Skip to content

Wizards keep playoff goal intact by trading injured Okafor for a healthy Gortat

Oct 26, 2013, 6:30 PM EST

Marcin Gortat, Patrick Patterson AP

WASHINGTON – Sometimes trades instinctively bring out the head scratcher in all of us. The Wizards acquiring center Marcin Gortat isn’t one of those times.

Washington hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2008. Unlike teams that bailed on the upcoming season to ensure a lottery finish, the Wizards have shaped their John Wall-led roster with the goal of a postseason return.

Emeka Okafor‘s herniated disk in his neck threatened to derail those plans.

Fearing the defensive presence might return later than sooner, the playoff-pushing organization addressed the matter sooner than later.

Following Saturday’s practice, management, coaches and players discussed the necessary move, which included not just a swap of expiring contracts, but the Wizards shipping a protected 2014 first round pick.

Wizards team President Ernie Grunfeld: “Obviously if Emeka didn’t have the [injury], probably wouldn’t have been as imperative for us to get another big man in there. We don’t know what his status will be. Obviously, Emeka was very frustrated by his situation and there is really no timeframe for him.”

Wall: “It’s tough to see a guy like Mek go that was a great professional for us and what he did for our team, especially helping me in learning things, but it was kind of tough not knowing if he would play this year.”

Head coach Randy Wittman: “We’re not just trading a player for a player, with Mek not being on the floor yet this year. That’s the beauty about the situation. We had no idea when, or if, Emek, was going to be back. So, this gives us a free body that we didn’t have.”

Not just a free body, but a big body, a 6-foot-11, 240-pounder efficient in the pick-and-roll and better offensively than the man he replaces. Nor Okafor’s equal on defense, but Gortat is a big body willing to bang and defend those in the middle so power forward Nene and his perennial aching body doesn’t have to.

“Now we have a true center. Look at my face,” said the grinning Brazilian big man, who has not been shy about stating his positional preference. “[Gortat] is going to help us a lot. He’s a veteran … high IQ big man. He knows how to play. We feel sad for Emeka, he was a great teammate, but we need the position. [The organization] did an amazing job. They surprised me.”

Considering the team’s playoffs-or-bust mentality, considering the young frontcourt options — namely Kevin Seraphin and Jan Vesely — provided no assurance they could step up into larger roles, nobody should be surprised. Considering the trade laid out on a Venn diagram would show a tiny not-so-sweet spot, nobody should be scratching their head.

The first round pick is protected through the 12th selection. If the Wizards make the playoffs for the first time in six seasons, the pick heads to Phoenix without complaint. If the Wizards miss the playoffs, they keep the pick as long as they don’t end up with the 13th or 14th selection. Barring bad luck with ping-pong balls, that’s a safe bet considering there are more strong teams than available postseason berths out West.

The Wizards will enter next offseason with a hole at center — and potentially around $16 million in cap space now that they have reportedly declined options on Vesely and Chris Singleton. Make the playoffs and the Wizards become more attractive to high-end free agents as a rising franchise headlined by the electric backcourt combo of Wall and Bradley Beal. Miss the playoffs and the Wizards have both a first round selection and cap space to address needs.

“That could become available to us if that’s a direction we want to go,” Grunfeld said of potentially adding a max contract free agent. “But we’ll worry about that next summer.”

They could also re-sign Gortat, who averaged 11.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks last season for Phoenix in what some considered a down effort. If the “Polish Machine” helps makes the Wizards a better team — he should offensively — and the money works out, why not.

As for guards Kendall Marshall, Shannon Brown and Malcolm Lee, Grunfeld will only worry about the other ex-Suns acquired in the deal for another day or so. Washington must trim three players by Monday to reach the league-maximum of 15. Grunfeld said he hasn’t made a final decision, but nobody is expecting that trio to stay with the Wizards.

The idea of making the playoffs this season, that notion has staying power. Without making the trade, maybe not.

“It hasn’t changed any,” Wittman said of the team’s postseason goals. “We talked about that. This wouldn’t make it change any. We still expect to fight for a spot in May. That’s our objective here.”

Latest Posts
  1. Daryl Morey: ‘Take James Harden off our team, and we’re nowhere’

    Feb 28, 2015, 4:00 PM EST

    J.J. Redick, DeAndre Jordan, James Harden J.J. Redick, DeAndre Jordan, James Harden

    Rockets general manager says he recommended trading ‘everything’ for Harden in 2012

  2. Russell Westbrook takes knee to face, it leaves dent (VIDEO)

    Feb 28, 2015, 11:30 AM EST

    Russell Westbrook AP

    He was evaluated by doctors after the game Friday.

