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2018-2019 Clippers Player Preview: Veteran Big Marcin Gortat Brings Old School Style to the Clippers’ Front Court

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Will the Polish Hammer be effective in filling the void left by DeAndre Jordan?

Sydney Kings v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images

Basic Information: Marcin Gortat

Age: 34

Years in NBA: 11

Position: Center/Power Forward

Height: 6-11

Weight: 240

Key Stats: Gortat has averaged 10.2 points on 55.2 percent shooting, 8.1 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and 1.1 assists during his 11 seasons in the NBA.

Contract Status: Gortat is entering the last year of a 5 year / $60,000,000 contract. In 2018-19, Gortat will earn a base salary of $13,565,218.

Expectations:

Gortat, an 11-season veteran of the NBA, is a new addition to the Clippers’ franchise. He was acquired during the off-season from the Washington Wizards in a revenue-neutral trade for Austin Rivers. Gortat, aptly nicknamed the “Polish Hammer”, is expected to fill the hole left by DeAndre Jordan, who signed with the Dallas Mavericks in July.

Gortat and Jordan are similar in many ways. Both big men are strong, resilient and reliable, rarely missing games or succumbing to injury. Gortat has played in 759 NBA games, including all 82 games in three of his five seasons with the Wizards. Jordan, with 750 Clipper games under his belt, has also played three 82-game seasons.

Career statistics are also comparable. Gortat averages 10.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and 1.1 assists in 26.3 minutes per game and Jordan averaged 9.4 points 10.7 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and .7 assists in 28.1 minutes per game.

Despite these similarities, Gortat lacks Jordan’s speed, athleticism and defensive prowess. Gortat is not known to be a strong rim protector and may find it hard to deal with some of the younger big men in the league like Joel Embiid, Karl-Anthony Towns, or even Steven Adams. Although he will definitely have a presence on the floor, Gortat is unlikely to alter opponents’ offensive strategy the way Jordan did.

On offense, Gortat will never be the most exciting guy on the floor. Sadly, the Clippers’ era of spectacular lobs and jams is over. Gortat is a traditional center who likes to stay in the paint, bang around, and score clean up buckets without flash or fanfare. He lacks finesse and does not have an arsenal of low-post moves to pull from, but he gets the job done nonetheless.

Gortat is frequently heralded for his ability to set solid screens. This skill will benefit the Clippers, as their roster is replete with young, talented guards with yet unproven ability to create their own shots against the exceptionally talented backcourts of the NBA.

Gortat has been unabashedly uninterested in changing his style of play in the new run and gun, guard-focused NBA. In June, when asked about the possibility of working on his outside shot, Gortat was quoted as responding: “This summer, I’m going to work on my tan. I’m going to work on my 6-pack. Get my biceps definition a bit better. You can’t improve 3-point shooting. You can’t improve your shot, specifically for me. I truly believe I’m a solid, good shooter up to 15, 17 feet. But I’m not going to shoot 3s. No, I’m not going to do that. I want to go into the paint. Body people. Be physical. Get scratches. Bleed.”

Although you have to admire his commitment to playing old school basketball, Gortat’s unwillingness to adjust and evolve his game (in addition to his age) warrants a reduction in minutes this season. Gortat’s career average is 26.3 minutes per game. In pre-season play he averaged 20.6 minutes for the Clippers. He may see even less time on the hardwood during the regular season, particularly with Montrezl Harrell on an uptick and Boban Marjanović playing so surprisingly well.

In the three pre-season games in which Gortat has seen minutes for Los Angeles his output has been steady and consistent with his career statistics.

  • v. Australia’s Sydney Kings: 12 points, nine rebounds, three assists, one steal and 1 block in 26 minutes.
  • v. Minnesota Timberwolves: eight points, five rebounds and one assist in 14 minutes.
  • v. Los Angeles Lakers: 10 points, nine rebounds and one assist in 22 minutes

Show up and work. That’s what fans can expect from the reliable Gortat this season.