UPDATE: Here's what I'm talking about. I mean -- how do you keep a guy in the game after this? Video below the jump:
I haven't had a chance to rewatch last night's loss to the Boston Celtics, and I'm not sure I ever will. All I know is that there are a lot of culprits for last night's loss.
But the one thing that jumped out at me was this: man, Andray Blatche's defense is really bad. I don't have any screenshots yet to illustrate this, so you'll just have to take my word for it, but he displayed some of the worst pick and roll defense I've ever seen. He left his guards out to dry, doing nothing to step up and cut off the lane. He stuck to his man, for reasons I don't understand. He also didn't contest much of anything in the paint, and was unbelievably slow with his weakside rotations. As I wrote the other day, I'm less concerned about his shot selection than I am about his awful effort on defense this season.
Now, I'm a longtime Blatche supporter, as many here know. I've seen growth from him over his Wizards career. But right now, his defensive effort must be addressed. Flip Saunders needs to start holding him accountable and sitting him down on occasion when he fails to make a good-faith effort.
I understand why Saunders doesn't do this. As much as Blatche is struggling, he is extremely important to the team's offense. As much as he's giving away defensively, the Wizards are still a better offensive team with Blatche on the floor than with him out -- and that's with him clearly being a bit out of shape and rhythm. But in a year where rebuilding the culture is essential, Saunders needs to send a message that poor defensive effort won't be tolerated. Even if it's a benching for a six-minute stretch in the first quarter, or something, he has to do something. If it hurts the team's offense, so be it.
It confuses me why Blatche gets a free pass for his defense while JaVale McGee gets a short leash for his mistakes. Don't get me wrong: McGee makes mistakes. And yes, bringing in someone else for McGee helps the offense. But unlike Blatche, McGee has demonstrated a capacity to improve, and he gives a good faith effort defensively. Blatche hasn't demonstrated any defensive growth this season at all, and yet he gets trotted out there for big minutes while McGee sits.
Perhaps Saunders feels that McGee responds better to "teachable" benchings than Blatche. There's definitely something to that, since Blatche has a history of not taking those kinds of things the right way. But I think we're beyond the point where that should be a huge concern. Saunders has a team that should be of greater concern, and I think he should send a message to all of them here.
Again, I'm not talking about full-game benchings or even fourth-quarter benchings necessary. I'm just talking about Saunders seeing a Blatche defensive mistake and responding by pulling him and sitting him down for several minutes at a time. He does it with JaVale; it's time to also do it with Blatche.
UPDATE: Kevin Broom of the Washington Post's Box Seats blog e-mails and sums up Blatche's problems well.
My defensive tracking puts some numbers to just how awful Blatche's defense was against Boston.
Interestingly, Blatche's drtg has been pretty good in my tracking. But that laziness shows up -- a defensive usage of just 17%. A big ought to be well over 20%. McGee is above 28% for the season. Armstrong at 27%. Yi at 23%. That (I don't know the right word here: unwillingness? indifference? inability?) to help hurts the defense. It might also be a reason why McGee has been so busy defensively. And it contributes to bad drtgs for the guards and wings -- they NEED the bigs to help.