/Getty Images

Prada also tempers the negativity by providing a nice reality check, one indicating that Gortat could very well remain worth this type of money: 

On the plus side, Gortat has been hearty in his career to date, and there is no evidence to suggest that he is going to break down physically any time soon. He is still in his prime, of course,  and is proven effective. The cap is going up and will continue to do so, so any over-payments will appear less so as time goes on. And, let us never forget, Gortat really is quite good.

It's certainly possible that he lives up to the value at the tail end. Probable? I wouldn't go that far. 

However, even if he does, there's one other problem. 

Kevin Durant, a Maryland native who still supports the area's NFL team, is going to be a free agent after the 2015-16 season. And unless the Oklahoma City Thunder win a title between now and then, it would be shocking to see him sign an extension before the ensuing summer. 

"His success and constant representation of his home town—either through a curly W tattoo or regularly wearing Redskins gear—has led to local fans to fantasize about Durant wearing the jersey of the team that he used to take the green line to Gallery Place to watch play at MCI Center," Michael Lee wrote for The Washington Post this past season. 

Now Durant says he hasn't given a move to the Wizards any thought, but of course he's going to say that. He's currently in a great situation—and under contract—with OKC. 

Nonetheless, it's all moot after this Gortat deal. 

Nov 10, 2013; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat (4) attempts a shot against Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) during the second quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY

Bradley Beal will likely be starting a max contract extension in 2016-17, so the Wizards will already be committed to just over $41 million between Beal, Wall and Gortat. Add in Otto Porter's $5.9 million, per, and Washington is up over $47 million with only four players on the books. It'll surely have even more by the time that offseason comes around. 

Even if the cap is raised rather significantly, it'll be impossible—or nearly impossible—to offer Durant a max deal. 

However, this isn't just about the man who won MVP a couple months back. It's about any marquee free agent; Durant is just a convenient example because of his area ties and the relentless speculation in D.C. about his future arrival. 

Next offseason, the Wizards are going to be on the books for at least $57 million, and that's before Trevor Ariza is re-signed or replaced by a deal that's sure to last more than just the 2014-15 season. They won't be adding anyone of significance then, and we've already gone over the financial difficulties one summer later. 

Essentially, Washington is committing to its current core. Not just now, when it works, but years into the future, when Gortat's effectiveness is by no means guaranteed. 

Again, this could pan out nicely. But the length of the deal necessitates at least a bit of worry about it backfiring down the road. 

After all, the Wizards are out of wiggle room. 


Care to debate about this Gortat deal? Don't hesitate to do exactly that with me on Twitter and Facebook 


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