Player Preview: Andray Blatche

Here on Wiz of Awes, we are going to profile every Wizards player for the 2011-2012 season: Discussing their strengths and weaknesses, looking at their role on this season’s team, as well as looking ahead to their role in the organization going forward.

This project will be attacked alphabetically. First up, Andray Blatche.

Last season, Andray Blatche was fresh off a five-year contract extension worth a total of $35 million, plus incentives. At the time a lot of Wizards fans were excited about the bargain contract for a young, seemingly ascending player. Then reality hit.

Blatche started 64 games last season and totaled 16.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. Respectable numbers, right?  However, watch the games and you would see how terrible a season “Seven Day” Dray had.

Last season he looked out of shape and uninterested. His basketball IQ has never been his calling card, and when he became the regular starter it was highlighted and exploited.  Whether it was him trying to take the ball up the court, take a defender to the rim one on one from the three point line, taking an ill-advised 19 foot jump shot, or displaying literally no defense, it was an awful season for Andray.  Last season at one point on The Sports Fix on ESPN 980, Thom Loverro made the case that Andray Blatche was the most hated athlete in Washington, DC—even more than then Redskins DT Albert Haynesworth—and I wouldn’t disagree.

So Blatche doesn’t hustle, doesn’t play defense, has a basketball IQ that is scary low, and most of the time seems not to care, so the question is what can he do?

As harsh a critic as I am of Andray Blatche, I do recognize his talent.  For a 6’11” power forward he is a good ball handler, his issues come when he doesn’t know when to stop. If he could just reign himself in and not try to show off his ball handling skills so much, he’d be far more effective.  If Blatche gets an open shot from mid-range he’s more than capable of knocking it down and that is without question an asset for your starting power forward. Once again, if he could only control his urge to be the one to take the shot every other possession, his game could improve. However, his biggest strength is as a low-post passer, but he doesn’t do it enough. Numerous times a year ago, Blatche was able to find a cutting John Wall or Jordan Crawford or pass it out to an open Nick Young for a three point shot. When Blatche wants to be productive, he most certainly can be, but he has such a high opinion of himself as a scorer that he gets in his own way.

Looking forward into our crystal ball, where does Andray Blatche fit in with the rebuilding Wizards? That is still unclear, although it shouldn’t be.

At a press conference at Verizon Center today, Team President Ernie Grunfeld said “in all likelihood we won’t amnesty anybody this year.”  Ever since the amnesty clause was announced Wizards fans have connected two names to it: Rashard Lewis and Andray Blatche.  Lewis will not have the amnesty clause used on him according to his agent, but Blatche could in the future.

It makes no sense to amnesty Rashard Lewis.  He’s the lone veteran on a team full of kids and his huge contract expires next season. This means next year he could be a very attractive piece for a team looking to clear cap space and take on his expiring contract. However, Blatche is due over $6 million this year, and anywhere from $7 to $8.5 million dollars over the following three seasons. For a re-building team trying to put together a good young core and trying to establish a winning culture, Andray Blatche is not the the kind of player you want in the locker room. Paying him to go away makes perfect sense.

If there is any potential amnesty clause player on the roster, it’s Andray Blatche. But will Ernie Grunfeld admit that mistake and do it this year or next? We’ll see.

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Tags: Andray Blatche Ernie Grunfeld Rashard Lewis

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