The Blazers’ interest in a “rim protector” has been well-stated. General manager Neil Olshey has made it clear that he will be searching for a veteran defensive center to man the paint beside LaMarcus Aldridge, and give them the interior defense they lacked sorely last season.
A potential trade partner to note is the Phoenix Suns. The new general manager of the Suns, Ryan McDonough, recently explored the possibility of trading for a third first round pick in addition to their 5th and 30th overall picks.
Portland’s 10th overall pick has been available for a while. If Phoenix wants a first round draft pick, Portland’s is one of the earliest ones that can be easily had. Provided the Blazers want to keep their current core (including LaMarcus Aldridge, who has been involved in trade rumors of late), there could be a match here.
What makes sending the 10th pick to Phoenix so enticing for Portland is the lure of being able to add Marcin Gortat. Gortat profiles as a strong 6’11” center that can make exactly the type of impact that Olshey is looking for defensively. He averaged 1.6 blocks last season in 30.8 minutes per game, and is a very sturdy defender under the basket.
Outside of defense, Gortat is a decent source of rebounds and complimentary scoring. He averaged 8.5 rebounds last season and 10.0 boards the year before. Offensively, Gortat has a surprisingly refined game. He finishes dunks very well, and has a pretty reliable midrange jumper. After J.J. Hickson was able to find success playing off LaMarcus Aldridge last season, Gortat should be fine in a similar role.
29 years old and on an expiring contract worth $7.73 million next year, Gortat would be a very cap-friendly addition to the Blazers. Portland would get one more year to develop Meyers Leonard while they get the short-term veteran rim defender that they were looking for. If they want to keep him, the Blazers could re-sign Gortat after the season and possibly keep him as their starter for a few more years, provided he is up to the task. Portland can then choose to replace him as the starter with Leonard later down the line, whenever they feel is ideal.
After a down season last year in Phoenix, Gortat should be available despite being highly regarded in the past. While the 10th pick this season doesn’t hold too much value, this is a prime ‘buy low’ moment on Gortat. His numbers from last season were significantly down from the year prior: 11.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks on 52.1% shooting compared to 15.4 points, 10.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocks on 55.5% shooting two seasons ago..
Even if Gortat can’t return his production to what it was two years ago, Portland would be satisfied with just last season’s numbers. The key thing for them would be getting the interior defense neither LaMarcus Aldridge nor J.J. Hickson could offer, and Gortat offers that at a high level.
The only concern with adding Gortat is that in the short term, Portland would be hard pressed to make additions in free agency. A straight up swap of pick(s) for Gortat would take nearly $8 million out of the Blazers’ cap space for this offseason, leaving them with about $5 million to spend on a bench in need of a full revamp. If Portland can sneak the contract of Joel Freeland into the trade, offset by one or more of its three second-rounders and/or cash, that will allow them much greater flexibility.
Regardless of what it takes to get Gortat, this deal is definitely one to at least consider for both teams. It fits the stated agenda for both sides and, for Portland, swapping the 10th pick for Gortat fulfills owner Paul Allen’s wish to quickly become competitive again. An Aldridge-Gortat frontcourt could get the Blazers right back where they want to be: the playoffs.