COMMENTARY | When the Phoenix Suns acquired Marcin Gortat back on December 18, 2010, it looked like the Suns scored a potential All-Star center who would be in the desert for the better part of a decade. As his stats rose in 2011-12, so did the hype. Now, the expectations are still there but the All-Star production is gone and Gortat has become the most overrated player on the Suns.
What happened to the Gortat the Suns acquired? It isn't the aging process, as Gortat is only 29 years old. Was it a major injury? The Polish Hammer played in every game in 2011-12 and didn't suffer his Lisfranc injury until late in the 2012-13 season. Let's take a look at three reasons why Gortat can no longer live up to the hype.
He Can't Initiate His Own Offense
Ah, the Steve Nash rule. If you're on a team with Nash as your point guard, you're automatically going to see a big boost in your production. Such was the case for Gortat. Nash set him up so well that he made him look a lot better than he really was.
Gortat averaged 15.4 points on 55.5 percent shooting in his last season with Nash as his point guard. When Goran Dragic took over, Gortat's numbers dropped to 11.1 points on 52.1 percent shooting. His offensive rating plummeted from 115 to 104, which was much more than the team's decline (from 106.2 to 101.2).
The fact is, Gortat needs to play with a point guard who is going to draw extra men in the paint, so that Gortat can get easy dunks. Per SynergySports.com, Gortat went from 1.05 points per possession (No. 10 in the NBA) in 2011-12 to just .93 points per possession in 2012-13 (No. 173 in the NBA).
He Isn't Much of a Defensive Presence
Don't forget that Gortat got to learn from Dwight Howard, who was one of the best defensive centers in basketball during his time in Orlando. Whether it's a degradation of skills or the change in defensive philosophy, Gortat has become a fraction of the defender that he once was.
Rebounding has been one of the major culprits, as Gortat has dipped in his rebounding percentage every single year of his career. In 2012-13, he grabbed just 7.6 percent of offensive rebounds and 15.6 percent of total rebounds. No. 77 overall is not where you expect your starting center to rank in rebounding percentage.
Per 82games.com, the 2012-13 Suns forced two more turnovers per-48 minutes with Gortat on the bench (14 on to 16 off). They allowed a higher effective field goal percentage with Gortat on the court (48.3 on to 47.2 off). No offense to Hamed Haddadi and Jermaine O'Neal, but when they're doing a better job, you just might be overrated.
He's Lost His Aggressiveness
If you're a passive NBA player, you're going to find yourself on the bench sooner rather than later. Unless you're a finesse center that handles the ball well and can shoot, you're going to need to make a home in and around the paint.
Gortat used to subscribe to that theory. He was much more aggressive in creating contact and getting to the foul line. Granted, he'll never be confused with Shaquille O'Neal, but Gortat dropped from 3.8 free-throw attempts per game in 2011-12 to just 2.3 per game in 2012-13.
With that passive play comes a higher likelihood to shoot jumpshots. Gortat went from taking 78 percent of his shots from inside 10 feet in 2012-13 to 73 percent in 2012-13. His jumpshot shooting percentage dropped from 40.4 percent to 36 percent.
Once Gortat's jumpshot stopped falling at a normal rate, he began to think too much and didn't shoot in rhythm. He starts looking to pass more, which isn't his forte. His turnover percentage skyrocketed from 9.3 percent in 2011-12 to 13.6 percent in 2012-13.
It's not that Gortat isn't a serviceable center. He'd be a great backup for the Suns. On a team with low expecations, Gortat is expected to provide consistent production as a starter. He's just not doing it anymore and that's why he's become the most overrated player on the team.
Michael Dunlap is an NBA credentialed writer who covers Phoenix Suns practices and games for the site he founded , HoopsHabit.com.Follow @iambabyd13 on Twitter
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