Marcin Gortat has been a great find for the Phoenix Suns, a single bright spot in what’s been an awful couple seasons. Gortat has developed into one of the most productive big men in the game, last season posting career highs every category and had the highest PER(Player Efficiency Rating) on the team; even higher than that of Steve Nash.
As good as Gortat is on paper, there’s something that paper doesn’t show. Marcin Gortat has horrible awareness on both ends of floor. Before Gortat took over as the starting center, former Suns starting center Robin Lopez had the same problem, not knowing where the ball is on defense, being out of position, and not being ready to catch a pass.
Maybe I’m a bit hard on Gortat but watching him at times it’s awfully frustrating. Gortat’s production is fantastic, in fact last season his per 40 minute averages were 19.2 points, and 12.5 rebounds; that’s pretty damn good considering what the Suns pay him.
However if the Suns want to make the playoffs Gortat has to step up his level of awareness on both ends of the court. During the Suns preseason opener against the Kings, one play sticks out in my mind, Kendall Marshall drove behind a screen set by Gortat and led him to the basket with a perfect pass but Gortat never even reached out to grab it; instead the ball flew right out bounds. A direct result of Gortat not being prepared.
It’s a play that would be overlooked by anyone who doesn’t watch a heavy dose of Suns games, but it’s not just that one play, it’s that one play that happens at least once every single game. As matter fact during the course of last season Gortat began doing this thing where after dropping a pass Gortat would get on his knees and put his hands over his face as to say “I can’t believe I just let that happen.” You know what if you don’t want that kind of things to happen don’t let it happen.
Another one of Gortat’s struggles is his lack of aggressiveness near the rim. For a 7-footer he seems to love lefty lay-ups, and I give him credit he’s not a bad left hand finisher but he has to understand this is the NBA. Gortat is playing with the most athletic players in the world; you’ve got to power the ball to the rim unless you want this to happen. Getting blocked by Shaun Livingston, come on that’s embarrassing. It’s even worse because he can get up there and dunk on someone but he loves his lay-ups, so what can you do?
On the defensive end he’s just as awful in terms of awareness. Gortat has a great habit of biting on pump fakes, he did better last season as the season went along in terms of not jumping when the opponent pump fakes 18 feet away from the basket, but overall he still has trouble staying grounded. Unfortunately, I do not have access to game tapes or else I’d put together a video to SHOW what I’m talking about.
It’s so hard to criticized Gortat because of his production on paper but at times when you watch the guy play you’re thinking he’s awful. Gortat criticized the Suns defense the minute he stepped into the valley but for a guy who’s relatively mediocre on the defensive end he needs to step it up. Gortat’s mobility and shot blocking ability remains as his golden ticket but Gortat struggles to defend centers that are capable of posting up on the block such as Andrew Bynum or DeMarcus Cousins. The Suns have built together a roster that’s aiming for a playoff run and if they want to sneak up and grab the 7th or 8th seed Gortat needs to do a better job against the talented big men in the western conference.