Minnesota Timberwolves Must Gamble on Reclamation Project Andray Blatche
The organization sent JaVale McGee packing last season in exchange for Nene Hilario, and it went on to acquire veterans Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza to begin an offseason that also involved drafting highly-touted prospect Bradley Beal.
Blatche's days were numbered thanks to his bloated contract and the Wizards' pursuit of a cultural overhaul.
The 6'11" forward-center followed three years of steady improvement with a 2011-12 campaign that saw his scoring production cut nearly in half and his efficiency drop to just 38 percent from the field.
Blatche is fully aware of just how disappointing last season was for Wizards fans and his own expectations alike. He's even desperate enough for a gig that he'd be willing to take a stab at the D-League.
He's been rumored to have drawn interest from both the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs, and 1500 ESPN's Darren Wolfson reports that Blatche was at a pick-up game watched by one of the Minnesota Timberwolves' scouts.
Minnesota has already added Brandon Roy and Andrei Kirilenko to the roster this summer, while jettisoning Michael Beasley, Wesley Johnson and Wayne Ellington in separate deals.
Could landing Blatche be the next move on the Timberwolves' radar?
It should be, and here's why.
The Talent Is Still There
When playing nearly 34 minutes per contest in 2010-11, Andray Blatche averaged nearly 17 points and 8.3 rebounds. The year before that, he averaged 14.1 points and 6.3 rebounds while shooting a career-high 48 percent.
In other words, there's an empirical record demonstrating that this guy can play.
That's not in question.
He has the size and mobility to cause opposing big men all sorts of problems on the offensive end. With the right coaching and improved commitment, he could apply those physical tools to the defensive end as well.
Even if Blatche never builds upon his past success and starts playing like an All-Star, we still know that he can be effective in some capacity. If he can leave behind whatever was ailing him in Washington, the Timberwolves could have a pretty good rotation player on their hands.
It's Too Soon to Give Up on Him
It's worth remembering that Andray Blatche is still just 26 years old.
Whatever happened to him last season, you can't really describe it as a "decline." Yes, he got worse. But, it wasn't due to age or injury, and that means it's almost certainly something that can be corrected in relatively short order.
The Minnesota Timberwolves aren't exactly desperate for front-court talent, so they could afford to wait on Blatche to get it together.
He may even benefit from decreased expectations and the reduced pressure that comes therewith. Between the the extension he signed in 2010 that was worth over $30 million and the expectations that he would anchor the Washington Wizards' front court along with JaVale McGee, it's hard to imagine Blatche wasn't under some duress.
With a fresh start and more limited role, he still has more than enough time to return to form.
Nikola Pekovic Is No Guarantee
The Minnesota Timberwolves would also be wise to secure some insurance in the event starting center Nikola Pekovic takes a step back.
The Timberwolves have high hopes for the 26-year-old after the vast improvement he demonstrated in just his second NBA season. After playing a limited role in 2010-11, Pekovic started 35 games last season and made the most of the opportunity.
He averaged 13.9 points and 7.4 rebounds in just under 27 minutes per game; good enough for an impressive 21.47 player efficiency rating.
Nevertheless, one need only remember the double-double machine that was Andris Biedrins from 2007 to 2009.
A hefty contract and a couple of years later, he averaged just 1.7 points in nearly 16 minutes of action last season.
Of course, that's not to say Pekovic is headed in the same direction. The only real similarity between the two is that they play the center position.
Still, the reality is that it's far too soon to assume Pekovic will continue doing what he's been doing for the foreseeable future. If he does, the problem might become being able to afford him. Either way, having an option like Blatche waiting in the wings couldn't hurt.
Derrick Williams Won't Be Playing Power Forward as Much
Derrick Williams spent this summer slimming down and working on his shooting so that he can spend more time at the small forward position.
If the 2011 draft's second-overall pick wants to see increased playing time, that's probably a necessity. Power forward Kevin Love isn't going anywhere anytime soon (unless, of course, he starts making trade demands).
Williams could still spend some time at the 4 when Love rests, and newly-acquired Andrei Kirilenko could see minutes there as well.
But, the Timberwolves currently don't have anyone who can (or should anyway) spell Love against bigger power forwards. Williams and Kirilenko are 6'8" and 6'9" respectively, making them the kind of tweener forwards that struggle when assigned to a big guy like Pau Gasol.
Blatche's size obviously means he can play minutes as center, but his mobility means he can also slide to the 4 and match up against opposition in that 6'10" or 6'11" range.
He'll Come on the Cheap
Andray Blatche has been paid, so his decisions this summer won't have much to do with money.
Given how comfortable he is with playing just about anywhere, chances are the much-derided multi-millionaire will accept a minimum contract or something just north thereof. He's in no position to haggle.
That's good news for the Minnesota Timberwolves, who remain just marginally under the salary cap.
They'll be able to sign Blatche to a veteran's minimum exception, and he may be the best-available talent at that kind of price point. If there's any chance whatsoever that Blatche returns to form and contributes to Minnesota's rotation, you can't pass up this kind of deal.
It may be a fixer-upper, but it has an awful lot of potential.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!