The Washington Wizards cut ties with Andray Blatche today, ending a mediocre run for a talented player, as GM Ernie Grunfeld decided that Blatche simply “wasn’t a part of the team’s future plans.” After years of waiting for Blatche to pan out, it became painfully simple that he never will.
Or will he?
Could Blatche simply need a better situation, a better mentor, some guidance to turn his immense talent into production?
I can think of the man that is perfect for such a job, and he happens to be on the Celtics roster.
I’m talking, of course, about NBA veteran Kevin Garnett. When I first saw Blatche play as a rookie, his skill set, his body, and his athleticism reminded me of a young Garnett.
“WOW,” I thought, “This kid could really be the next KG if things go right for him, and if he works hard.”
In 2010-2011, it seemed as though Blatche was on the cusp of being that kind of player, of being an NBA All-Star. That season, he posted 16.8 points per game and 8.2 rebounds per game in nearly 34 minutes of play a night. He was earning spots on “keeper teams” in fantasy basketball, as people planned to integrate him into the future of their fictional teams.
While that pales in comparison to what Garnett did in his prime, it showed that Blatche did indeed have the potential to perform on a very high level. His field goal percentage was still low for a power forward (44%), but he had shot in the 47-48% range in seasons prior, and it was assumed that after he adapted to taking more shots, it would level off back in that range again.
That never happened.
After posting those impressive numbers and appearing to be a future fixture with point guard John Wall, he regressed seriously last season, posting only 8.5 points per game and 5.8 rebounds per game, as his minutes dipped to a mere 24 per game, while he shot an abysmal 38% from the floor, among the worst of all NBA players seeing more than 20 minutes a game.
Blatche’s shot was broken, his confidence gone, and he never could find his groove playing on such a horrible Wizards team. The lack of chemistry in Washington affected not just Blatche, but also their franchise player, Wall, as no one could find any cohesion or consistency within any lineup arrangement. It was a disaster.
I think Boston could be the perfect opportunity to change all of that for Blatche.
Would he be counted upon to step into the starting lineup and replace Bass? Simply, no.
Blatche could be brought along slowly, as though he was still a youngster, because you know what? He is. Blatche is a mere 25 years old, still a few seasons away from hitting his prime. Investing in him now could pay big dividends for the Celtics, and for a team short on size, the 6’11″ Blatche could help provide another big body, someone to push Chris Wilcox for minutes, a valuable big that the Celts just re-signed.
Things are coming together for the Celtics, but they really should take advantage of what is still remaining on the market.
I’m not sure how much money Blatche will command, and the Celtics don’t really have any financial flexibility after re-signing Bass and small forward Jeff Green. Green obviously made more sense than Blatche, and after his Playoff performance, re-signing Bass was an absolute must.
Still, Danny Ainge has been creative before, and if he wanted to find a way to get Blatche, it wouldn’t come at a great cost. It would be a gamble on a guy who has yet to get his career into full gear, after showing signs of being a much better player. No one is going to overpay for Blatche because he hasn’t been consistent enough to warrant a big salary. Again, I still have no idea what he will command, and I’m not sure many teams are going to want to shell out the cash for such a player. Blatche can’t be built around yet is simply too good not to be in the NBA.
The overwhelming sentiment from Celtics fan on popular message board Real GM has been not to bring back a player they feel is a “team cancer,” but players change. People change. Kevin Garnett could be just what Blatche needs.