White men can jump! (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Marcin Gortat, starting center for the 8-14 Phoenix Suns, appears to be the Rodney Dangerfield of NBA centers. His raw and advanced statistics scream for respect amongst his peers, but he didn't even get mentioned this past week as a player deserving of an All-Star spot!

To be fair, a team as bad as the Suns deserves no more than one all-star representative. If Steve Nash makes the squad as a reserve, I can understand Gortat getting hosed. But shouldn't he still be lamented on a national level as being snubbed?!

Andrew Bynum has been named the starter at C, so unless he suffers an injury he's going to make the team. Marc Gasol is generally considered the next best C in the West. After that, you've got journeymen (Sam Dalembert, Darko Milicic), the overhyped but clearly undeserving (DeAndre Jordan), and hybrids (Pau Gasol, Al Jefferson).

Let's looks deeper into the numbers to see whether Gortat is a top-2 center in the Western Conference.

(all player comparisons are performed using data from mySynergySports.com and basketball-reference.com)

Let's consider Andrew Bynum for a moment. According to mySynergySports.com, Bynum is a more effective isolation and post-up scorer than Gortat, a better rebounder and a better defender. I won't go into any further depth than this, since Bynum has already been voted the starter.

Marc Gasol is generally considered the next best center in the West, behind Bynum. How does he match up against Gortat?

Offensively, Gortat produces more points per possession (a play that ends with a shot, pass or turnover) on roughly the same number of touches, meaning that Gortat is a more proficient scorer. His field goal percentage is higher than Gasol on nearly every type of play.

The nature of their touches is dramatically different though. Gasol's touches are 45% isolations/post-ups (versus Gortat's 22%), while Gortat's touches are 45% p&r roll man/cuts (versus Gasol's 31%). So you can make the argument that Nash's passes make Gortat look better than he is. Marc Gasol also gets fouled in the act of shooting a lot more often than Gortat does (though they have similarly low number of 'and one' plays).

Defensively, Marc Gasol is a more-effective defender in nearly every category than Gortat. He gives up fewer points-per-possession overall (.66 vs .74), allowing a worse scoring percentage to the opposition on nearly every type of play (iso, post-ups, p&r roll man).

Gortat is the more proficient rebounder at least. He pulls down more rebounds per opportunity than Gasol. Normally, I'd say it's because the Grizzlies have better supporting rebounders than the Suns, thus reducing Gasol chances, but with Zach Randolph out that's not really the case. Plus, only Shawn Marion found a way to average double-digit rebounds on this team in the past 7 years, so let's give Gortat credit.

In summary, both guys are very good players. Gasol is a more-independent scorer and plays more effective defense, while Gortat rebounds a bit better. Neither is very pretty to look at, and neither draws oohs and ahhhs on their dunks. Gasol's team is in the playoff hunt, while Gortat's is not.

Looks to me like you have to give the edge to Marc Gasol for an all-star reserve spot as the second-best center in the West.

Gortat wipes the floor with the rest of the competition though.

Al Jefferson does not even compare favorably. Gortat produces a higher points-per-possession, better scoring percentages in nearly every category, is a better rebounder and better defender. Plus, Jefferson is really a forward playing center for his last two teams.

DeAndre Jordan? No. Jordan plays quality defense, but doesn't do anything else better than Gortat except for dunking lob passes.

No other Western Conference center comes close to the trio of Andrew Bynum, Marc Gasol and Marcin Gortat. Unfortunately, for all-star considerations, Marcin Gortat comes in a solid 3rd.

Poll
Who should be the all-star reserve Center in the West?

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The Houston Rockets closed out the 1st quarter with a 17-6 run and never looked back in a sloppy, turnover laden victory over the Phoenix Suns at the Toyota Center in Houston. Phoenix had its second...

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The Houston Rockets closed out the first quarter with a 17-6 run and never looked back in a sloppy, turnover-laden 99-81 victory over the Phoenix Suns at the Toyota Center in Houston. Phoenix had its...

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Phoenix Suns' Steve Nash (13) works his way around Houston Rockets defender Luis Scola (4) in the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Feb. 3, 2012, in Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

The Phoenix Suns had no legs tonight, unable to keep up with the Rockets on either end of the floor. The Rockets stayed true to their M.O., grabbing every rebound and loose ball they could reach. And with the Suns playing at 3/4 speed, that was a lot.

Frankly, this Suns team doesn't have the talent to compete unless Steve Nash is playing at his very best. Nash looked a tiny bit slow tonight, which basically means he looked only marginally faster than the rest of his teammates but a tick slower than the Rockets.

Should we be surprised at the outcome of this game? No. The Rockets are 10-3 at home, while the Suns are 4-8 on the road. The Rockets rebound very well on both ends, while the Suns don't rebound well at either end. Channing Frye once again looked like one of the worst PF in the league: soft on defense and anemic on offense, providing no support for the always-steady Marcin Gortat (another double-double 15 and 12, plus 3 blocks and 2 steals).

And did Goran Dragic even bother to smile at the camera and offer hello to his all-time biggest fan? No.*

The sad thing is that the Suns couldn't even force the Rockets to play really hard. Sure the Rockets played quick and smart, but the Suns never made them play HARD. Never made them work. Budinger had an easy 12 and 10 in 24 minutes. Kyle Lowry was hardly noticeable with his 5 points, 9 assists and 8 rebounds in only 20 minutes of action. Betcha didn't think he was that close to a triple-double, did ya? No Rocket starter had to play more than 25 minutes tonight. Ugh.

*But at least he didn't kill the Suns. Dragic had 10 points (1 3-ptr), 3 assists and 1 rebound and 4 miscues in 19 minutes. Thanks buddy!

The Dream Shake


Look at that little guy get up in the air! (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)




What the hell. Let's go ahead and steal another game on the road! Why not, right?


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