  3. Former All-Star, popular Knick Anthony Mason dies at age 48

    Feb 28, 2015, 10:33 AM EST

    Anthony mason knicks Getty Images

    He had been in the hospital for weeks following multiple heart attacks.

  4. Langston Galloway three forces overtime, Knicks go on to victory (VIDEO)

    Feb 28, 2015, 9:30 AM EST

    New York Knicks v Detroit Pistons Getty Images

    The Knicks got the double OT win in Detroit, this shot was key.

  5. Russell Westbrook posts third straight triple-double, Thunder lose anyway

    Feb 28, 2015, 8:00 AM EST

    Russell Westbrook AP

    Westbrook is averaging a triple-double over his last five games.

  6. Knicks’ Alexey Shved misses shot about as badly as you can (VIDEO)

    Feb 28, 2015, 1:02 AM EST

    Boston Celtics Vs. New York Knicks TD Garden Getty Images

    To quote Bob Uecker, “juuuuust a bit outside.”

  7. Rumor: Baron Davis planning an NBA comeback. Stop laughing, he’s serious.

    Feb 27, 2015, 11:00 PM EST

    Jordan Brand Melo M9 Shoe Launch Getty Images

    There is about as much chance of me getting a date with Emily Ratajkowski this weekend as there is of this actually happening.

  8. What’s the best way to defend Kings’ cherry-picking idea?

    Feb 27, 2015, 9:00 PM EST

    NBA teams are considering the question

  9. Daryl Morey believes two bad shots are better than one good shot (always), but data wasn’t significant enough for Jeff Van Gundy to change

    Feb 27, 2015, 7:59 PM EST

    Houston Rockets Draft Picks Press Conference Getty Images

    An interesting anecdote from Morey (speaking at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference) about how the data showed an advantage, but not one big enough for his coach to change.

  10. Re-inventing the Wheel: Mike Zarren presents modified NBA-draft-lottery-reform proposals

    Feb 27, 2015, 6:59 PM EST

    the modified draft wheel

    Instead of 30-year plan, assistant Celtics general manager unveils five-year and 10-year plans

  11. Shane Battier: ‘I think a 60-game season would be perfect’

    Feb 27, 2015, 5:30 PM EST

    Shane Battier Shane Battier

    There are financial obstacles in the way of dropping 22 games from the schedule, but Battier makes a somewhat compelling case.

  12. Kyrie Irving has strained left shoulder, out Friday vs. Pacers

    Feb 27, 2015, 4:56 PM EST

    Cleveland Cavaliers v New York Knicks Getty Images

    He’s day to day. (Insert your Keith Olberman joke here.)

  13. NBA to release “Last Two Minutes” officiating reports through end of season, playoffs

    Feb 27, 2015, 4:30 PM EST

    Boston Celtics Vs. Brooklyn Nets At TD Garden Getty Images

    It’s not going to change most fans’ minds, but it’s a good first step.

  14. Report: Highest bid for Atlanta Hawks currently $800 million

    Feb 27, 2015, 3:45 PM EST

    Indiana Pacers v Atlanta Hawks - Game Six Getty Images

    Don’t be surprised if another bidder comes in over the top.

  15. Report: If Ray Allen return to NBA this season it will not be with Cleveland

    Feb 27, 2015, 3:15 PM EST

    Ray Allen Getty Images

    Don’t expect him to return, but if he does Cleveland appears off the list.

  16. The time Michael Jordan asked Common to forge his signature (VIDEO)

    Feb 27, 2015, 2:45 PM EST

    87th Annual Academy Awards - Red Carpet Getty Images

    Turns out Common was a Bulls ball boy back in the early Jordan era in Chicago, so he and Michael Jordan had some laughs together.

Featured video

Is Derrick Rose the next Penny Hardaway?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. K. Durant (8176)
  2. D. Rose (7835)
  3. S. Curry (7453)
  4. D. Howard (7270)
  5. P. George (6713)
  1. M. Carter-Williams (6614)
  2. A. Davis (6303)
  3. B. Beal (6143)
  4. R. Westbrook (6064)
  5. C. Bosh (5818)