For the next two weeks, I will be breaking down the strengths and weaknesses of the Washington Wizards players. Today's breakdown is Andray Blatche.
Andray Blatche is listed at 6'11'' and 260 pounds. He is just 24 years of age. He is frequently compared to a young Kevin Garnett due to his size, athleticism, shooting ability, post game and overall basketball skills. I am not a fan of making comparisons, however if anyone has watched Blatche and Garnett play, there are definitely a lot of similarities.
Last season, after Gilbert Arenas was suspended by the NBA for carrying guns into the locker room, the Washington Wizards had traded away several veterans on their roster, to begin building for the future.
After the All-Star break, Andray Blatche averaged 22.1 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. If you projected out those numbers over the full season, he would have had the eighth highest scoring average among all forwards, behind Kevin Durant (30.2), LeBron James (29.7), Carmelo Anthony (28.2), Dirk Nowitzki (25), Danny Granger (24.2), Chris Bosh (24) and Amar'e Stoudemire (23.1). He also would have had the 16th highest rebounding average among forwards.
During the offseason, he had surgery on a broken foot, but has recovered quickly, and has practiced and played with his Wizards teammates this preseason. So far, in four preseason games, he is averaging 14.5 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.8 steals in just 24.5 minutes per game.
Andray Blatche's game has many strengths. He can shoot from 15-19 feet with a nice touch, excellent form and a smooth stroke. He is excellent at the dribble-drive to the basket, usually faking the jump shot, taking one or two dribbles and going around or over his opponent. When he is given the ball in the post 10-15 feet from the basket, he displays an excellent post-up game, and has several well-developed moves, utilizing a pump fake, or up-and-under move. His ball-handling is average for a small forward, and well above average for a power forward, his natural position.
Blatche is athletic, can pass well, rebound, block shots and finish on the fast break. He is also highly versatile, and will be able to play small forward, power forward or center, depending on coach Flip Saunders' scheme for that night. His overall game is All-Star quality, and he should only get better in the next few years.
The only knock against Andray Blatche has been his maturity level. He never attended college, and had to develop his game at the NBA level. Although he had a highly publicized in-game problem with Flip Saunders last season, I believe he is ready to take his responsibilities as a team leader to the next level. Those final 32 games of the 2009-10 season helped Blatche to understand just how good he can be when he brings the right attitude and comes to play every night. Andray Blatche doesn't have many weaknesses in his game, and if maturity is the only one, his potential is limitless.
Andray Blatche should continue to develop into one of the top 10 forwards in the league by the end of this year, and top five forwards within the next three years. He is one of the centerpieces of the Wizards' future, and along with John Wall, should help to lead the Wizards to the playoffs this coming June.