The Washington Wizards have found themselves going nowhere fast through the first half of the 2010-2011 season. They have accomplished their goal of getting younger by utilizing the draft to fill the roster and ultimately build the franchise, rather than overusing free agency. While the goal is clear, the journey toward fulfilling it has proven more arduous than expected.
With an abundance of youth and no true leadership amongst the players, the Wizards have yet to win a road game in 20 attempts.
Washington's road futility has worn thin on both the fans and the players, and it has led to some recent trade talk surrounding power forward Andray Blatche. After his breakout last season, Blatche has been steady for the Wizards this season. However, he remains an immature player, the likes of which could negatively affect his young teammates.
Even though there are plenty of reasons to trade Blatche, the Wizards cannot allow a season of frustration to obscure their vision of the future. Here are some reasons why Washington shouldn't trade Blatche.
The Wizards have a ton of youth on their roster this season, and as such, they have a lot of unknown commodities. If they were to have their roster appraised on the open market, most of what they would get in return is based on potential. There is no bigger potential player than Andray Blatche.
For the first four years of his career, Blatche and potential were synonymous in Washington, and there was worry that he would never achieve that potential.
Blatche scored in double figures in all but two of his 36 starts, and averaged 22 points over the last 32 games of the 2009-2010 season. He is averaging 16.2 points per game this season, and teams would likely compensate the Wizards as such. He isn't considered a top 10, 15, 20, or even 50 player in the NBA.
Washington would not get a significant return of investment in a trade unless they package Blatche with another young player.
Since being drafted by the Wizards in 2005, he has been charged with sexual solicitation and arrested for reckless driving and driving on a suspended license. More recently, he was involved in an altercation with teammate JaVale McGee outside of a nightclub that earned both men one game suspensions.
Blatche is not a hardened criminal, but he has character issues that stem from his immaturity and successful teams do not invest in immature players the way the Wizards would need for a return of investment.
Last season, Blatche was benched by head coach Flip Saunders after refusing to hustle back on defense after a frustrating offensive possession. No team needs a player to undermine their authority, and Blatche has the type of approach to that game that makes those issues more prevalent than would be considered normal.
He is not an elite player, and thus is not going to be forgiven for his issues. His value is almost peripheral to the other players that he has been packaged with in potential deals.
After the way Blatche performed as the starter last season, the Wizards felt confident enough to sign him to a five year, $35 million contract this offseason. It is not the albatross of a contract that Gilbert Arenas's deal was, but it is the biggest contract on the Wizards books besides Rashard Lewis. They are paying Blatche as they would a vital franchise piece, and would be fooling themselves if they didn't have that mindset.
The Wizards have too much time, and now money, invested in Blatche to simply ship him somewhere else for the best offer.
The Wizards made their commitment and having opted against putting player/team options on the deal, should honor the commitment. Blatche was a second round pick in 2005, so to have him be such a big part of the team's future is a gift in and of itself. Why jeopardize that hard work for a player or players that are unproven?
Blatche is too valuable in Washington to be traded elsewhere. He may be a bonehead sometimes, but can anyone envision Rashard Lewis or Yi Jianlian being the player Blatche is? Lewis is capable, but getting old and Yi is just not that type of player. The Wizards need Blatche just as much as he needs the Wizards.
As mentioned, Blatche's market value is only so high right now, even considering his performance from last season carrying over into this season. His value seems contingent upon the Wizards packaging him with another young player. There were rumblings a few weeks ago about both Blatche and JaVale McGee being shopped following their nightclub altercation.
Washington simply cannot afford to part with integral pieces in their future plans, Blatche included.
In the Gilbert Arenas trade that brought Rashard Lewis to Washington, preliminary rumors seemed to hinge upon Washington's willingness to part with Blatche. The Wizards wanted to get rid of Arenas and pick up an expiring contract like Vince Carter to follow their recent efforts to cut roster salary in the name of the future.
If Blatche himself held any value, the deal would have worked in the Wizards favor more than it did. Instead, they ditched one bad contract for another.
Furthermore, Blatche's value was coupled with McGee's and the Wizards would find themselves without a future power forward or center in a market lacking in either. Washington is in a much better position to trade these days, but trading youth for anything but more youth is ill-advised and would not benefit them in the long run.
The Wizards are fooling themselves if they think they are just a player or two away from competing for the playoffs, let alone an NBA championship. John Wall is looking every bit like the first overall pick, but the team is still in the early stages of progress. They just finished their roster purge, and can now look to bring in the players or maintain the players they feel give them the best chance at a long and prosperously bright future.
Blatche, for better or for worse, is a part of that future and has neither the value nor the maturity to earn the Wizards anything in a trade.
