Note: This post originally appeared on MavsFanatic.com
Spurned by Otis.
Otis Smith that is; a name that will live in infamy among the Mavs faithful for his role as the then General Manager for the Orlando Magic who helped ruined the Mavericks’ free agency plans to sign coveted free agent big man Marcin Gortat. Smith shocked Mavs Nation in the summer of 2009 by matching the Mavs five-year, $34 million dollar offer sheet to the restricted free agent.
Fast forward five years.
It’s the summer of 2014 and the Mavs once again have the financial flexibility to go after some of the biggest names in free agency, including Carmelo Anthony and Luol Deng. If the Mavs strike out on their top targets, unrestricted free agent center Marcin Gortat of the Washington Wizards may once again be high on their list.
So, what’s there not to like about the 30-year-old Gortat?
At 6’11”, 240 pounds, the “Polish Hammer” can clog up the lane on the defensive end of the floor for a Dallas Mavericks team that ranked 20th in the NBA in points allowed (102.4) last year. Meanwhile, the Wizards ranked 9th in the NBA in points allowed (99.4), with Gortat at the defensive helm.
This would have been a valuable asset in the first round of the playoffs earlier this month against those hated San Antonio Floppers, who seemingly got to the basket at will.
Now that’s a real foul.
The Mavericks front office has made it no secret they’d like to boost their defensive efficiency this summer for a team that continually juggled match ups at the center position with Samuel Dalembert, DeJuan Blair and Brandan Wright in an effort to rectify their defensive woes.
Offensively over the past four seasons, Gortat has been an effective force in the middle. He’s averaged 13.2 points per game and remained efficient by shooting nearly 55%. He’s a quality mid-range shooter who can play with his back to the basket and run an effective pick and roll with excellent agility for his size.
Gortat’s also an improved free throw shooter which is a rare commodity among centers these days (see: Howard, Dwight). And, as an added bonus, he shot 100% from the three point line last year too – albeit only on one attempt.
Without a question, Gortat (32.8 mins, 13.2 pts, 9.5 rebs in 2014) would be an instant upgrade over Dalembert (20.2 mins, 6.6 pts, 6.8 rebs).
If Roy Hibbert dominates Marcin Gortat again, how hard do the Wizards try to keep Gortat from going to Dallas this summer?
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) May 13, 2014
While on paper it’s easy to argue Gortat helps upgrade the Mavs roster, it creates as many questions as it does answer. Will upgrading the center ultimately fix the defensive shortcomings of this team? What would happen to Dalembert, Blair and Wright if Gortat came to Dallas?
But, most importantly, the biggest hurdle in the Gortat sweepstakes will be luring him away from Washington while keeping his wallet happy. After signing his extension with the Magic in 2009, Gortat has struggled to solidify his role on an NBA roster.
In December 2010, he was traded to the Phoenix suns in a deal that included Vince Carter for a 2011 first-round draft pick. Then in October 2013, Gortat was traded to the Washington Wizards where he started all but one of the 81 games he played in; recording a career high in minutes played.
The Wizards were eliminated from the playoffs a week ago, but the future in Washington is bright with young, emerging stars in John Wall and Bradley Beal. Gortat has seemed to finally have found a place where he fits. Gortat could likely command an annual salary of $10-13 million, a price that may be too steep even for a Mavericks team that has historically overpaid centers.
The main goal for the Mavs in free agency this summer remains the same: to bring in a “superstar” who could help provide Dirk Nowitzki with the Robin he needs. Monta Ellis’ signing last summer became a blessing, but Dallas still wants that player who could eventually become Batman and take over the reins as the main man in Gotham as Dirk rides into the Hall of Fame sunset.
If that doesn’t happen, the Mavs front office will again be scrambling to put the remaining free agent puzzle pieces together to maximize their cap space and bring in players that fit with Dirk, utilizing the blue print that helped bring the Mavs a 2011 championship.
Look, the Mavs don’t want to have a Ben Affleck situation here in Dallas. It gets awkward. We’ll just have to see how free agency pans out. Timing is everything when it comes to free agency; so while Gortat would look great in a Mavs uniform, his decision to cash in on a well deserved pay day and lure him away from Washington could have the Mavericks on the outside looking in.
Photos courtesy of Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports; Rob Carr/Getty Images North America