Will Blatche make the leap?
By Kevin BroomIf 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.
Box Seats blogger
| October 1, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories: Kevin Broom, Wizards | Tags: Andray Blatche, Wizards
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