Gortat Key to Playoff Push

Phoenix wasn’t supposed to land the best big man at the trade deadline.

The high octane Suns dealt away their leading scorer, guard Jason Richardson, for a career backup to the premier center in the NBA.

But during his short stay in Phoenix, Marcin Gortat has proven his is much more than a trade throw-in.

Even though Robin Lopez remains the starting center for the Suns, Gortat has quickly proven he deserves a majority of the minutes.

In 44 games, Gortat is averaging 12.4 points and 8.9 rebounds per game, shooting 56.9 percent from the field and giving the Suns a desperately needed inside presence.

Not only has he rejuvenated a struggling Phoenix team, Gortat proved why he was such a commodity as a restricted free agent this summer.

Spending three years as the primary backup to All-Star center Dwight Howard, Gortat had shown flashes during his limited playing time.

Landing a five-year $34 million deal with the Dallas Mavericks during the summer of 2009, the Magic opted to match the offer, keeping Gortat in Orlando.

The move showed just how valuable Orlando felt Gortat was, as his deal put the Magic well over the luxury tax threshold.

Still stuck behind the top center in the league, Gortat made his desire to have a larger role in Orlando known. The Magic tried to accomodate, often pairing Howard and Gortat in the front court together.

Since they have a similar type game, and most teams could counter with long range shooters to draw the big men out of the paint, the move was unsuccessful.

Averaging just over 12 minutes per game throughout his career, Gortat proved could provide an impact when given the opportunity.

Filling in for Howard twice in Orlando’s starting lineup this season, Gortat posted double-digit rebound totals during both occasions.

Even with superb play from both of its centers, the Magic needed to make a move to round out the rest of its roster.

Sending Gortat, Vince Carter and Mickael Pietrus to Phoenix for Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Earl Clark, the Suns turned a certain rebuilding year into a potential playoff appearance.

Losing the 19.3 points per game Richardson was averaging, Phoenix compensated by adding Gortat to its undersized front court.

In just 44 games, Gorat has become the new pick-and-roll target for Steve Nash.

 

Adapting to the Suns offense quickly, Gortat has submitted some All-Star caliber performances this season, helping the team play over .500 since his acquisition.

Leading the Suns to an 88-71 victory over the Celtics, Gortat grabbed 17 rebounds and poured in 19 points, nearly out rebounding Boston’s starting lineup by himself.

Marcin Gortat has become a dominant center during his short time in Phoenix.

The following night he topped 20 points for the first time in his career, totaling 25 points and 11 rebounds during a 104-102 victory over New Orleans.

Sitting behind Memphis and Houston for the final playoff position, the Suns close out the season with seven of their remaining 10 games against playoff teams.

Playing against tougher competition has only elevated Gortat’s game this season.

During an instant classic game against the Lakers, Gortat played 53 minutes during the triple-overtime loss.

Although Phoenix failed to knock off its division rival, Gortat played even better than his Los Angeles couterpart, Pau Gasol.

Both players scored 24 points, but Gortat secured 16 rebounds, three more than Gasol.

Since coming over to Phoenix, Gortat has played over 30 minutes 23 times and has posted 16 double-doubles.

As of the few truly skilled centers in the league, Gortat has an opportunity to dominate the post and help Phoenix reach the post season.

Finally given his opportunity, Gortat had to go to the desert to find his time to shine.

About Brendan Galella

Brendan Galella founded Shatter the Glass to make the NBA even more accessible to basketball fans. Composing player rankings, team evaluations and intriguing observations, he hopes to turn every reader into a dedicated and educated basketball follower.

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