Where there is smoke!
Is Marcin Gortat the next chapter in the Suns GM mistake manual?
By Jim Coughenour on Nov 28, 1:00p 129
It's our house, but not necessarily yours for long, Marcin. - Christian Petersen
Marcin Gortat has been a little bit of a hot stove item recently. Are the Phoenix Suns about to get burned again? It turns out that Jason's great mind and my partially functional brain, due to a rare afflatus, both felt the topic worthy of further examination.
Prologue written by the eminently qualified and inimitable Jason Feldman. Thank you for collaborating with me on this venture.
When I was in college, I had the chance to date a Denver Bronco Cheerleader. A few years later, I was all but handed an assistant coaching job with the Cleveland Browns [why? I have no clue]. One time in line at McDonalds, I actually let someone go ahead of me because I was trying to decide if I wanted to supersize [never do that by the way], and the guy won $100,000 in that Monopoly game.
Woulda, shoulda, coulda!
Buddha said ""Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment."
Well, I say shut up Buddha! [Am I going to Naraka for that?]
I like to spend time agonizing over life's choices gone wrong. It makes it so when things go right, I feel that much greater satisfaction. I am a dweller. And so it goes with the Suns.
Over the past decade or so, the Suns brass has had many opportunities to tweak and shift their roster. During that time, most of the transactions the Suns made were done as a result of some other circumstance. We acquired Boris Diaw because we failed to keep Joe Johnson. We kept Shawn Marion around too long only to acquire the rotting corpse of Shaq [BTW, I think Shaq needs to make a guest appearance on Walking Dead].We waited and waited until we got absolutely zip for Amare [actually we got worse than zip]. We held on to our beloved HOF point guard only to acquire some low level first round draft picks. In between, we needed to fill in the blanks or clear up roster/cap issues, so we brought in guys like Raja Bell, Jason Richardson, and a host of other nameless non-producers [at least we are trying to wipe memories of them out of our minds], and dumped others and draft picks.
They say history repeats itself. Whoever "they" are must work for the Suns.
Once again we sit in a position of weakness with one of our players, when we had every opportunity to proactively make something happen. Back in March and again in July, I wrote an article about trading Marcin Gortat. The idea behind this was to be proactive in parlaying the "hype" surrounding Gortat's increased production/performance into other assets to build this team. It occurred to me that Gortat's value was more than likely never to rise higher, or more importantly that he had hit his ceiling. Certainly at that time, there were teams with GM's that coveted Gortat enough to part ways with good assets. My theory was that over time, GM's would be able to gather more observation and data to talk themselves out of liking Gortat. Additionally, with the roster turnover and the unknown of how he would survive without a certain player feeding him, the probability was high that Gortat's perceived value would decrease over time. Add to that the fact he will be 30 when his contract is up and you get the gist.
Here we are. After fourteen games of data collection, an inauspicious start to the season and mouthing off about not getting touches, Marcin has played his way backward a bit. While the chance for him to recover is there, a problem still exists.
Gortat has two years remaining on his contract, and the Suns allowed a contract milestone to pass by without making a definitive decision about the direction they want to go. Knowing Gortat is unhappy means that there is a good chance he will not re-sign with the Suns. Now he is fair game and what any particular team would give up for in a trade just dropped considerably at this point.
History repeating itself.
The next milestone will be the trade deadline. I am quite certain that many will bellow and rail against trading Marcin. However, once we get past that point, value in return drops again.
The truth is, regardless of a trade right now, we are in a position where I believe one of two things can happen:  Marcin plays his way out of big money and we keep him around as a middle level contract so-so starter or  he continues to produce at this level and garners a near MAX deal over 4 years that the Suns will never pay. In either case, we are not ever going to see enough value in Gortat to warrant doing nothing. It makes no sense to let it get to that.
What makes most sense is, that despite creating a hole in the middle [that frankly JO is filling quite admirably, and can do so for the same 2 year period Gortat is under contract for probably less money], we should probably showcase the hell out of Gortat to build his value back up and trade him at the deadline to a team that is desperate in need of his services to help them get over the hump. Otherwise we are bound to repeat history yet again.
