NBA Retrospective: DeJuan BlairFebruary 28, 2011
DeJuan Blair, 6-7, PF/C, San Antonio Spurs, 1989
8.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.5 turnovers, 50% FG, 66% FT
Expected to be drafted in the lottery by most analysts in the 2009 NBA Draft, Blair surprisingly fell to the 37th pick due to concerns surrounding the long-term viability of his surgically repaired knees. As they've made a habit of doing in the past decade, the Spurs pounced on the opportunity by picking up Blair, who's yet to miss a game in his NBA career.
Part One: Offensive Role
“Although his sophomore campaign is over, Blair certainly left his mark on the season and has solidified himself amongst college basketball's elite – being recognized on Monday as a first team All-American. His great play, impressive physique and the multiple intangibles that he brings to the game has clearly caught the attention of basketball pundits and NBA scouts everywhere.
's statistical output this season has been nothing short of spectacular. He ranks #1 in PER
with an astounding 38.9, which is due in large part to his efficiency offensively and the high value placed on offensive rebounding – an area where Blair excels at averaging 8.1 per-40 minutes, which is first in the nation
by a wide margin.
On the offensive end, Blair has definitely shown great improvement. He scores at a nice rate, 23 points per-40 pace adjusted, which ranks him 12th amongst the 88 elite college players ranked in our 2009 or 2010 mock draft. On top of that, he is extremely efficient, finishing 59% of his 2-point shots, which ranks him 11th in that category.”
-NCAA Weekly Performers, April 8, 2009
Coming into the pros from the college game, DeJuan Blair
had to undergo quite the transformation with his offensive role, going from one of his team's offensive focal points to the very antithesis of that, with him having virtually zero plays ever run for him on the Spurs. While Blair always had the gritty, hustle style of play embedded into his game in college, it also went along with a big scoring responsibility, with him ranking second on his team in field goal attempts in his last year in college (compared to sixth this year for the Spurs). Further, how Blair is getting his shots is also noticeably different, as 35.1% of his field-goal attempts in the half court were of the post-up variety at Pittsburgh, where as now those shots account for just 15.4%.
Coming into a situation with a strongly established core of offensive players in Tim Duncan
, Tony Parker
, and Manu Ginobili
(along with an army of spot-up outside shooters in Richard Jefferson
, Matt Bonner
, and George Hill
), Blair is asked to do all the dirty, off-ball work on the Spurs, and that happens to be just what he excels at.
Proving his worth as an offensive rebounder
, space-carver in the lane, and an active cutter off the ball, Blair is the perfect complement to the Spurs' stable of talented scorers, as he creates extra possessions on the glass, sets hard screens on the perimeter, and provides a good target for easy shots around the basket. Unsurprisingly, Blair embraced this role from his first day in the league, and it's a big reason why he's managed to be so successful so quickly.
Part Two: Scoring Around The Basket
“He uses his body to his advantage inside and in the post, as he finds different ways to get his defender on his back – making it easier for him to finish. He certainly plays below the rim however and his lack of leaping ability has made him susceptible to blocked shots, although he has improved in utilizing crafty moves to get shots off. There is a distinct concern that at the NBA level he will struggle much more to score around the basket, though, considering his lack of size and explosiveness.”
-NCAA Weekly Performers, April 8, 2009
Looking at Blair's ability to score around the basket, his performance has been largely as expected in the pros, with him still being a decidedly below the rim player, albeit one who makes up for it in a variety of other ways. Around the basket, Blair is just an average finisher (his 1.14 points per shot around the basket ranks in the 54th percentile according to Synergy Sports Technology), but it's important to note just how many of these shots he's able to seek out for himself. While Blair may rank as being just “solid” on actually converting his attempts, he's among the league's best in putting himself in situation to get those attempts, as his unique physical abilities make him very difficult to keep away from high-quality shots.
Having incredible raw strength with his massive frame, Blair is definitely among the strongest players in the NBA, something that's magnified further with his low center of gravity. Just like in college, he's still able to back his man down and seal out dominant position in the paint, pinning his man under the rim and creating easy, short angles for shot attempts when the ball comes his way, which it does often on a team that passes as well as the Spurs.
