Andray Blatche: an absurd career season (SEASON GRADE)

Andray Blatche, Glen Davis
Andray Blatche (AP)
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By The Numbers: 82 G, 8 GS, 19.0 MPG, 10.3 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.7 BPG, .512 FG%, .136 3P%, .685 FT%, .547 TS%, .514 eFG%

Advanced: 21.98 PER, 107 ORtg, 101 DRtg, 26.5 USG%, 12.2 ORB%, 19.6 DRB%, 15.8 TRB%, 10.5 AST%, 3.0 STL%, 2.7 BLK%, 8.8 estimated wins added

First things first: If you’re grading Andray Blatche based on how he performed relative to my expectations, there aren’t enough pluses and A’s in the universe.

To say I was one of Blatche’s most vocal critics at the beginning of this season would be akin to saying Carlos Boozer addresses referees with a moderate tone after an unjust foul call. I lambasted the decision. I called him a five-tool player in that he was 1) unathletic, 2) lacked desire, 3) a terrible defender, 4) an inefficient scorer, and 5) a poor teammate. He came to training camp in allegedly the best shape of his career, and I was still highly skeptical of a player who I saw lacking in talent, desire, and character.

Then Andray Blatche started hitting stepbacks. He’d run the floor in transition. He’d make mistake after egregious mistake and suddenly make up for them in equally ludicrous ways. He’d hit double-pump reverse layups that he had no business taking. I called him “The Greatest Show In Sports” on more than one occasion. Whenever he caught the ball at the high elbow, time froze. You had no idea what he was going to do, you just knew it would end spectacularly, even if the possession went down in flames. He’d get terrible tunnel vision, until he whipped a pass around two defenders to an open teammate. If basketball is a game of deception, no one threw more tomfoolery at defenses this season in Brooklyn than Blatche, who often didn’t seem to have any idea what he was doing in the first place. Reason is anathema. Creativity and improvisation ruled the second Andray Blatche touched the ball, for better, for worse, and for glorious.

He’d snag a steal and use it as an excuse to play point guard — and sometimes it actually worked. He energized the second quarter “Bench Mob” unit. He was the picture of reclamation, a project of Avery Johnson’s that miraculously came together all at once. Blatche was an enigma, full of hits and full of misses, and as the season progressed, the hits began to outweigh the misses. He dominated sharing the floor with Brook Lopez, both in the regular season and until the final game of the postseason.

WATCH: Andray Blatche Highlights from the 2012-13 season

And yes, he wasn’t immune from Blatcheitude. Just hours after Blatche’s contract became fully guaranteed in the beginning of January, he had his annual cringe-worthy moment, involved in an ugly scandal that alleged he was an accomplice in a sexual assault. He thoughtlessly tweeted about it. For the record, he was questioned and released without charge.

It similarly wasn’t all rosy on the court. Blatche’s attentiveness waned as the season wore on. He played flat-footed on the defensive end, getting burned badly on pick-and-roll coverage on more than one occasion. As a whole this season, the Nets were 4.5 points per 100 possessions worse with him on the floor (almost all of the difference, oddly, coming on the offensive end). His conditioning got worse over the course of the season, so much so that P.J. Carlesimo called him out for it 81 games into the season. He looked gassed at the end of the first-round playoff series against the Chicago Bulls.

But Blatche had a career season. For as wrong as I was about him, so was everyone else. No one expected the type of season Blatche had. He set career highs in points per minute, steal rate, field goal percentage, effective field goal percentage, true shooting percentage, free throws per 36 minutes, usage rate, and both offensive and defensive rating. He was the only player in the NBA to average 9 rebounds & 2 steals per 36 minutes this season, and added 19 points and 2 assists per 36 to that. He grabbed rebounds on both ends at the second-best clip of his career. His player efficiency rating of 21.9 — also a career high — ranked him 13th in the NBA among all qualifying players.

At his best, Andray Blatche ranked as the best backup center in the league. At his worst, he was a problematic defender. Throughout the season, he was nothing if not wildly entertaining.

HIGH POINT: His insane first-half explosion against the Sacramento Kings on November 18th, hitting all nine of his shots in routinely circusy fashion en route to a 22-point, 11-12 shooting outburst in a 99-90 victory over the Sacramento Kings. You could also argue his two double-doubles in victories against his former team, the Washington Wizards, who Blatche said tried to “end” him.

LOW POINT: Has to be his legal issues mentioned above; right when Blatche looked like he’d finally turned a personal corner, he was once again mired in serious personal controversy.

MY PERSONAL FAVORITE MOMENT: When Blatche, now in his eighth year in the league, finally told everyone that they were pronouncing his name wrong. It’s “Ann-Dray,” not “Ahn-Dray.”

AWKWARD INTERVIEW: “She was not dressed as a prostitute…”

Final Grade

Previous: Brook Lopez Next: C.J. Watson

Full List:
Deron Williams | Joe Johnson | Gerald Wallace | Reggie Evans | Brook Lopez | Andray Blatche | C.J. Watson | Keith Bogans | Kris Humphries | MarShon Brooks | Mirza Teletovic | Tyshawn Taylor | Tornike Shengelia