Trade Candidate: Marcin Gortat

One of the reasons Alvin Gentry is no longer coaching the Suns is reportedly because the team wants to focus on developing younger talent, and doesn't think Gentry's the guy to lead that effort. Marcin Gortat, who turns 29 next month, isn't exactly a perfect fit in a youth movement, either, so it's reasonable to expect he could be the next guy heading out of Phoenix. It's harder to get rid of a player than it is to dump a coach, but despite a regression in his performance this year, there should be no shortage of teams lining up to acquire the 6'11" center.

Gortat is coming off a career year in 2011/12, when he put up 15.4 points and 10.0 rebounds per game in his first full season as a starter. This year, those numbers are down to 11.6 PPG and 9.0 RPG, but he's not the first player who hasn't looked as sharp when he's no longer part of nightly pick-and-rolls with Steve Nash. Gortat is seeing 9.4 shots per game as opposed to 11.7 last season in a nearly idential amount of minutes. Still, his 16.5 PER is lower than in any of his six NBA seasons, aside from 2009/10. The sudden lack of efficiency probably can't be pinned on Gortat breaking down, as he hasn't missed a game the past two seasons, so it likely has to do either with the absence of Nash or the indifference that comes from playing on a last-place team.

Gortat vented his frustration earlier this season about the Suns' style of play and his role in the offense to a reporter in his native Poland, and he turned down Phoenix's offer of a contract extension over the summer. Still, he said he won't ask for a trade, feeling an obligation to stick it out with his struggling team.

The Suns might let him off that hook, and if they do, the Celtics have been linked to him as a potential suitor. That stands to reason, given Boston's rebounding deficiencies and lack of a true center. The C's could give up someone from their crowded backcourt — perhaps Courtney Lee, who was reportedly drawing interest around the league a couple of weeks ago. No one has collected fewer rebounds this year than the Heat, who would no doubt love to bring Gortat back to Florida, but they probably don't have enough assets to engage the Suns other than their three stars, whom they're reluctant to break up. The Rockets have been eyeing Gortat as well, and they certainly have enough young players to fit Phoenix's new player development focus, but I'm not sure the Suns would be willing to give up Gortat for anyone Houston would probably dangle.  

What the Suns do with Gortat before the trade deadline will have a lot to say about the direction of the franchise. If they deal him, it clearly signals full-scale rebuilding, a step forward with the process that began when they let Nash go last year. If they keep him, it either means they see him as a building block for the future or believe they'll get a better deal for him next year, when he'll be on an expiring contract. Much will depend on the market, but competent NBA centers are usually in high demand. With whispers that the jobs of basketball president Lon Babby and GM Lance Blanks are in jeopardy, I'd bet that a team will come forward with enough of an enticement to get the Suns to trade Gortat before this year's deadline passes.

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