Andray Blatche is installment #5 for the 07-08 Wizards player evaluations. My thoughts are below the pic of an Andray finger roll. Be sure and head over to Bullets Forever to check out what the Pradamaster and JakeTheSnake have to say.
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.