Yet another 10 point per game scorer from last season's injury plagued Wizards squad, Blatche is a player who has coasted through the Summer League before. A near 7-footer with nice athleticism and an improved frame, Blatche played the four here for the most part, with JaVale McGee taking center duties. It took very little time for Blatche to remind onlookers both why he was so highly regarded by the Wizards after falling into the second round, as well as why he still popped up on their Summer League squad.
Possessing a high skill level for a player his size, Blatche was aggressive, if nothing else, during his three game stint here. Able to get to the rim against nearly any player he was matched up with, Blatche had no trouble making his presence felt near the rim. Preferring to drive right when he can, Blatche uses a mixture of aggressive jabs and shot fakes to quickly put his man off balance before using his huge stride length to get into the paint. Though he got to the rim nearly at will, Blatche did so at the expense of his teammates, often disrupting the flow of the offensive to go one-on-one.
While Blatche was able to convert a number of shots at the basket, he hit a handful of extremely difficult jumpers as well, including a pair of near 17-foot turnarounds (one over each shoulder), during the course of the week. Unfortunately, he also tossed up two near air-balls from the same spots on the floor off the dribble. Not frequently establishing position all that close to the basket, Blatche functioned as a high volume slasher in Las Vegas, for better or worse.
Like most players his size who like to put the ball on the floor and head all the way to the rim, Blatche had some issues with turnovers, especially in Washington's debut against Cleveland. Not exceptionally agile once he clears his initial defender and puts his head down, Blatche was called for a couple of charges, but had a lot more problems with pesky guards getting their hands on the ball when taking his second and third dribbles. This was an issue for Blatche during the regular season as well, as he is notably less effective when he has to change hands with the ball. Moving forward, Blatche needs to work on his left hand, both in terms of ball-handling and finishing, in order to use his dribble-drives to their fullest potential.
His lack of shooting ability with his left hand is also an issue around the basket, but doesn't present as big of an obstacle as his overall lack of interior scoring moves. Blatche can be a creative finisher for his size when he gets to the rim off the dribble, but he had a hard time scoring when he couldn't get in close in Las Vegas. Improving his jump hook or developing some type of go-to-move down low would be a definite step in the right direction for Blatche, who is often the beneficiary of dump passes from driving teammates and collects quite a few offensive rebounds. Over the course of the week, he rushed some contested 6-footers when he didn't see a lane to the rim, tried to force some of his left handed drives back to the right hand underneath the backboard, and made one notably questionable drop-step across the lane that positioned him with his back to the rim on the wrong side of the glass where he put up a scoop that didn't draw iron.
Blatche's interior scoring still has some room for improvement, but it isn't quite as problematic as the weaknesses in his jump shot. Able to hit some shots off the dribble when driving right and prone to spinning back towards to the top of the key for turnaround jumpers when driving left, Blatche is truly an odd case. He'll hit a contested, off-balance 17 footer on one possession, or drain an uncontested 21-footer with time and space before badly missing an open pull up off of one dribble or missing a series a catch and shoot opportunities. Last season, Blatche was substantially more effective off the dribble than he was off the catch, which is not only unusual, but indicative of some mechanical and shot selection deficiencies that need to be rectified. Though his jumper can be a weapon for him periodically, added consistency would have help immensely.
Just as his jumper is a bigger issue that his short-range game, so too is his perimeter defense in comparison to his post defense. Blatche has some nice tools that allow him to create problems for his matchup, namely his length, footspeed, and quick hands, but he gets out of position on the perimeter too easily. He did a decent job staying in front of his man down low, showing nice lateral quickness and even giving offensive players some problems by going straight up when they looked to shoot. He may get backed down by stronger players and doesn't always do an ideal job of keeping himself between his man and the basket, but he shows a knack for getting his hand near the ball when shots go up down low. The development of his fundamentals under Flip Saunders will be key to his ability to get his defensive skills up to the same level as his defensive tools.
Washington's new staff will be hugely important to Blatche's future in many areas of his game. Most of his touches in Las Vegas came between the elbow and top of the key on the right side and closer to the basket on the left. Obviously he is being molded for the role he'll play for the Wizards this season, but right now, his skill set has some holes that need to be filled before he can excel. Becoming a better catch and shoot threat to force defenders to respect him on the outside, improving his left hand to take advantage of his lateral quickness, and learning the nuances of effective defense should be priorities for Blatche and the main responsibility of some member of Washington's staff. With Brendan Haywood back in the fold, Blatche needs to begin to fill in some of the gaps in his game to give the Wizards the frontline punch they'll need late in the year.