From the Booth

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Czar’s End of Year Awards: Sixth Man of the Year

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Fratello’s Fantasy Pick: Marcin Gortat

In 10 days the “Polish Hammer” Marcin Gortat will be 27 years old, coming into his athletic prime. A natural athlete, Marcin is the son of Janusz Gortat, a two-time Olympic bronze medalist in boxing, and Alicja Gortat, a former member of Poland’s national women’s volleyball team. On December 18th, 2010, the rugged power forward/center was traded in a splashy, multi-player deal from the Orlando Magic to the Phoenix Suns, the team that originally drafted him 57th overall in the second round of the 2005 NBA Draft.

Gortat is in his fourth NBA season, and since he left O-Town for the Grand Canyon State, his minutes and numbers have surged upward. In Orlando, the Hammer was basically stuck behind the best big man in the league, center Dwight Howard. And since Magic coach Stan Van Gundy wasn’t keen on playing Gortat and Howard together on the floor, Gortat did not see enough court time to play to his full potential. He did, nonetheless, get loads of valuable experience under his belt.

Gortat played in 150 games regular season games for Orlando over three years. He averaged 3.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg and .8 bpg in 12.8 minutes per game. His hoops resume is bolstered by the fact that he has participated in many high pressure April, May and June post-season contests. Playing for a quality Magic squad, Gortat had the opportunity to play in 46 playoff games. Also, and most importantly, he practiced against and banged with All-NBA First Teamer Howard every day during his time in the Eastern Conference. Serving as a hardwood understudy to a superstar like Howard can be a frustrating role, but it also makes it easier to go out and compete against other NBA big men who are not in Dwight’s elite class.

Since joining the Suns, Gortat is averaging 25.1 mpg and 10.6 ppg. His rebounding production is way up as well at 7.8 boards per game, and his blocked shots now average more than 1.1. As a Sun, his FT % and FG % are higher, and he’s playing with the controlled aggression that has created a meaningful spot for him in the NBA. Gortat’s all-out hustle and energy brings a welcome new dimension of toughness and tenacity to the Phoenix Suns. A powerful rebounder, Gortat will help shore up the Suns’ interior defense. And having two-time MVP, point guard Steve Nash running the show won’t hurt his chances for easy baskets on the offensive end. Look for this proud son of the Polish city Lodz to start adding ‘lots’ more numbers to his stat line with a greater role in Phoenix.