Fifth in points per game and seventh in minutes per game: Those are the team ranks of Brooklyn Nets center Andray Blatche.
Those numbers certainly fail the eye test when considering a team MVP, but between Jason Kidd's "cup-gate," Brook Lopez's season-ending injury and the seventh-place standing for a team that was once mentioned in the same sentence as the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers, Blatche has been a rare consistent bright spot.
Yes, Joe Johnson is the team's lone All-Star, but up to this point in the season, Blatche has been the most valuable player for the Brooklyn Nets.
Before fracturing the fifth metatarsal in his right foot in a Dec. 20 loss to the Sixers, Lopez was averaging 20.7 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.76 blocks, well on the way to his second All-Star selection in as many years.
But that season-ending foot injury turned the tables for an already-struggling Brooklyn team, who was forced to remodel its look in the middle of the paint.
Although Blatche didn't move into the starting role in Lopez's absence, he's been vital in keeping the Nets from falling further into the abyss that is the NBA's Eastern Conference.
Before Dec. 20, the Nets were 9-17, but since Lopez's injury, Brooklyn is 14-9, rattling off a 10-3 record in the month of January.
In that span of 13 games, Blatche increased his average totals in points, blocks and field-goal percentage, three categories in which Lopez ranked first or second, as he helped the Nets climb back into prime playoff position.
In the 17 games Blatche has played in since Dec. 20, he's averaged 11.6 points in 20.1 minutes, while shooting 47.6 percent.
While the likes of Johnson, Paul Pierce and Deron Williams average more points per game on the season, Blatche is the most efficient scorer on the team, topping all three aforementioned "superstars" in points per minute.
And it's not even that close.
While Johnson, Pierce and Williams average .46, .45 and .43 points per minute on the year, respectively, Blatche is up at .54.
The center also leads the Nets' active roster in John Hollinger's player efficiency rating, offensive rebounds per game and ranks second to Kevin Garnett in defensive rebounds per game. All three are categories that Lopez also ranked either first or second in prior to his injury.
Blatche may not be the sexiest of players, but his production in areas where the Nets needed it most has proved essential to the team's recent success.
If they're to secure home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, the Nets will need this same level of timely production from their MVP-to-date, Andray Blatche.
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