Stats: Per-game: 20.4 minutes, 7.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.4 turnovers, 1.4 blocks, 3.1 personal fouls
Per-36: 13.3 points, 9.1 rebounds, 2 assists, 2.5 blocks, 2.4 turnovers, 5.5 personal fouls
Percentages: 47.4 FG%, 69.5 FT%, 47.7 eFG%, 51.2 TS%
Advanced (explanations): 15.5 PER, 14.9 REB%, 9.2 AST%, 19.7 Usg%, 15.6 TOV%, 103 ORtg, 105 DRtg, -0.5 WSAA (Win Shares Above Average).
Pradamaster: A bad ending obscured a pretty solid third season for Andray Blatche. Entrusted to be the only backup center on the team, Blatche really did a nice job. His numbers went up across the board, and he's reached the point where one could legitimately argue he's already an above-average NBA player. The end of the season, though, rings an alarm bell in my heads. Just when it looked like he had turned it around and demonstrated that he had the necessary work ethic to succeed at this level, he stunk it up in March and looked legitimately lost in the playoff series against Cleveland.
Blatche does deserve a lot of credit though for his season. The big worry about him was that he'd go into the tank after signing that five-year contract. He had his money, so knowing his lackadaisical attitude, there was concern that he'd lost his incentive to improve. Instead, he improved significantly. He shot the ball far more effectively this year than in year's past, and he was able to cut his turnovers down, all while still maintaining a solid rebounding rate. His PER has now jumped for three straight seasons, going from 10.1 in his rookie year to 12.1 in 07 and to 15.5 this past year. Better yet, he had far more confidence in his offensive game, as evidenced by the jump in his usage rate. Instead of wandering around on the offensive end, he was looking for his shot. That's a big sign from someone who's being counted on to provide a mismatch for slower big men.
He was best as a starter, which is also a good sign. Blatche averaged 11.5 points and 8.1 rebounds in the 15 starts, compared to just 6.7 and 4.5 when he was a reserve. He did play more minutes, sure, but he also was better per-minute during that time.
We all know that Blatche's biggest weaknesses are focus and finishing at the rim. It's hard to really talk about the focus thing, but there are still tons of times where you can tell that he's not into the flow of the game. There were nine games this year where Blatche played more than 10 minutes and grabbed two rebounds or fewer. For someone who's counted on to be a frontcourt reserve, that cannot happen. Like Nick Young, Blatche also needs to get a lot stronger. Sixteen percent of his close shots were blocked this year, an astronomical percentage. Additionally, while he showed more confidence with his jumper, he does have to work on improving on his 34.2 effective field goal percentage on those shots.
I think our feelings on Blatche all come down to expectations. If you look at him as someone who should be a franchise-changer on the level of the Big 3, then there's reason to be worried. He hasn't demonstrated the focus to get to that level yet, and you have to wonder whether he ever will. But if you look at him as an effective reserve and as someone who was drafted late in the second round, then I don't see how you can be disappointed. Check out this player comparison.
|Stat||Player A||Player B|
Player B, as you probably guessed, is Jermaine O'Neal at 21 . As you can see, the two players are pretty comparable. O'Neal broke out with Indiana the next season and was a perennial all-star for the next five years. Blatche probably won't do that, but he showed a lot of promise for a 21-year old this season. We need to let him stick around and continue to grow.
JakeTheSnake: Andray Blatche just might be the most confusing player on the Wizards and on a team with Gilbert Arenas and Oleksiy Pecherov, that's really saying something. On one hand, players drafted with the 49th pick normally don't pan out to be much of anything, so getting a player that late in the draft and having him turn into a player that can give 7 points and 5 boards in 20 minutes off the bench isn't bad by any means. Especially if the said player is only 21 and has the 4th best block percentage in the NBA. All in all, not bad for a second round pick in his third year. But there's still the matter of that other hand we have to deal with.
