Andray Blatche back to lead Nets' "Bench Mob"Oft-maligned center looks to shine again in Year 2 in Brooklyn
BACKGROUNDAfter a strong 2004-05 prep season at the South Kent School in Connecticut, 6-foot-11 bruiser Andray Blatche eschewed a collegiate career and declared for the NBA Draft, getting taken in the second round (No. 49 overall) by the Washington Wizards. A tumultuous rookie season set the tone for an equally tumultuous seven years in D.C.; he had a career season in 2009-10 (career-high 16.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per game) that led to a nice contract extension, but was benched in March 2012 for what was termed “lack of conditioning” and was eventually waived under the league’s amnesty provision – with three years and nearly $23.5 million remaining on that extension – last July.
LAST SEASONBlatche signed a one-year, non-guaranteed deal with Brooklyn last September for the veteran minimum, and he turned out to be one of the biggest bargains in the NBA. Once again playing all 82 games and starting eight, Blatche had a resurgence as the leader of the so-called “Bench Mob,” averaging 10.3 points (on 51 percent shooting) and 5.1 rebounds in 19 minutes per game; he was just as consistent in the playoffs (10.3 points, 4.9 boards in 19.7 minutes) and ended the year with a Player Efficiency Rating of 21.9 – nearly seven points above “league average” in four-plus better than the previous career high of 17.6 he set in that 2009-10 season.
THIS SEASONThis past summer, the Nets re-signed Blatche to a one-year deal with a player option for 2014-15 that could be worth nearly $3 million when all is said and done, and for that bargain price, coach Jason Kidd hopes to get the same out of Blatche as Avery Johnson and P.J. Carlesimo did last year.
We think that’s certainly possible, as even with the additions of Kevin Garnett and Andrei Kirilenko in the frontcourt, Blatche should still see significant minutes behind Brook Lopez, more so if Kevin Garnett does indeed sit out the latter of back-to-back games occasionally. But, even if that doesn’t come about, there is one other thing that could add to Blatche’s dangerousness in 2013-14: the Nets’ overall depth.
Last year, Blatche would often see time with a second squad that would usually include Joe Johnson but had a rotating cast of characters at the other three spots because of numerous lineup changes, and yet he still found ways to produce and be consistent; this year, however, with a solid starting five set and unlikely to change if all goes to plan, Blatche will be often be playing the same cast, which will include a ferocious rebounder in Reggie Evans, a perennial Sixth Man of the Year candidate Jason Terry, and a hungry hybrid forward in Andrei Kirilenko who is a tough matchup anywhere on the court.
With Terry and Kirilenko causing havoc on the perimeter and Evans underneath to do the dirty work, Blatche could be the benefactor of a lot of “dump and jump” offensive sets down low; but, regardless of how it happens, we figure Blatche to play about 20 minutes per game, once again hover right around double digits in scoring average, and live somewhere in the neighborhood of five to seven rebounds per game this season.