If the Wizards did trade Blatche, it would have to be for an expiring contract, draft pick or a prospect that some other team has no use for. Anyone the Wizards get in return would have to play catch-up in terms of developing chemistry with the existing nucleus, setting progress back even more.
Simply put, if the Wizards trade Blatche, they are delaying their own success. Even if Blatche isn't the centerpiece, or an integral part of the franchise, what reason is their to trade him?
Washington is on pace to be in the running for a top five pick, even if Cleveland and Sacramento are substantially more abysmal this season. Is a late first-round pick worth waiting to develop a new prospect when you already know what you have in Blatche?
The Wizards have a lot of youth on their roster after an offseason spent dedicated to getting younger. Eight players on the roster are 25 years old or younger, and only three players are 30 years or older. Blatche is just 24 and an integral part of what the Wizards are doing with their youth movement.
Rashard Lewis is not a long-term option and Yi Jianlian is not a true starter.
Trading Blatche means putting someone who isn't suited to be a starter or someone who won't be part of the team in three years, neither of which is a desirable position to be in. It leaves a void that, if filled through the draft, would not be a position of strength until that prospect develops.
Blatche is playing some of the best basketball of his young career, and improving every game. Say what you want about his work ethic, but when he is on, he is lights out. The Wizards are in no rush to slap together a team, but trade Blatche is a setback they don't have the resources to recover from.
Say what you like about Blatche, cite his work ethic, his effort on defense, or his maturity as reasons to get rid of him. The fact remains, Blatche has scored in double figures in all but six games this season. As an individual, he is a solid player who can provide a spark in the rhythm of the game.
Even if the Wizards aren't winning, removing him from the equation leaves a gap that isn't easily filled on the scoreboard.
Not only is Blatche a good scorer, he regularly records other numbers that aren't as critical for a power forward. He averages 8.2 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.5 steals, and about a block per game. He is second on the team in steals behind John Wall with 1.8 per game, and his average is on par with Andre Iguoudala and LeBron James.
He may be frustrating in his effort or his settling for jump shots, but he does a lot of little things that are often overlooked by fans.
Why would the Wizards sign Blatche to a long-term contract if they had any intention of trading him? Circumstances have changed since the offseason, but what has he done or failed to do that made him expendable? The NBA is a business, but getting rid of a player pegged as an important part of the franchise future is not a sound business move.
Blatche earned his contract by filling the void left by Antawn Jamison, and the Wizards are the only team he can be of any real value of as that secondary franchise player.
Washington has had a history of bad drafting (Kwame Brown, Jarvis Hayes) and bad contracts (Juwan Howard, Gilbert Arenas), but Blatche is a player who was not expected to be a starter in this league, let along a productive one. The Wizards have had just as a bad of a history when they ditch players before they flourish (Rasheed Wallace, Rip Hamilton, Ben Wallace).
They traded the rights of Devin Harris to the Mavericks for Jamison, Christian Laettner, and Jerry Stackhouse, none of whom are with the team anymore and only one of which is still a productive NBA player.
Blatche was a second round pick who has developed into a productive player in the NBA. He deserves to continue the work he started in Washington and trading him doesn't help his or the Wizards' cause.
There is no doubt that Andray Blatche would garner some interest in trade talks. He is young, athletic, and ever-improving. He is only 24, and still has not achieved his full potential. Even so, can anyone honestly say that Blatche is the missing piece of the puzzle anywhere but Washington?
The Wizards need Blatche as part of the future plans, and Blatche needs the Wizards to continue to produce as he has.
Look around the league and you'll see power forwards who are quicker, stronger, better shooters, better rebounders, and better defenders than Blatche, Kevin Love, Amar'e Stoudemire, Chris Bosh, David Lee, Zach Randolph, Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki. The list is long and distinguished, and Blatche simply doesn't measure up to the majority of the NBA's elite power forwards.
Anywhere he goes, he would likely be relegated to coming off the bench, which does not suit his need for rhythm in his game.
It isn't a match made in heaven, but Blatche would not be the starter for most other teams in the NBA, and the Wizards don't have any better options right now. Those options don't improve with any trades that may be offered to the Wizards.
There absolutely no reason why the Wizards should trade Andray Blatche. He isn't exceptionally valuable, and there aren't any players on the trading block that are impossible to pass on. Short of swinging a deal for Carmelo Anthony, the Wizards have no motivation to move Blatche.
Even with his sporadic issues off the court, and occasional boneheadedness, he is nothing but a positive for the Wizards.
The only reason his name is even in trade conversation is because he is perceived as the most valuable of the players who could be moved. If JaVale McGee was playing better this season, Blatche would not be as valuable because more teams want quality centers than they do good power forwards.
If the team had expected playoffs and played to their current 13-29 record, Blatche may be held accountable. But they're young and learning to play together, and trading Blatche does nothing but take away a consistent playmaker.