A couple of years ago me and my good friend Lee would get into many a argument regarding the future of Andray Blatche. I would argue that Blatche was a stat sheet filler, who just produced empty stats, was a selfish player who cared much more about how he individually performed, didn’t understand what it took to win in the NBA, played lack luster defense, and really just how much I didn’t like him being a part of the Wizards organization. Lee on the other hand argued how Andray really showed potential and had the talent to one day be a good player for a good team. While I did believe he had the talent to be a good player on a good team, it was clear to me that he had nowhere near the wherewithal to become the player that he was capable of being. I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but at least for his tenure as a Wizard, he certainly didn’t play up to his abilities. 2 years later we all find out the real truth about Andray Blatche and now the Wizards have amnestied him meaning that he is pretty much cut from the team but will still be paid in full.
Blatche has been an interesting player since he came in the league as he was a 2nd round draft pick that came out of high school which is fairly rare because if you are going to forgo college then you probably had some sort of guarantee that you would go in the 1st round. Blatche definitely had 1st round talent but had an undrafted basketball IQ and attitude, hence why he was a 2nd round pick. Blatche was now kind of viewed as a high reward-low risk prospect for the Wizards as he had the talent to be an All-Star but there was such little risk with him being a 2nd round pick (most 2nd rounders don’t turn out to be anything anyways.)
Andray started his career as a backup to Antwan Jamison and has his on and off moments but with the Wizards always in the playoff hunt and Jamison playing a lot of minutes, he never really had the chance to get enough minutes for the Wizards to get a true evaluation of him and his potential future with them. Luckily for him he got an opportunity a couple of years ago when the Wiz original big 3 of Arenas/Butler/Jamison started to fall apart and they were all traded away so the new regime of Young/Blatche/McGee could begin. Blatche played very well in the couple of months that spring averaging a double-double and apparently giving Ernie Grunfeld all the reason he needed to extend Blatche to a multiyear deal even though Andray was still under contract for 2 more years and had only had a couple of solid months as an NBA player.
Near the end of his 2009-’10 season, Grunfeld re-signed Blatche to a 5 year 35 million dollar deal. A lot of people had a problem (particularly Rob) with this because of 2 reasons. First off a 5 year, 35 million dollar deal is a good chunk of change for a player who had been a career backup and has only had a couple good months of being a starter is pretty ridiculous (though these days that is basically the norm sadly, overpay or you don’t get the player). So he gave out a bad to a player who hadn’t deserved it yet. Alright big deal, it is not a good thing but he wouldn’t be the first GM to do it (not that that makes it any better) and he certainly won’t be the last. The kicker however is the fact that Andray was already on contract for another 2 years (after his solid spring when EG gave him the extension) and he was on a much cheaper deal. So instead of letting this 23-year-old kid who had only started on an NBA team for 2 months earn a larger contract extension with his play over the next 2 seasons (don’t necessarily have to wait that long if he proves to you before that that he can be a consistently good NBA player but 2 months is way too small of a sample space), he just gave him a big contract and signed him on for 3 more years after his original contract expired. Like I said it would have been one thing if he had taken a chance and signed a kid to a big contract after a couple of months of good play in hopes that he would turn out to be consistently good, but when you have the chance to give the kid another 2 years to prove his worth and you give him the extension? It just doesn’t make any sense to me. He could have easily waited a year (or maybe 2) and done the same thing without the risk of having no idea how this guy would turn out. 2 years later we have a much better idea of the player that Blatche is and we found out how wasn’t going to be a player the Wizards wanted in the future, unfortunately Grunfeld made that decision 2 years too early when it was completely unnecessary and it is going to end up costing owner Ted Leonsis about 30 million dollars while getting nothing in return.
Blatche however did have the chance the play up to his contract but in the last 2 years he failed to do that in a big way. 2 seasons ago he was the starter at PF for the Wiz and with our overall lack of talent, he got a lot of time and didn’t make the most of it. His offensive game consisted of a mainly mid-post game where he would way too often settle for fade away jumpers and not attack the basket nearly as much as a post player of his size should. While he does have the skill to knock down the mid range J, he used it as his go to move and that just isn’t going to cut it in the NBA. Not only that but he was basically a black hole as his court vision was basically non-existent. When the ball went into the post to Blatche you basically assumed it was going up and it bogged down the offense and with Nick Young on the court with him most of the time they formed a deadly duo for people who don’t like ball movement of good offense. Unfortunately for those who enjoy their favorite basketball team winning games, they were your worst enemy. On defense he was lackluster as he basically gave half-hearted effort on the norm and was pretty much an offensive-first player. Like I said though, he wasn’t a great offensive player in this league and certainly wasn’t good enough where he could get away with play sub par defense. That pretty much leaves one last part of Andray and that is his intagibles. While some players can make up for their lack of talent with great intangibles, Blatche was the complete opposite. Not only did he never live up to his vast talent, but his intangibles were among some of the poorest in the league. He is one of the most selfish players in the league as often times it seemed like he cared much more about himself and his stats rather than the team success. He even went as far to give the maximum effort possible to get a triple double when the team already had a rare win in hand. He also had the great line before the beginning of last season when he told his teammates “I’m willing to give y’all 100-percent out of me every game. I’m willing to die for this” than a couple of days later after the 1st game of the year he complained about how he was used in the offense.
