From the very first day of the season (media day, specifically), Andray Blatche has talked about how he's a more serious player this year. It's an often-repeated storyline that he's been putting out there whenever he could. However, if you ever asked him to reveal what specific part of the game took up most of his time, he would say that it was his jump shot.
The inner skeptic in me always wondered whether Blatche would have been better suited to focusing on another area. Blatche only managed to post a 35.6% eFG% on his jumpers last year, among the worst marks in the league. As bwoodsxyz argued over the summer, Blatche's jump shot was so horrifically bad last year that it made sense for Blatche to forget working on his shot and instead work on maximizing his strengths. Instead, Blatche spent all summer working on his shot, which made me concerned that Blatche would think he was actually a good jumpshooter and keep hoisting them up instead of focusing on his other strengths.
As it turns out, Blatche's summer work has made a huge difference. Check out these shooting numbers for Blatche from different shot locations (via HoopData)
The biggest improvement in Blatche's game hasn't come from a newfound ability to finish inside. It also hasn't really come exclusively with more proficiency on stuff like hook shots (though obviously there's a decent improvement in Blatche's percentage on shots from inside of 10 feet). No, the biggest improvement has come in his jump shooting. He's made a massive improvement from 10-15 feet, a distance that tends to be turnarounds and fadeaways, and he's made a very solid improvement on shots from 16-23 feet, which tends to be standstill jumpers.
In other words, through hard work in the gym, Blatche has turned a massive weakness into a relative strength. That has an effect on the rest of his game too, one that we've started to see in the last few games. Before, NBA teams were thrilled when Blatche launched away from the perimeter. Now, they're a bit scared. You could see it in tonight's game against the Nets. Whoever was guarding Blatche -- whether it was Yi Jianlian, Kris Humphries or Brook Lopez - had to play Blatche closer than they would have in the past because Blatche was a legitimate threat to just rise up and shoot the jumper over them. They bit on pump-fakes, allowing Blatche to drive around them. They had less space to slide their feet when Blatche decided to face them up. No matter what, Blatche was beating them with a steady diet of jumpers and drives to the hoop.
When you add Blatche's jump-shooting proficiency to his also-improving inside repertoire of hook shots and turnaround (the 10-15 foot range), you have a guy who is officially a foundational piece for the future. All it took was some hard work in the gym.
I guess I was wrong, Dray. Keep working on your jump shot.