On December 18, 2010, the Orlando Magic shipped out Marcin Gortat (and Vince Carter, Mickael Pietrus, and a 2011 first-rounder) for what they thought was a good return at the time: Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Earl Clark.
The move makes a lot of sense for the Magic in a number of ways. Gortat was a fan favorite in Orlando, and while he's no Dwight Howard, he's ahead of the curve for a starting NBA center.
What doesn't make sense, however, is that Gortat is going to turn 29 in a few months, and the Magic are rebuilding. Ideally, one would think that the Magic would like to go younger rather than get a center who is on the tail end of his prime.
But there's really no knowing how long Gortat's prime will extend. He didn't enter the NBA until he was 23, so he really only has five years of mileage on his body.
It's possible that Gortat remains effective well into his mid-30s, provided his athleticism doesn't decline too rapidly. (Okay, so Gortat isn't a premier athlete, but he's still above-average for a seven-footer in terms of speed and agility.)
Many questioned whether or not Gortat could thrive without Steve Nash, and so far there has indeed been a slight dip in his stats. Last year, Gortat averaged 15.4 points per game on 55.5-percent field-goal shooting.
This year, through 11 games, those figures have dropped to 11 points per game and 51-percent shooting. This is likely the true ceiling for Gortat when he's not playing with a two-time MVP and one of the best point guards in the game.
Still, Gortat offers huge value as a defender and rebounder. He's just a hair under 10 rebounds per game and is blocking three shots per game this season (double what he did last year, but it's early). And Gortat is a huge upgrade over Nikola Vucevic and Gustavo Ayon.
"Unfortunately... I've been doing the dirty work all my life, and now I have to come back to that. I will fight for what's mine. I'll try to prove to the coach that I can play an important role in the offence. Unfortunately, I don't think I'm even an option for Gentry. He doesn't even take me into consideration. The situation is critical. We're playing the same thing we've been playing last year, but the truth is we have a completely different set of players. I don't think it really works. I can't get frustrated now though, I have to stay positive." -Marcin Gortat (translation C/O SB Nation; Original Interview here)
Gortat is good at doing "the dirty work," and the Magic know it. That's why they are rumored to be one of the teams interested in his services. The real crux of the matter, as I said, is whether taking on a soon-to-be 29-year-old makes sense for a rebuilding team.
GM Rob Hennigan, however, knows the value of skilled NBA big men, and even if Gortat is on the tail end of his prime (or possibly in the midst of it), he's still going to be better than the majority of NBA centers that are going to be at the Magic's disposal.
Moreover, it opens the door for the Magic to either draft Shabazz Muhammad in the 2013 NBA Draft or go with a perimeter-oriented rebuilding effort. That may be preferable to fans, in light of the way the NBA has developed.
After all, how did that Dwight Howard big-man-domination thing work out?