Gortat trade gives Wizards clear mandate
by Adi Joseph, USA TODAY Sports
That pick better not matter much.
The Washington Wizards have spent three years pulling themselves off the NBA scrapheap, turning around a franchise wrecked by injuries and malcontents. The latest move, a five-player, one 2014 first-round draft pick trade Friday with the Phoenix Suns, fills their biggest need and makes new expectations clear: The Wizards must be a 2014 playoff team.
General manager Ernie Grunfeld has held his position for a decade now, building a team around Gilbert Arenas only to watch it crumble as quickly as its enigmatic star’s career. Since, the Wizards have missed five consecutive postseasons. It’s doubtful Grunfeld or third-year coach Randy Wittman would keep their jobs after a sixth.
So Friday’s trade comes with a tinge of desperation. That doesn’t renege its possibilities. The Wizards gave up injured Emeka Okafor and that 2014 pick, which is protected should it land in the top 12, for veteran center Marcin Gortat and guards Shannon Brown, Malcolm Lee and Kendall Marshall.
Gortat is the big name. He can be an elite rebounder with a good touch around the basket and experience in the pick-and-roll with Steve Nash. He should pair well with young Wizards guards John Wall and Bradley Beal, while providing more statistical production than even healthy Okafor. The Wizards looked very weak inside after Okafor was diagnosed with a disk injury in his neck, but that excuse is no more after landing the 6-11 Polish big man, who has been healthy most of his career.
He’s not a perfect fit. Gortat and Nene would make for the slowest frontcourt in the NBA, and defense already was going to be a major issue without Okafor. Gortat functions best on that end when he can stay in the paint and rebound, but so does Nene, the team’s third-best player. They will have to play together at times, but expect to see plenty of Al Harrington, Trevor Booker and Kevin Seraphin in the power forward spot.
The guards are easy to overlook, but they’re nearly as valuable. Though rookie Glen Rice Jr. has impressed, he isn’t ready to take on a major role … [For more on Marcin Gortat trade gives Wizards clear mandate, click here.]