After an up-and-down regular season, Marcin Gortat is justifying the Wizards‘ faith in him in the playoffs, writes Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post. Last summer, Gortat received a five-year, $60MM contract that made him one of the team’s cornerstones. But the relationship began to sour around midseason when Gortat’s playing time and touches both declined. However, the team started using more small-ball lineups — a philosophy that Gortat thrived under in Phoenix — and his numbers improved, especially in the first-round sweep of the Raptors. “I mean, he is 7 feet, so we got to get him the ball whenever he’s open,” teammate Bradley Beal said of Gortat. “You got to throw it to him because he can score.”
There’s more from the Southeast Division on a playoff Sunday:
- A midseason trade to the Wizards has reinvigorated Ramon Sessions, Castillo writes in a separate story. Washington sent Andre Miller to Sacramento at the deadline in exchange for Sessions in hopes of bringing a faster pace to its second unit. The Wizards have been pleasantly surprised by his shooting since the deal — 41.4% from the field and 43.9% from three-point range. Sessions admits he was playing the worst basketball of his career with the Kings, which he attributes to a back injury and a changing role on a team that had three coaches before the deal.
- Wizards owner Ted Leonsis says coach Randy Wittman makes “proper use of analytics,” despite his old-school approach, Castillo writes in another story. One way that Wittman has adapted to the new thinking around the NBA is by using Paul Pierce and Drew Gooden as stretch fours in the series against the Raptors. “I didn’t really understand it, and I mean that sincerely,” Leonsis said of an ESPN report that listed the Wizards as “skeptics” when it comes to analytics. “I read it and I just said, ‘I think that’s because our coach is not driven by PR.’ ”
- Jeff Teague‘s emergence as an elite defender helped the Hawks become the top seed in the East, according to KL Chouinard of nba.com. Teague limited opposing guards to just 38.4% from the field this season and 42.8% from two-point range. He is in the middle of a four-year, $32MM contract and will become an unrestricted free agent in 2017.