From today through the start of the free agent signing period on Wednesday, Project Spurs will profile free agents on our wishlists.
Even with the recent draft of DeJuan Blair, the Spurs could still use some help in the paint with Kurt Thomas and Fabricio Oberto traded away last week.
Blair will help beef up our bench, but the Spurs still need a starting center to play next to Tim Duncan.
Marcin Gortat, a backup center with the Orlando Magic, could certainly fit that bill. While his numbers are far from impressive, he also averaged just 12 minutes a game last season.
But when he started for Dwight Howard on December 15 at Golden State, he made the most of it, with 16 points, 13 rebounds and 3 blocks. But that wasn’t the only time Gortat had a double-double. His points, rebounds and blocks increase considerably as his playing time increases.
When he gets 40 plus minutes, which happened twice this season, his stats are very impressive. In a loss to Milwaukee in April, the 6-11 Gortat played 43 minutes and finished with 10 points and 18 rebounds.
For a team that has four 20+ scorers and needs rebounding help, Gortat seems like a perfect fit, and if you have any questions about whether or not he can start, just ask Magic GM Otis Smith.
“He goes out and does his job and probably has the best work ethic of anyone in the locker room,” Smith said. “Can he start for another team? Yeah he can.”
Of all of the available free agent bigs, Gortat is probably my favorite. He’s aggressive on offense, defensive-minded, has a great work ethic, and at 25, he still has plenty of time to grow into the intimidating presence we want blocking shots in the post. And how could you not like a guy nicknamed the Polish Hammer.
Gortat only made $711,000 for the Magic last season, and while I would value him at about $3 million per year, he’ll likely command the mid-level exception.
Since he’s a restricted free agent, Orlando will have the opportunity to match, but after taking on Vince Carter’s contract, there’s not much of a chance chance that they will offer that much for a backup to Dwight Howard when any veteran big can relieve Howard for 12 minutes a game.
There was a report last week that the Spurs are considering spending the $5.5 million exception on either Gortat, Zaza Pachulia, Drew Gooden, Rasheed Wallace or Tiago Splitter.
If they can get Rasheed Wallace to go for the MLE, then that’s probably the best move. After that, it would be a three-horse race between Gortat, Pachulia and Gooden for my money. There’s also a chance that New York, who reportedly wants Gortat badly, will overpay him to outbid the Spurs or any other team.
Be sure to check back from now until Wednesday for more free agent profiles.