With the Brooklyn Nets missing Brook Lopez, Avery Johnson turned to Andray Blatche to fill his comically sized shoes in the starting lineup, and it’s paid enormous dividends. In his four starts, Blatche has averaged 19 points and 11 rebounds in just 31 minutes per game on 54% shooting from the floor. He’s also picked up eight steals (four in last night’s Golden State game) while only committing five turnovers.
Andray Blatche has been a revelation, and it’s precisely because of his success that Brook Lopez can’t come back any faster. Because it’s not losing Lopez from the first unit that’s hurt the Nets — it’s losing Blatche from the second.
Similar to Lopez, Blatche plays offense to his own beat. When he faces up, there’s absolutely no predicting what he’ll try to do. In Washington that ended badly more often than not — particularly on Tuesdays — but in Brooklyn it’s paid unforseen dividends. He keeps defenders off-balance by hesitating when they think he’ll drive, and hitting when he’s got them leaning in one direction.
Even though he’s keeping opponents off-balance with a bevy of perimeter-esque moves, he’s normally got one goal: get to the rim. 35 of Blatche’s 54 field goal attempts as a starter have come in the restricted area, and 41 from within five feet. He’s shooting 61% from that range. There’s your success right there.
I’m not sure it’s a resurgence, so much as an exploration. Blatche has proven creative offensively without stretching himself (except for, uh, that time he stretched himself), and has also attacked the offensive glass with a particular intensity.
With Blatche starting for Brooklyn, the Nets are okay — they’re a -.5 per 48 minutes, which is essentially neutral, and frankly kind of impressive with two games against Miami and Oklahoma City. It’s the best plus-minus of any Nets player in the past four games, and it passes the smell test; the team does look better on both ends of the floor with Blatche in since Lopez’s injury.
Boy, does it look better. With Blatche off the floor, the Nets have fallen apart; the team is nine points per 100 possessions worse offensively and almost 14 points per 100 possessions worse defensively. They’ve grabbed just 45.5% of all available rebounds — well below the league average. In team rebounding, Blatche has been even more effective than Reggie Evans in this stretch.
Without Andray Blatche, the Bench Mob has turned into the Bench Blob. The second unit that carried the Nets with their starters out has dissipated, as Coach Johnson struggles with a constantly shuffling lineup. Outside of Evans — who missed a game — each member of the Bench Mob has a plus-minus of -11.4 or worse in the past four games, which stands in stark contrast to the previous 14 games of success.
Yes, this is me saying this, the guy that had absolutely zero interest in Zero Hero. But the facts don’t lie: Andray Blatche has been a legitimate, good starting center in these past four games. But he’s a great backup. There’s no need to rush Lopez back if he’s not ready. I just hope he’s ready soon.