I completely endorse the previous well elucidated, eloquent, non-partisan, completely fair and in no way scathing (or influenced by my opinion) statement by my esteemed colleague. So now that we've all decided that Gortat must go for the sake of all our souls, we need to set the market.
Here's what Gortat has done this season sans Nash (limited sample alert):
11.5 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 2.3 bpg
T-95th in ppg (15th among centers)
T-140th in p/48 (23rd among centers)
20th in rpg (10th among centers)
T-31st in r/48 (13th among centers)
T-5th in bpg
13th in b/48
So far this year, by these metrics, Marcin has been a slightly above average (at best) center. Note that he has also posted a career low WS/48 and a PER lower than either of the last two seasons (weigh those in or disregard them completely) combined with recent events and play and I think it's safe to assume that Marcin's stock isn't at an all-time high (like it was last summer).
Now let's look at an eyeball test, since a definitive analysis tool is a metempirical pursuit (there's always at least one dissenter). Here are the centers I believe are at least as good, or very close to, Gortat.
Centers older than Gortat:
Tyson Chandler (30) Knicks
Anderson Varejao (30) Cavaliers
Centers younger than Gortat:
DeAndre Jordan (24) Clippers
Marc Gasol (27) Grizzlies
Al Jefferson (27) Jazz
Brook Lopez (24) Nets
JaVale McGee (24) Nuggets
Greg Monroe (22) Pistons
Dwight Howard (26) Lakers
Brandan Wright (25) Mavericks *one year expiring $1 million deal
Al Horford (26) Hawks
Byron Mullens (23) Bobcats
Joakim Noah (27) Bulls
Omer Asik (26) Rockets
Roy Hibbert (25) Pacers
Andrew Bynum (25) Sixers *crippled players have no trade value - see Stoudemire, Amar'e
In terms of trade value, this list doesn't include players like Jonas Valanciunas (20) Raptors, Andre Drummond (19) Pistons or Meyers Leonard (20) Trail Blazers since there's no way their teams would trade them for Gortat straight up (or with any combination of Suns players, for that matter).
If you look at that list, I am contending there are at least 15 (Bynum doesn't count) centers playing this year that are comparable to or better than Gortat. There are also other players with more trade value or who teams flat out wouldn't trade (such as those listed above).
Gortat is also one of the oldest players on the entire list (did you notice what I did there?). So what is his trade value? I would purport that it's possible it's only as much as a contending team needs him.
So who are the contenders?
Boston - obvious need, in win now mode, probably have the pieces to make something work if they're motivated (Fab Melo/Jared Sullinger/Avery Bradley/Brandon Bass)
Milwaukee - obvious need, I'm not sure I see the pieces to make a deal, though (John Henson/Doron Lamb/Larry Sanders).
Atlanta - obvious need, contending team, Al Horford could slide to the four, do we have enough to get Josh Smith?
OKC - have some good young pieces (Eric Maynor/Jeremy Lamb/Perry Jones III), but any deal would probably mean swallowing Perkins contract
San Antonio - Suns not likely to trade with them, that would be awesome though, after we just gave the Lakers Nash, team in win now mode, Kawhi Leonard or Danny Green?
Golden St. - Andrew Bogut's bones are made of glass, Gortat would be an upgrade, interesting pieces (Klay Thompson/Harrison Barnes) - would they trade either of those guys, though?
What about teams that (a) aren't contending or (b) don't have as much of a need? Here are a couple of more names Jason and I bounced off each other, i.e. more ammunition to whip you into a frothing, frenzied, fracas:
Orlando: Aaron Afflalo/Moe Harkless
Dallas: Jae Crowder/Brandan Wright
Indiana: Danny Granger
Memphis: Darrell Arthur
Minnesota: Derrick Williams/Nikola Pekovic
Philadelphia: Thaddeus Young/ Evan Turner
Utah: Derrick Favors/Paul Millsap
So now that we got you started, ready, set, go!