Suns fans know that Marcin Gortat is a big man with rebounding and defensive prowess, and that Mickael Pietrus is a lockdown defender with a three ball to boot. But as two of Orlando’s more under the radar players, Gortat and Pietrus haven’t quite had their close-up, especially in front of Suns fans.
So what exactly is this duo good at, and when should Suns fans hold their breath?
Rebounding: No doubt Gortat’s biggest asset is his board work. The 6-foot-11, 240-pounder is physical, active and smart in terms of positioning. He averages 11.9 rebounds per 40 minutes, which is more than Pau Gasol, Carlos Boozer and Roy Hibbert, and right behind Emeka Okafor (12.0), Kevin Garnett (12.1) and Anderson Varejao (12.3).
Gortat also boasts an impressive rebound rate (which measures the percentage of boards you grab during your time on the court) of 17.8, which ranks 25th in the NBA ahead of Al Horford, David Lee, Boozer, Okafor, Hibbert, Gasol and other notable big men.
He isn’t much of an offensive rebounder, but he’s decent enough to make him an above average overall rebounder who’s going to give one of the NBA’s worst rebounding teams a huge boost in that category.
Defense: The Poland native is physical and quick enough to trust when defending an opposing team’s best post player. He’s not an athletic specimen by any means, but has good balance and lateral quickness, while holding his own on the block. He defends one-on-one post moves extremely well, as he held opponents to 0.80 points per possession on 122 post-up possessions.
The Suns currently yield 68.8 percent shooting at the rim, good for 29th in the league. They also allow 50.6 percent shooting within 10 feet, which is the league’s second-worst percentage from that distance. Needless to say, the Suns need help defending the paint, and Gortat can do that.
Here he does a nice job locking down Nene, who the Suns have had trouble defending in the past:
Last season Gortat held opponents to an impressive 0.84 points per possession. He does a nice job defending the pick and roll, hedging screens and staying active defensively.
Below Gortat does a nice job showing on the pick-and-roll, retreating back to defend Channing Frye and then getting out to contest a Frye three-pointer. Not many big men can do that:
Pick-and-roll: Most 6-foot-11 centers aren’t all that great in the pick-and-roll, but Gortat disproves that notion. After re-watching a handful of Magic games, it became clear he’s their primary screener when he’s on the floor. He’s a wide base with good agility to roll to the hoop.
He didn’t get a ton of chances as a roller because he simply wasn’t one of Orlando’s main options. But when Gortat was given the opportunity, he thrived as a roll man last season, scoring an impressive 1.28 points per possession in 93 tries. He’s shooting a career high 69.2 percent at the rim this season.
Gortat is also a solid decision maker, as you can see below where he finds J.J. Redick for a wide open three:
Add in that Gortat is the first big man down the floor almost every possession and theoretically he should be a Phoenix Suns dream come true.
Shooting: One area where Gortat does struggle is shooting the ball. His form could use some work as he cocks the ball back with his off elbow flying out. But his stroke and follow-through isn’t all that bad, he just needs a few adjustments. But no matter how much work he has, Gortat isn’t going to be a shooter for the Suns, which makes it hard to imagine him playing next to Robin Lopez.
Here’s a few looks at his shot:
Offensive repertoire: Gortat isn’t much of a shooter, and really doesn’t have anything worthwhile to offer offensively. He’s not the low-post threat the Suns are searching for, as he scored only 0.60 points per possession out of post-up situations last season. But as long as he can be successful in the pick-and-roll, Gortat could be an offensive asset for the Suns.
On-the-ball defense: Pietrus is the lockdown defender the Suns have been searching for to give Grant Hill some relief. At 6-foot-6, 210 pounds, Pietrus is long enough and physical enough to shut down both shooting guards and small forwards. He is a pest defensively, especially in isolation situations, where he limited opponents to 0.83 points per possession last season.
He’s never averaged more than one steal per game so he isn’t out in the passing lanes, but when it comes to defending one on one, Pietrus is one of the league’s best.
Three-point shooting: Pietrus fits the Suns’ needs perfectly, as he can defend the perimeter and knock down the open three. He’s shooting a career-high 39.1 percent from the land of plenty this season, which should only go up with Steve Nash feeding him.
It’s been known in Orlando that Pietrus’ shooting dictates his all-around play. In an open-court system like that the Suns play, Pietrus should get a ton of open looks and play well because of it.
Transition: He can also get out and run, which bodes well for the Suns. Last season 18.4 percent of his shots came in transition, resulting in 1.03 points per possession in fastbreak situations.
Creating his own shot: Pietrus is certainly limited offensively. He isn’t much of a playmaker and lives on the three-point line, as 87 of his 115 shots so far this season have come beyond the arc. The swingman doesn’t have a go-to move and isn’t going to be facilitating many pick and rolls.
Passing: His lack of court vision goes hand in hand with his one-dimensional play. The 28-year-old has never averaged more than 1.2 assists per game in a season and is often reluctant to make the extra pass, which won’t fly on the Suns. But as long as he shoots when he’s open, passes when he’s not, and plays within himself, Pietrus should be just fine.