Best Landing Spots for 2014 Unrestricted Free Agent Andray Blatche
The offensively talented big man had the ability to remain in the Barclays Center for the 2014-15 season, though he'd have made only $1.4 million. Rather than pigeonhole himself onto the Nets roster, Blatche decided to opt out and become an unrestricted free agent, seeking out both a bigger payday and a longer deal that would bless him with the guarantee of financial security.
That plan hasn't worked.
While the free-agent market has just about dried up, save a few prominent names, Blatche is still flopping around without a destination for the next go-round. In fact, he's drawn virtually no interest around the league, linked to only a pair of teams throughout the offseason.
Plus, the Nets, who could've offered him up to a four-year, $25 million deal by using his early Bird rights, have basically cut all ties with the big man. Even though he's coming off a season in which he averaged 11.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game with a player efficiency rating of 18.8, per Basketball-Reference.com, he's no longer wanted.
"We had our reasons," said Nets general manager Billy King during a radio spot right after the moratorium lifted, as relayed by Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. Those reasons applied to Brooklyn's decision to consider Blatche "out of the mix" for a new contract.
That sentiment was reiterated during the press conference for Jason Kidd's departure. The New York Post's Tim Bontemps has the details:
During his press conference Tuesday morning to address the departure of coach Jason Kidd to hold the same position with the Bucks, King said he had reached out to Paul Pierce, Shaun Livingston and Alan Anderson and expressed an interest in retaining them.
King was then asked if he had reached out to Blatche to voice any interest in bringing him back.
'No,' King said.
Blatche, whose role declined for undisclosed reasons—presumably his lack of discipline and effort on the court—toward the end of the season, is running out of options.
Fortunately for the 27-year-old big man, there are still a few teams out there who could use his services.
Especially if his time with the New York Knicks over the last calendar year is any indication, Chandler now requires a bit of depth behind him. He experienced a pileup of injuries toward the end of his tenure with the 'Bockers, and they kept him from looking like the defensive standout he was earlier in his career.
Right now, Dallas can't provide much depth.
Chandler and Dirk Nowitzki will be entrenched as starters in the frontcourt, but the backups are rather lackluster. Greg Smith, Bernard James and Brandan Wright are the only natural power forwards and centers on the roster, and Blatche would immediately be the best offensive contributor of the bunch.
At the beginning of the offseason, ESPNDallas.com's Tim MacMahon speculated that Blatche was one of three budget-friendly Dirk backups, joining Earl Clark and Matt Bonner:
He was a renowned knucklehead in Washington, prompting the Wizards to dump Blatche via the amnesty clause, but the 26-year-old was productive as a minimum-salary guy in Brooklyn, averaging 10.3 points and 5.1 rebounds in 19 minutes per game. He could also serve as a backup center. The Mavs have shown some interest in the 6-foot-11, 260-pound Blatche in the past. He could make sense for the room midlevel ($2.65 million).
Given the Mavericks' offensive stylings, Blatche would fit right in. And if there's a list of coaches who could get him to shape up and provide positive contributions while keeping his head in the game and maximizing his talent, Rick Carlisle would be right near the top of it.
Dwight Howard is significantly fresher than Chandler, but he could still use a quality backup. Plus, he and Blatche would provide an intriguing blend of offense and defense if they were to share the court together at various stages throughout the 48 minutes of action.
Above all else, the Houston Rockets desperately need some depth.
Right now, the complete list of second- and third-unit players is as follows: Ish Smith, Isaiah Canaan, Troy Daniels, Nick Johnson, Alonzo Gee, Alessandro Gentile, Robert Covington, Joey Dorsey, Josh Powell, Jeff Adrien, Clint Capela and Donatas Motiejunas.
See why help is needed?
If D12 and Terrence Jones are out, the Rockets are left making do with D-Mo and either Dorsey, Powell or Adrien.
Blatche might not be best-suited next to D12, a notably immature player who hasn't always displayed the best mentality on and off the court, but Houston might not have a choice. The market is drying up, and Morey has to find quality second-unit players if the Rockets hope to survive the gauntlet that is the Western Conference.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Los Angeles Clippers have had a puzzling offseason.
