Did anyone truly expect the Washington Wizards to really get creative with their summer? To let go of the sorts of veteran stalwarts that helped them to the franchise’s third second round showing since it lost what was then called the “1979 NBA Championship?” Nah, that was never going to happen, and for good reason. The team made it to the second round, it competed well before falling to the Indiana Pacers, and its two most prominent free agents figure to age well.
Now, one of them will be paid well. Michael Lee of the Washington Post first reported the agreement, and Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski first reported the terms – Wizards center Marcin Gortat is set to sign a five-year, $60 million deal with the Wizards, paying him double figures until the 2019 season.
Gortat will be 35 during the second half of 2018-19, not exactly a stiff, but probably not the sort of player who will be worth an eight figure salary even as the league continues to deal in more and more streams of revenue years down the line. Centers who aren’t tweeners and centers that can walk and chew gum at the same time are rightfully held in high esteem in this league, even as the emphasis shifts more and more to the perimeter, and though Gortat will probably never make an All-Star team, this seems like a fair price right now.
The hope, if you’re a Wizards fan, is that Washington front loaded its contract, paying Gortat more while he’s still producing in his prime while tailing things down as the years move along. Yes, this will eat into the team’s 2014 cap space in a technical sense, but the Wizards were never going to have much to work with after bringing Andre Miller back and after re-signing Gortat to this sort of money. Even if some suitor wildly overpays fellow Wizard free agent Trevor Ariza, and Washington fails to bring Ariza back, the team still won’t have enough space to be a major player.
No, the real trick will be next summer, when John Wall, Nene, and Gortat will still be making eight figures, and Bradley Beal is due for a contract extension. The perpetually-injured (not a diss, we feel for the guy) Martell Webster will still have a contract in 2015-16, the team seems keen on extending both Kevin Seraphin and Trevor Booker this summer, Otto Porter will still be on a rather large rookie deal, and Grunfeld will have to get creative to work around all of this.
If the rumors behind the (ridiculous, in our opinion) yearly eight-figure interest in Ariza are correct, and Washington lines up to top all comers in the pursuit to keep Trevor in Washington, the Wizards could line up in 2015-16 with Gortat, Wall, Ariza, and Nene all making eight figures, with Martell Webster, Beal, and Porter making around the average salary, and with Beal (likely) set to make eight figures the next season. This is hardly a championship lineup, at hardly the price you’d want.
This is what Grunfeld set out to create, though, when he dealt what turned into a middling first round pick for Gortat, attempting to win now in the last year of his general manager contract. Unless the Wizards went against type this summer, the team was really never going to develop a chance to make a free agent breakthrough, because it has too many players either on existing (John Wall) and some would say “too big” (Nene, Martell Webster) contracts, and yet another rookie in Beal to extend.
Worse, had it joined the ranks of numerous NBA teams looking to use cap space to gobble up free agents, it would have joined the ranks of numerous NBA teams looking to use cap space to gobble up free agents like … Marcin Gortat. And Trevor Ariza.
It’s not a bad place to be, that middle of the Eastern Conference, and Gortat’s a heck of a player, at a position that’s hard to fill. Washington’s not going over the edge any time soon, though.
Regardless, Marcin, what do you think?
— Marcin Gortat (@MGortat) July 2, 2014
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