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Will Blatche make the leap?

By Kevin Broom

If you’re looking for a reason to be optimistic about the Wizards’ future, the place to start may well be Andray Blatche. Yes, even ahead of John Wall and Javale McGee.

I know he’s been a bona fide knucklehead. I hope he owns some analgesic stock because for coaches he’s been a perpetual headache machine. But the kid posted some serious numbers last season once the team dumped Jamison, Butler and Haywood and had no choice but to give Blatche big minutes.

In 36 games as a starter last season, Blatche played averaged 36.6 minutes, 20.8 points and 8.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. (I normally use per minute numbers because they’re generally a better barometer of player’s true production ability, but Blatche played enough minutes to make his per game numbers meaningful. Plus, I’m going to compare him only to players who averaged comparable minutes.) Here’s the full list of players 6-foot-9 or taller who averaged at least 20 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists per game (minimum 32 minutes) since 1978-79:

  • Tim Duncan 
  • Karl Malone 
  • Larry Bird 
  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 
  • Chris Webber 

Before we all go get fitted for championship T-shirts, let’s keep in mind that these guys have done it over full careers (in Kareem’s case, the final decade of his career). Blatche did it for not quite half a season.

Looked at more realistically, Blatche’s numbers were pretty good, but put him among a less illustrious group. Since 1978-79, there have been just six players' seasons comparable to Blatche’s combination of height, age and production as a starter last season:

  • Chris Webber — 1994-95 and 1997-98, both in Washington 
  • Pau Gasol — 2005-06, Memphis 
  • Juwan Howard — 1995-96, Washington 
  • Shareef Abdur-Rahim — 2000-01 and 2001-02, Vancouver and Atlanta respectively. 

While it’s reasonable to compare Blatche with this group, it’s worth noting that all but Howard out-rebounded Blatche (and Dray got Howard by just 0.1 rebounds per game). And all but Abdur-Rahim out-assisted Blatche.

There’s good news and bad in this list. On the good side, there’s Gasol, who in 05-06 led Memphis to a 49-win season and has been the key inside player on the past two Lakers title teams. And there’s Webber, who many think choked in the playoffs but was on the all-NBA team five times — first team in 2000-01 — and the best player on one of the league’s best teams.

On the “bad news” side there’s Howard, whose outsized contract and mediocre play handcuffed the Wizards for a decade, and Abdur-Rahim, a talented and silky-smooth forward who’s a poster child for “hollow stats.”

The question about Blatche is the same as it is for McGee and the rest of the Wizards talented youngsters. Is he willing to work?

Blatche already has quality basketball skills. He can shoot with range, handle the ball, and pass with skill. He has an array of post moves, and is capable of being a good defender (when he’s interested). He has adequate athletic ability, but would benefit from spending time in the weight room, studying his playbook and watching film.

If he wants to join the game’s elite big men, he’ll need to get stronger, become more efficient on offense, more focused on defense, and find a way to pull down more rebounds. That would make him one of the game’s best bargains and would put the Wizards several more steps down Rebuilding Road. If he’s content with his new contract and the “success” he had in the last half of last season, then he’ll post hollow stats and the Wizards will be left searching for another big building block.

By Box Seats blogger  | October 1, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Kevin Broom, Wizards  | Tags:  Andray Blatche, Wizards  
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No. He lacks the testicular fortitude to be a winner. When KD is running wind sprints at 3am, Blatche is just leaving the club.

Posted by: kahlua87 | October 1, 2010 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Agreed, Blatche has never matured out of his self-entitled attitude, and he continues to believe he's a PG in a PF body.

Physically, if he hits the gym he could be as talented as Kevin Garnett-- BUT he still lacks the toughness to be even half of KG.

Posted by: pgugino | October 1, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

I doubt Blatche will ever consistently and fully live up to his potential. That being said, I believe Blatche will be a solid big man with occasional flashes of greatness/dominance. He's definitely worth the money he'll receive from his 3-year extension, imho.

Posted by: tgif11 | October 1, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

What is this, the Boston globe?

KG is a great player, but he's also older. Did everyone forget that Andray is 24? He's still a kid. And it didn't help his maturity to be drafted at 19 and given millions of dollars and all the freedom in the world. Give the kid a chance to prove he's starting to get it.

And let's also not forget that Andray was givin it to KG at the end of last year. Let's give him this season to show us that he wants it. If he does, we might have a KG of our own.

Posted by: 47mccoy | October 1, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

McCoy -- remember that KG entered the league straight from high school, just like Blatche. KG was significantly better right from the start. Over their first 5 seasons (same ages), KG earned 7,042 more minutes than Blatche has. KG had a PER of 20.2 over that period compared to Blatche's 15.6.

By his 5th year in the NBA, KG had appeared in 3 All-Star games, was All-NBA twice (including 1st team in his 5th season), and 1st team All-Defense once.

Recall also that Blatche still hasn't made big money. He came in as a 2nd round pick (meaning he was playing for near the league minimum). His next contract was puny by NBA standards -- only about $3 million per season. KG was making the league maximum by his 4th season.

Blatche having some success last season against KG is irrelevant. KG was 33 years old and coming off an injury. Plus he has more than 45,000 career minutes (regular season and playoffs combined) on the odometer.

Really, there's no comparison between Blatche and KG yet. As others have said -- IF Blatche works hard, plays hard, and gets stronger, he'll be good. But let's put aside the KG comparisons for now. A poor man's Webber would be okay.

Posted by: TheSecretWeapon | October 1, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

In my opinion this article is a very complicated way to say that Blatche is very very talented, had a very very good strech of games and now has to show he can do it for a whole season.

To me the interesting question is wether he can do that while containing his match ups. This was a problem last season and is key if we want to win games.

Posted by: Pindajung | October 1, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse

"...but would benefit from spending time in the weight room,..." - you should pay more attention to Wizards management. Both Leonsis and Saunders have commented on Andray's total commitment to conditioning this off-season. Have you actually seen Andray recently? He has increased his upper body muscle mass significantly.

Andray was succcessful the final 32 games of last season because he finally got an opportunity to play. If you would check, you would see that he also excelled during those stretches whenever Jamison was hurt and Andray got some serious minutes.

As TheSecretWeapon has pointed out, comparisons to KG are silly. KG got the minutes early on in his career, AB had to wait until last year. KG's career is running out; AB's is just starting.

Posted by: getabigboyoffense | October 1, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

I've seen what management said about Blatche's commitment to conditioning. I think I've heard something like that about different players every training camp for the past 20-30 years. Sometimes it's even true.

I haven't seen a big difference in Blatche's physique in the little bits I've seen of him. Hopefully I just haven't seen enough. I still think Blatche is going to need to spend more time in the weight room.

Posted by: TheSecretWeapon | October 1, 2010 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: kahlua87 | October 1, 2010 10:55 AM
Posted by: pgugino | October 1, 2010 11:53 AM

So because Blatche isn't a Durant & Garnett we should get rid of him??? I guess he stinks huh?

Mighty high standards were setting here aren't we?

I guess your solutions would be to trade/acquire the next Durant or Garnett. I say "Brilliant"!

Posted by: Dat2U | October 1, 2010 10:18 PM | Report abuse

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