Washington Wizards: Can Andray Blatche Become a Franchise Player?

Matthew Brown@mlb923Correspondent IMarch 18, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 18:  Andray Blatche #7 of the Washington Wizards dunks the ball against the Miami Heat at the Verizon Center on December 18, 2010 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.   (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Around this time last season, the Washington Wizards had a similarly terrible record and were coping with the reality of life after Washington mainstays Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison and Brendan Haywood were dealt at the trade deadline. Out of that roster overhaul emerged Andray Blatche, who made the most of the opportunity to start over the last 32 games of the season.

Blatche was signed to a five-year contract before the season, and the hope is that he will be another piece in the puzzle alongside John Wall.

However successful Blatche has been since assuming the starting job, there seems to be something lacking. He averaged over 20 points as a starter last season and is averaging just under 16 points per game in 55 games this season. He does what he is supposed to, rather than everything he can do.

It is a matter of potential versus ability and Blatche is relying too heavily on the former to be a franchise player for the Wizards.

Since he was drafted with the 49th pick in the 2005 Draft, it has always been about potential with Blatche. He has the potential to be a great player, the potential to be star. When he took over as the starter, he was lighting up the stat sheet on a nightly basis. He recorded career highs in points and rebounds within the first 10 games as a starter and 12 double-doubles over that 32-game span.

There is no denying Blatche's consistency as a starter, but he is not playing to the best of his abilities.

He supposedly dedicated himself to getting into the gym in the offseason and improving his physicality as well as his skill set. He has some nifty turnaround jumpers, a still-developing post game and the ability to finish at the basket. Ability does not equate to willingness, and Blatche does not seem comfortable finishing strong in traffic, if at all.

His tentativeness is baffling and frustrating when he is clearly capable of so much more.

Blatche can get hot in games, but it is when he gets cold that presents problems. If his face-up jumper isn't falling, he resorts to a pseudo post-up turnaround fade-away that either breaks him out of his slump or digs it deeper. He has all the length and plenty of strength to get position, spin, dribble and dunk, but he is content to hover around the 10-15 foot range and take relatively easy jump shots.

He gets frustrated and takes plays off, which doesn't benefit anyone but the other team.

He doesn't use his length against smaller defenders nor his quickness against bigger defenders. He is content to be good instead of striving to be great.

Since injuring his shoulder two weeks ago, Blatche has not seen any action and is listed as day-to-day. He cannot lift his arm above his head and can barely dribble a ball at this point. His season may be over, as there is no need to rush back for the final 15 games of the season.

The Wizards need him to be the player he has shown that he is capable of being. He needs to be more than just productive, he needs to be a leader. Blatche is currently the longest tenured Wizard and has seen the best and worst of things Washington has done over the last six years. He is just 24, but age hasn't stopped teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder from having leaders.

Washington has a bright future with or without Blatche, but if Blatche can bring some aggression to the floor instead of playing passive, there is no reason why he shouldn't be a big player for the rebuilding Wizards.