On the (Don't do it! Don't do it!) other hand (NOOOOOOOO!!!) Andray makes Lamar Odom look like Mr. Consistency. He had 11 games scoring 15 or more points and 8 games where he had 1 point or less. I mean, I understand that young players are going to have their peaks and valleys, but since he still has 4 years on his contract, he doesn't have much incentive to get better in that department. Call me a hopeless optimist, but I think Andray is going to dedicate himself this off-season and start becoming the player that we all expect him to become. Of course, the more likely scenario is that he'll follow in the footsteps of Chris Webber, Rasheed Wallace, Richard Hamilton, and Ben Wallace and get traded for a proven, but over the hill player that fails to make the franchise better while Andray goes to his new team and immediately becomes an All-Star.
Isn't being a Wizards fan awesome?
Truthaboutit: We can all agree that the game of Andray Blatche did not make as much progression in 07-08 as we had hoped. But patience is a virtue.
First, we must remember that Andray will just be 22 years young this August. NBA hopeful and NCAA Champion out of Kansas, Brandon Rush, is 22 right now. But next season will be Andray's fourth in the NBA, so the time should be now. What should we expect from Andray next year, and how patient with him should we prepare ourselves to be?
The best comparison for Andray Blatche seems to be Jermaine O'Neal. [Draft Express gives Chris Bosh as the best case scenario, and Clifford Robinson as the worst; NBADraft.net compared Andray to Steven Hunter....ouch.] Both J.O. and A.B. are wiry 6'11" versatile bigs who can block shots, and knock down jumpers. Both were drafted out of high school (actually, Andray had that one year of prep school). I'd go with the O'Neal instead of Bosh because Bosh is not as much of a shot blocker.
O'Neal really didn't come into his own until his 5th year in the league, after he was traded in September of 2000 (at his request) from the Portland Trailblazers to the Indiana Pacers for Dale Davis. In his first four years in Portland, O'Neal floundered on the bench behind the likes of Brian Grant, Rasheed Wallace, Arvydas Sabonis, Detlef Schrempf, among other veterans the Blazers were acquiring at the time for lost championship runs. O'Neal just never got the chance to play in Portland, a side effect of being a high-schooler on very good team. Jermaine's average PER in those four years was 13.3; 13.7 the best, 12.7 the worst. After the trade to Indy, O'Neal's minutes per game went from 12.3 to 32.6, and you know the story from there.
Andray Blatche, in contrast, has been on a playoff team in each of his three seasons, while getting the opportunity to grow with playing time. His PER went from 10.1 in year one to 12.1 to 15.5 this past season, as his minutes went from 6.0 to 12.2 to 20.4. [It's worth noting that Andray played six games with the NBDL's Roanoke Dazzle in his rookie season where his PER was 16.6) Not a bad growth plan, right? Blatche's career is certainly fast-tracking better than Jermaine O'Neal's at this point.
Andray's #1 priority this off-season should be to get stronger. Not so much as a prevention to injury, although that's a plus (and we're aware of how frail Jermaine O'Neal is). But an increase in Andray's stength will have a positive effect on his confidence, defense, and overall game. It's not like Andray is a bad defender. He's shown the timing (an area in which he noticeably improved this year) and skill to block shots (averaging 1.4 in about 20 minutes a game), and he's agile enough to move his feet against dribble drives (at least he should be). But as I've mentioned before, he fouls at a ridiculous rate (6.2 per 40 minutes), and that handcuffs Eddie Jordan's ability to give him more minutes. On D, a stronger Blatche means the ability to better hold his ground in the paint and less hacking.
I have high hopes for Andray Blatche next season, but I'm still not setting myself up for disappointment. Everyone is waiting for this kid's maturity to evolve, but it's not like the guy is an out-of-control menace on the court, and I suppose it's a good sign that he didn't get in any trouble during the 07-08 season. If Andray Blatche can concentrate all effort towards improving his game, eliminate distractions (like getting shot in a car-jacking attempt under questionable circumstances (set-up by gold-diggers), or getting caught soliciting a prostitute), and stay under the wing of Antawn Jamison, the Wizards shouldn't have to worry about adding a new piece to make the team better because Andray Blatche will have officially arrived.