Doc Rivers and the rest of the front office still haven't made up for selecting C.J. Wilcox in the 2014 NBA draft at the expense of adding a frontcourt player to the roster, as they've only signed Spencer Hawes and Glen Davis—per ESPNLosAngeles.com's Arash Markazi—during the summer months.
Seriously, that's it.
Right now, LAC is preparing to go to war with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan in the starting lineup, as expected. However, Hawes and Davis are the only natural backups for either of them, as the Clippers would currently be left attempting to fit Jared Dudley in at power forward as a last resort, even though he's only 6'7".
It's a recipe for disaster, and the Clippers have to focus on adding more frontcourt pieces. There just aren't many good ones left on the market, and Blatche could be one of the best options for Rivers and Co. After all, he's a capable scorer, one who would help space out the court when Jordan is hanging out around the basket.
Blatche doesn't have three-point range, but he's certainly able to hit mid-range jumpers, even when he's creating them off the dribble and knocking down his spinning fadeaway from the elbows. It's a skill that's a bit redundant with Hawes on the roster—the shooting, not the shot-creating abilities—but the Clippers are beggars now.
And beggars can't really be choosers.
New Orleans Pelicans
Anthony Davis needs more partners in crime.
The Brow is an utterly dominant big man, one who's capable of suiting up at either power forward or center, and that just gives the New Orleans Pelicans all the more incentive to put him on the floor with Blatche.
NOLA could boast a positionless frontcourt, one featuring Davis' incredible defense and versatile offensive game coupled with Blatche's offensive proclivities. Of course, the young big man could also take a seat on the bench and allow Blatche to form yet another offense-defense pairing with Omer Asik.
The options are vast, and the off-the-bench combination of Ryan Anderson and Blatche would be intriguing as well, given the ability to stretch the defense out and allow for drives to the hoop from the myriad guards on the roster.
New Orleans is one of the only teams that's actually been connected to the unrestricted free agent (one of only two, in fact). According to BasketballInsiders.com's Alex Kennedy, there was mutual interest between the two parties prior to the official start of the offseason, but obviously nothing has actually come to fruition.
As Jake Madison writes for BourbonStreetShots.com, an ESPN TrueHoop affiliate, Blatche is a candidate for the mid-level exception so that he can fit in as a complementary piece and nothing more:
The Pelicans are not looking to add a star player; they aren’t even looking to add another player to their core roster. The Pelicans are simply looking for a complimentary piece. And that is most likely a center or small forward who can be a starter or key guy off the bench. Not a first, second, or even third option. But maybe a fourth or fifth depending on what happens later in the offseason. Well Andray Blatche is that fourth or fifth option. That sounds kind of weird, and, let’s face it, unsexy and unexciting. Yet is exactly what the team needs.
Blatche might not be exactly what NOLA needs, but he could still be helpful.
The Toronto Raptors are the only other franchise that's had any ties to Blatche during the offseason.
"His athleticism and versatility, however, would seem to make him a nice fit with the Raptors, one of the Eastern Conference's young, up-and-coming teams," wrote ESPN's Chris Broussard while reporting that Toronto and the free agent were planning on meeting.
However, nothing came of the get-together.
No contracts were signed, and precious little information was released about what happened when the two sides came together. That doesn't mean the potential partnership is completely dead, though.
The Raptors still have a need for athleticism and offense from the frontcourt positions, as Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson are only being backed up by Patrick Patterson, Tyler Hansbrough, Chuck Hayes and Bruno Caboclo, the young Brazilian prospect who Fran Fraschilla made famous when, during ESPN's broadcast of the 2014 NBA draft, he said Caboclo was "two years away from being two years away."
That's not exactly a stellar group of options.
Patterson is a high-quality player, but Hansbrough is a defensive stopper, and Hayes is a massive question mark. Though the 31-year-old can be a decent option when healthy, he made an extremely minimal impact during his brief stint north of the border in 2013-14.
Blatche would bring new elements to Toronto's pursuit of a top seed in the Eastern Conference.