Cohen: Gortat on the Trading Block?

By Josh Cohen
November 20, 2012

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by Josh Cohen are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors.

ORLANDO -- It’s a notion that would likely enthuse a substantial portion of True Blue Nation.

While it may be a tad premature to start hypothesizing the possibilities, there are rumblings that one of the Orlando Magic’s all-time fan favorites could be on the trading block.

And though the Magic’s interest to attempt to bring him back to Central Florida is indefinite, the sheer thought is worth assessing and analyzing.

Marcin Gortat, who played for the Magic from 2007-2010 in which time he was the automated substitute for Dwight Howard, has reportedly expressed some dissatisfaction in Phoenix.

After posting career-best averages of 15.4 points, 10.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocks last season with the Suns, the Polish Hammer’s statistics have noticeably declined over the first few weeks of this young season.

The reasons are rather observable. Steve Nash, who orchestrated a trillion pick-and-rolls for Gortat last year, is now in L.A.; Phoenix added a few offensively driven players in the offseason including Michael Beasley and Luis Scola and it doesn’t appear head coach Alvin Gentry wants the Polish Hammer to be a focal point of the offensive structure.

Whether the Suns have any genuine interest in actually offering Gortat in a potential trade is ambiguous. Here, however, is what we know: With just this season and next season remaining on his relatively financial-friendly contract (total of approximately $14.5 million), Gortat is a commodity many teams would crave for.

It’s debatable whether Orlando should entertain conversations with Phoenix regarding Gortat, especially with Nikola Vucevic thriving at the center position.

Gortat’s value seems to always fluctuate as well. When he became a restricted free agent in 2009 after the Magic’s NBA Finals run, Marcin’s worth was booming largely out of potential. Dallas submitted a lucrative offer sheet to Gortat before Orlando decided to match it.

Shortly before the blockbuster trade that sent Gortat, Vince Carter and Mickael Pietrus to Phoenix in exchange for Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and Earl Clark, the Polish Hammer’s overall value appeared to be gradually shrinking after several meager performances in his final days with the Magic.

Now, Gortat’s merit is likely the highest it will be, especially if he is unable to replicate last season’s outstanding campaign. As the days drift by and the less production the Suns get out of Gortat, the less appeal he has on the trade market.

If Phoenix were serious about dangling Gortat on the block, what would be its asking price?

Considering the Suns are not even remotely close to being a championship caliber team, it would seem rational to believe they want some combination of young promising talent and future draft picks. That usually is the formula to complete trades of this magnitude.

Whether it’s the Magic or any other team hoping to augment their front line, the essential question must be asked: What is Gortat’s grade?

In other words, we know perennial All-Stars such as LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Dirk Nowitzki, Howard, Derrick Rose (when healthy), Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul are A+ talent. These are players that single-handedly can propel teams to championships or at minimum lengthy playoff runs.

We know borderline All-Stars such as Rudy Gay, LaMarcus Aldridge, James Harden, Josh Smith, Joe Johnson and Luol Deng are the A- talent around the league. They are only championship-level players if playing alongside a collection of other players on the same echelon.

So what is Gortat’s grade?

I think he is a B player, which suggests he is a quality role player that brings a variety of important assets to a team. He is strong, he is defensive-minded, he is smooth around the basket and he brings a certain level of intimidation. Gortat, however, is not a player that can transcend a franchise.

As a result, his trade value must be assessed as such. No team should offer too much if they are trying to acquire Gortat.

What would be fair for both the Suns and any team they are negotiating with?

It would certainly depend on the present state of each franchise.

If the Thunder or Celtics, for instance – two teams with the opportunity to chase a title this season – wanted Gortat, they can offer a compilation of young talent but nothing proven.

So for example, Boston can proffer a potential package that includes Jared Sullinger, Fab Melo and Avery Bradley. Oklahoma City can take a piece of what it received in the Harden trade, notably Jeremy Lamb and that appealing draft pick (the Toronto-to-Houston-to-OKC lottery pick), and try to swing a deal for Gortat if the Thunder wanted to augment their front line.

If the Suns do indeed choose to field offers for Gortat, he won’t be the only big man on the market. Utah may entertain offers for Al Jefferson, who is in the final year of his contract. If the Lakers continue to be inconsistent, Pau Gasol may be available.

It’s hard to gauge the Magic right now because they are still in the infantile stages of a renovation. They know they will have a plethora of flexibility, including salary cap space, a slew of draft picks and potential trade chips.

But is it possible for Orlando to make a play to bring Gortat back by February’s trade deadline? If nothing else, it’s fascinating to think about and debate.


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