Marcin Gortat’s pick-and-roll expertise is just as important to the Washington Wizards as John Wall’s passing is. That sentence may induce disbelief and amusement, but the fact remains that Gortat is an essential part of the Wizards.
It starts with his screening ability. Gortat, like his frontcourt partner Nene, is one of the few big men who can set crushing yet sophisticated screens. He is capable of laying out some poor unsuspecting soul or tricking them by masking the direction of his pick; setting up on one side of the defense and then quickly rotating behind the on-ball defender to set a screen on the opposite side.
After springing the ball handler—often John Wall—Gortat will roll hard to the rim where he is an excellent finisher. He scored 1.01 points per possession (PPP) as the roll man last season, tallying 208 points, 11th among all NBA players. Even if Gortat doesn’t receive the ball in the play, he still sucks in the defense.
Because he is an accomplished finisher, the help defenders have to collapse onto him. In this clip, Wall doesn’t use the pick, but Gortat still rolls to the hoop causing the defense to react, leaving Humphries open:
Here, Gortat rolls to the hoop after Wall comes off the pick set by Bradley Beal, but the effect is still the same. Two defenders try to trap Wall, and the other three collapse into the lane to stop Gortat. This, combined with Wall’s vision, creates a passing lane for the wide open three-pointer:
Gortat’s timing and speed as a roll man are significant to the team. The threat of him scoring generates scoring opportunities for the rest of his team. Obviously, John Wall’s passing cannot be taken for granted, but Washington’s offense has benefited from Gortat’s ability and skill.
Last season, all but one of the Washington Wizards’ best lineups featured Marcin Gortat (minimum 50 minutes). The best one consisted of Beal, Wall, Drew Gooden, Otto Porter and Gortat. That group scored a modest 101.6 points per 100 possessions but held opponents to a suffocating 85 points. It produced a net rating of 16.7. For perspective, the Golden State Warriors lead the league with an overall net rating of 11.4.
Surprisingly–in some categories–Gortat had a bigger statistical effect than John Wall. When Gortat was on the floor, the Washington Wizards scored 103.5 points and held opponents to 97.5 points. While Wall was on the floor, the Wizards scored 103.4 points and held opponents to 98.1 points. Gortat’s net rating was 6.0 while Wall’s was 5.3.
While Gortat had the best net rating on the team last season, the team was worse when Wall was off the floor than when Gortat was. When Wall was not on the floor, the Wizards scored an abysmal 97.6 points and gave up 104.8 points. They performed slightly better when Wall played without Gortat, scoring 99 points and giving up 104.1 points. Wall’s off-court net rating was -7.2 while Gortat’s was -5.0.
It is no surprise to see the Wizards’ offense revolves around Wall, but Gortat having the second biggest impact may be an eye opener to some. It may be even more of a surprise considering Coach Randy Wittman’s knack for pulling Gortat in the fourth quarter of games. Obviously that is more of an indictment of Wittman’s coaching than a reflection of Gortat’s play, but this has affected the perception of Gortat as an important player. He is not a franchise player, but he is crucial to the Washington Wizards’ future success.