Wizards trade Okafor to the Suns for Gortat

Christian Petersen

Evaluating the first big trade of the 2013-14 season.

Earlier today, the Wizards made a move and the Suns made a move that made sense for both parties involved.

The Wizards sent veteran center Emeka Okafor and a a protected 2014 first-round pick to the Suns in exchange for the services of Marcin Gortat and three other players (Shannon Brown, Kendall Marshall, and Malcolm Lee) who will likely be cut. The deal was first reported by ESPN's Jeff Goodman.

The Washington Wizards are a team who hope to contend for a playoff seed in the Eastern Conference this year. All the pieces were in place; a rising star in John Wall, an improving guard in Bradley Beal, a small forward rotation with veteran Trevor Ariza, three point marksman Martell Webster, and rookie Otto Porter. All they needed was some stability up front, stability that they had been unable to find for the past few seasons. It seemed those pieces were in place for this season with Nene and Emeka Okafor both healthy and ready to play.

Then, in typical Wizards fashion, someone got hurt.  Emeka Okafor injured his neck of all things and suddenly the Wizards were looking at the likes of Al Harrington, Jan Vesely, and Kevin Seraphin to step up and play quality minutes on this Wizards front line.

The way I see it, the Wizards had no choice. If they still had any hopes of making the playoffs, a move had to be made.

So the Wizards did that, trading expiring contract for expiring contract and taking a rental in the big man Gortat.

So why does this make sense for both teams?

For the Suns, this is a team rebuilding and a team Marcin Gortat wasn't going to return to next season. Instead of hanging on to Gortat and likely lossing him after the season they decided to swap him for another expiring contract in Emeka Okafor (that they can buy out) and get another first round pick (that is protected) in a loaded draft coming up this summer.

The Suns now have four first round picks in the upcoming draft and have increased their chances of landing a potential superstar in Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, or others to pair with the future of the Suns in Alex Len and Eric Bledsoe.

For the Wizards, something tells me that the front office knew something that we didn't about Emeka Okafor and I suspect that something isn't good. As in, Emeka Okafor was going to miss a lot of games this year. Instead of hoping and praying that Harrington, Vesely, and Seraphin could step up, and expecting Nene to play center, GM Ernie Grunfeld went out and got his reliable center in Marcin Gortat.

Gortat does a couple things for the Wizards:

  • Provides a real and reliable pick and roll partner for John Wall. Examples 1, 2, 3.
  • Allows Nene to play his true position at PF.
  • Keeps Vesely, Seraphin, and Harrington out of the starting lineup.
  • An overall upgrade on the offensive end.
Sure, the Wizards will lose some defense with the loss of Okafor, but how many minutes of solid post defense would he had given them this season with the injury? My guess is not many. Now, they get a guy in Gortat who isn't as efficient defensively, but is more efficient offensively. Let's look at the numbers:

Gortat: 11-12: 66 games, 15.4 pts, 10 rbs, 0.9 ast, 1.5 blk, 55% FG, 64% FT
12-13: 61 games, 11.1 pts, 8.5 rbs, 1.2 ast, 1.6 blk, 52% FG, 65% FT

Okafor: 11-12: 27 games, 9.9 pts, 7.9 rbs, 0.9 ast, 1 blk, 53% FG, 51% FT
12-13: 79 games, 9.7 pts, 8.8 rebs, 1.2 ast, 1 blk, 47% FG, 57% FT

In almost every category, Gortat is the better player. His numbers took a dip last year, and some will argue that he had an off year in general. I'll throw the blame to the roster around him. He went from playing with Steve Nash, Grant Hill, and Channing Frye to playing with Michael Beasley, Goran Dragic, and Luis Scola. LeBron James' stats would take a dip too if he went from playing with Steve Nash to playing with the cast of clowns that Phoenix trotted out last year (on second though, knowing LeBron, they probalby would've gone up). I'm thinking that playing with a legitimate roster containing the likes of Wall, Beal, Nene, Ariza, Webster, and others will make Gortat's numbers go back up to his days when he averaged a double-double. Okafor was able to find himself again playing meaningful minutes as a starter with the Wizards, why can't Gortat?

Some will doubt this trade and look at it as another patch up move for the Wizards and wish to hang on to "the draft pick that could've been ...". People will say that the Wizards panicked and took a rental on a guy that isn't as good as he used to be. Some will look at this trade glass-half-empty.

I'm looking at it glass-half-full. With a healthy Wall and Beal, Gortat will find his niche in the Wizards offense. He and Wall will perform a pick and roll tandem, he will allow Nene to float around the perimeter and mid range like he did last season, and he will allow a stretch four like Al Harrington to get open looks, much like he and Channing Frye did a few years ago. Ultimately, Gortat is the big man the Wizards need to get into the playoffs.

He seems happy about the move anyways:

Now, everyone stay healthy. Looking at you, entire Wizards roster.

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