It’s not that I don’t like Andray Blatche as a person, not that I know him but from everything I have seen him do and heard him say, he seems like a decent person. It’s just that he is not fit to be an NBA player. He doesn’t have the work ethic or the overall attitude to be successful in this league and I think it has shown so far. I do want to reiterate though, as for all athletes, when I rip a guy I’m really never talking about them as a person because I don’t know them. I’m just ripping them as a player which I think is fair. Blatche is a great example of this because I don’t think that he is a bad person, I just can’t stand him as a basketball player and don’t think he has what it takes mentally to be a good NBA player.
Luckily for the Wizards and their organization, last year’s CBA resulted in an amnesty provision where each team could amnesty one player on their roster (as long as he was under contract at the time of the new CBA) and he would basically be cut and wiped from their salary cap (pretty much) while the owner still paid his salary to play for somebody else. They did this so they could make up for their own mistakes of signing bad players to long deals for a lot of money. Blatche’s contract wasn’t horrible, but it was bad enough where it was certainly worth getting rid of via the amnesty. For the GM and fans it was a very easy decision to amnesty Andray because he wasn’t helping the team at all and would be taking up 7 million dollars a year for the next 3 years of our salary cap. You can get a fairly quality player for that money. Apparently Leonsis tried to have Blatche traded this summer but there were no biters. I understand his reasoning because nobody wants to pay a guy 20 million dollars (probably what Leonsis will end up paying over next few years) to play for another team. But as a fan I am very happy that the Wiz were never able to find a trade partner for Blatche because he has negative value right now so if we were to make a trade involving him it would have made our team worse because we would have had to either trade for another player of negative value or give up a good player to go with him. Basically the way I see it is in the NBA it is different from most sports because we have a cap that is at least somewhat firm so contracts have a big effect on the value of a player. If you are a bad player that is one negative. If you are a bad player that is getting paid a lot of money (bad contract) then that is a negative. So we would have probably had to trade Blatche for either another bad player with a bad contract or a bad player with a decent contract (2 negatives for 1 negative) but then we would have had to throw in lets say a Trevor Booker (a positive) to even it out. Obviously all NBA trades don’t work out this way but that is pretty much what is expected trade value wise. So at least from a fans perspective, now by amnestying Blatche instead of trading him, we basically get rid of a double negative for the price of nothing rather than taking more negative back in return that we can’t get rid of so easily.
The only problem that some people had with EG basically waiting for the last day to amnesty Blatche (he only had a week) was that we missed out o some opportunities. With the 6 million that we just saved by amnestying Blatche, we could have used that money to pick up another one of the amnestied players such as Luis Scola, Brendan Haywood, or Elton Brand who all would have cost about half the price of Blatche. It wouldn’t have been a matter of FA interest with these guys because we would have only had to be the highest bidder for their services and like I said they were easy to be had for cheap. While these guys pretty much would have only been a Wizards for the next year or two when we don’t plan on being contenders (as well as they already fill a need), they could have not only been used to slightly strengthen this team in the short run but they could have been used possibly for trade bait in the future (next year possibly). Every asset counts (just ask the Rockets) and while a player like Scola may have caused a log jam of sorts on this team he could have been traded say for a mid to late round pick to a contender in the middle of the year. Then for a very small price we would have had a quality big for half the year and another 1st round pick to show for it. It’s just another creative way to obtain an asset. You could also choose the strategy that my brother Chris thought up of picking up a Scola or a Brand and now you have another viable starter making Okafor expendable, possibly for an expiring (might be tough). The point of this would be to get Okafor’s contract off of the books so we have more cap room and financial flexibility next off-season rather than 2 off-seasons from now but these are just all possible outcomes that could have come from amnestying Blatche earlier.
This really is a big move because it is the end of an era which really can only be described as the knucklehead era. First we had the Arenas/Jamison/Butler era quickly followed by the Young/Blatche/McGee era and after this amnesty it looks like we have finally reached the Wall/Beal/Seraphin? era. Gone are the days of selfish me-first basketball where scoring is the premium and ball movement is whatever the opposite of premium is. Now we get to look forward to the days of ball movement, tough inside play, and guys who actually want to win more than they want to score. But Andray Blatche is now gone and while I saw this coming a couple of years ago, it’s just a shame (mainly for Ted Leonsis’ bank account) that the Wizards didn’t see it earlier.