If signing a 30-year-old center to a five-year, $60 million contract seems a little bit excessive, it's because 30-plus-year-old big men very rarely make that much money.
Before the Wizards signed Marcin Gortat to the aforementioned five-year deal, 17 NBA centers made an annual salary of at least $10 million a year. Of those 17 players, only three of them - Tyson Chandler (31), Nene (31) and Kevin Garnett (38) - are 30-plus years old, with Garnett being the only one who signed his contract after his 30th birthday.
If so few players are making that kind of money into their 30s, why would the Wizards commit $12 million a year to Gortat (who turned 30 in February) for the next five years? The answer becomes clear when you compare the Polish Hammer to his peers.
Take a look at how Gortat stacks up against the rest of the 20 highest paid centers in the NBA:
|Player||Age||GP||PER||Win Shares||nERD||2014-15 Salary
|Dwight Howard||28||71||21.3||8.0||6.0||$21,513,178 |
|Marc Gasol||29||59||18.2||5.6||3.4||$15,829,688 |
|Brook Lopez||26||17||25.4||2.3||2.8||$15,719,063 |
|Omer Asik||28||48||14.0||2.4||0.8||$14,898,938 |
|Roy Hibbert||27||81||13.5||5.4||1.2||$14,898,938 |
|DeMarcus Cousins||23||71||26.1||7.9||6.1||$14,746,000 |
|Tyson Chandler||31||55||16.4||4.9||2.9||$14,596,887 |
|Al Jefferson||29||73||22.7||7.8||4.8||$13,500,000 |
|Andrew Bogut||29||67||17.0||6.7||6.0||$12,972,973 |
|Joakim Noah||29||80||20.0||11.2||10.3||$12,200,000 |
|Nikola Pekovic||28||54||20.7||5.9||4.9||$12,100,000 |
|Al Horford||28||29||22.0||2.8||1.7||$12,000,000 |
|Kevin Garnett||38||54||13.3||1.2||-2.2||$12,000,000 |
|DeAndre Jordan||26||82||18.2||11.1||11.0||$11,440,123 |
|JaVale McGee||26||5||10.2||-0.1||-0.5||$11,250,000 |
|Larry Sanders||25||23||14.0||0.7||-1.0||$11,000,000 |
|Marcin Gortat||30||81||17.6||8.1||5.4||$10,400,000 |
|Anderson Varejao||31||65||17.0||5.4||3.3||$9,704,595 |
At $10.4 million a year, Gortat the 18th-highest paid center in the league for the 2014-15 season, with his contract set to escalate 7.5% annually. Although the Wizards' star still doesn't make a top-10-center salary, he deserves to be paid as such after the way he played last year. The Polish Hammer ranked in the top 10 in games played, Player Efficiency Rating, Win Shares and numberFire's own nERD metric last season.
Part of why Washington is willing to pay Gortat such a high salary at 30 years old is his durability. The Wizards' center played in 81 games last season, starting in 80 of them. DeAndre Jordan was the only center paid in the top 20 at the position to play all 82 games, with Gortat and Roy Hibbert as the only others to play at least 80 games.
Much of the reason the Polish Hammer was able to play more than 80 games last season is because he doesn't have as much preverbal tread on his tires as most other big men his age. Gortat has only played in the NBA for seven seasons, and never averaged more than 30 minutes per game until the 2011-12 season. Considering he has only been playing starter minutes for three seasons, there is a very good chance the Wizards' star will continue to play big minutes well into his mid-30s.
Player Efficiency Rating (PER) is a measurement of each player's per-minute production, with the average score being 15. With a 17.6 PER, Gortat ranks 10th among the highest paid centers in this category. Two of these players - Horford and Brook Lopez - didn't even play in 30 games this season. What is also noteworthy is that Gortat has a lower salary than every player ahead of him on this list in 2014-15.
Whereas PER is a measurement of per-minute production, both win shares and nERD are metrics that determine how many wins (or losses) a player contributed to his team over the course of the entire season. The Polish Hammer ranked third in Win Shares and sixth in nERD out of the 20 players on this list. Again, every single player on this list is making a higher annual salary than Gortat in 2014-15.
When you look at how durable, consist and efficient Gortat was this season that five-year, $60 million contract looks well deserved, especially when you consider his 5.4 nERD was the best on the Wizards. Having a productive big man that Washington can count on for 13.2 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks every night will take a lot of the pressure of the Wizards' duo of young stars in the backcourt - John Wall and Bradley Beal. The Polish Hammer may no longer be a young man as far as NBA standards are concerned, but he is worth every penny of that $60 million.