I put some of this on a comment yesterday, but it was on a post that fell off the front page an hour later, so I doubt many people saw it. Because I put some effort into putting the numbers together, I figured I'd go ahead and try posting this separately. Forgive me if you've seen this already.
I've heard (or rather, read) that a lot of fans are giving up on Blatche. I think that’s premature. Blatche has improved every year. That includes last year in my opinion -- I think some of his stats took a hit because he was playing more against starters, but his passing and ball handling SKILL seemed improved (I'm not talking about decision-making -- that's what I hope he improves next -- I just mean skill) . That's just my opinion based on watching him play, but his assist and turnover numbers back me up. Below the jump I provide statistical averages for high school-to-NBA players. These numbers suggest that we should expect to see continued improvement from Andray.
Blatche entered the NBA straight out of high school, so you can’t compare him to other four-year NBA players or even compare him to other NBA players by age. The best thing you can do is look at other guys drafted out of high school. So, I looked at all the other NBA players drafted out of high school since 1995 and found that 15 players played in a significant portion of games in each of their first six seasons. Following is a table of what these players averaged in the league over those six seasons for the standard positive statistical categories. I've left out anyone who experienced a major injury (Stoudemire, Livingston, etc.) or didn't play more than a few games in any one year.
First Second Third Fourth Fifth Sixth Pts 5.9 9.3 11.3 13.3 14.6 16.3 Rbs 3.0 4.4 5.5 5.7 6.6 7.0 Asts 1.0 1.6 2.0 2.1 2.3 2.6 Stls 0.4 0.7 0.8 0.9 0.9 0.9 Blks 0.6 0.9 0.9 0.9 1.1 1.1 TOs 1.1 1.4 1.7 1.8 2.0 2.2 ShEff 44.3% 47.8% 46.5% 47.1% 50.1% 51.4% Minutes 14.3 20.9 25.9 27.4 29.4 31.6
What we see here is that these players continue to improve through their sixth year in the league. Yes, you can find exceptions, but when you're trying to predict the future you should focus on aggregates, not anecdotes. I think we’ll see the same thing with Blatche over the next two seasons and have a pretty good player entering his prime. Maybe not an all-star, but better than what he is now and a tremendous bargain under his current contract.
As requested, here are the PER 36 MINUTES stats for the same group. (I've added TOs and ShEff above to be consistent - I also noticed that Jonathan Bender only played 7 games in his sixth season, so now it's 15 players.)This definitely washes out a lot of the apparent improvement, although the general pattern persists. It's actually amazing how little the numbers improve even from year 1 when you adjust for playing time.
First Second Third Fourth Fifth Sixth Pts 14.8 16.0 15.7 17.5 17.9 18.5 Rbs 7.7 7.7 7.7 7.5 8.1 8.0 Asts 2.6 2.8 2.8 2.8 2.9 2.9 Stls 1.1 1.2 1.1 1.2 1.1 1.1 Blks 1.5 1.6 1.3 1.2 1.3 1.2 TOs 2.8 2.5 2.4 2.4 2.4 2.5 ShEff 44.3% 47.8% 46.5% 47.1% 50.1% 51.4% Mins 36.0 36.0 36.0 36.0 36.0 36.0