Beyond his ability to carve out space inside using brute force, Blair also shows deceptive agility and body control on his cuts to the rim, be it on dive cuts from the high post or rolls to the basket off high screens. He does a good job adjusting to finish around the defender, and despite his obvious inability to elevate above the rim in most situations, he does a good job using crafty maneuvers to free himself for open shots.
The only area where Blair has seemingly struggled in his ability to attack the basket is the rate he's getting to the free-throw line, as he's averaging just 1.5 FTA per game compared to 7.6 FGA, a low ratio by any means but especially low for an aggressive, inside-oriented big man. He doesn't shy from contact often, but his lack of conventional athleticism allows the opposition to not take many risks defending him, while also making him prone to getting his shot blocked, with 10.3% of his field-goal attempts being blocked according to Hoopdata.com.
Part Three: Self-Created Offense
“Blair also does an excellent job at establishing deep position in the post. He's also deceptively quick down there, often using the baseline and reversing on the other side of the rim to shield his defender – putting them in “jail”. He doesn't have any type of face-up game at this point and lacks consistency with his shot – which will be something he must work on diligently if he's to find a way to become some type of an offensive option at the next level. His free throw percentage actually declined this year, going from 62.4% to 60.5%. With a good shooting coach and plenty of hard work, it's not out of the question that he becomes at least a capable mid-range shooter in time, which will be very important for him.”
-NCAA Weekly Performers, April 8, 2009
While Blair's post game was a work in progress and his face-up game non-existent in college, both have taken even more of a backseat in the pros, where the Spurs just have little need for him to do much of either, something Blair has embraced to open up the rest of his game.
On the rare attempts he does have a back-to-the-basket opportunity, he shows a mostly unpolished repertoire with just average footwork, while he clearly doesn't have as easy a time overpowering the opposition at this level, especially given the increased length and athleticism used for blocking and contesting shots.
His face-up game is actually in some ways more serviceable than his post-up game, as he's trying to take after his frontcourt mate Tim Duncan
with the mid-to-high post finesse moves, occasionally showing off a decent array of floaters, runners, and bank shots off the glass. While he's still coming along and it's not something the Spurs will want to rely on come playoff time, Blair does finish at a solid rate on these attempts and if he does ever want to develop the ability to create his own offense, it will likely have to be of the finesse variety given his athletic limitations.
The one area of Blair's offense that has been most disappointing in the pros would have to be his spot-up jumper, as he's taken just 17 mid-range jump shots on the entire season according to Synergy, and only hit four of them. His 66% shooting from the free-throw line is a little more respectable, but mostly in line with what he did at the collegiate level, as he's yet to show any noticeable improvement in this area since being on the national scene.
In order to maximize his ability as a role playing big man in this league, having a respectable 15-foot jumper in pick-and-pop and end of shot clock situations is something Blair will need to do, and he's lucky he's on a team that has above average perimeter shooters up and down the roster, otherwise this flaw might be more apparent given his limited offensive game.
Part Four: Rebounding
“There are a plethora of reasons as to why Blair excels on the boards, and it all begins with his unique build for a basketball player. Blair resembles more of a linebacker than a power forward, and because of his low center of gravity, standing at a modest 6'7, and his wide frame, weighing in 260 pounds, Blair is able to take up a lot of room in the painted area. In addition, his frame helps him and his teammates, seeing that he sets some of the best screens in the country. Furthermore, his freakishly long wingspan makes up for his lack of height and his incredibly soft hands enable him to wrestle boards away from the opposition.”
-NCAA Weekly Performers, April 8, 2009
“Blair has suction cups for hands, which, when combined with his awesome length, motor, positioning and timing, make him one of the best rebounders in college basketball, already as a freshman. He is absolutely tenacious going after anything and everything that is even remotely in his area, grabbing an outstanding 10 rebounds in just 23 minutes per game. These same attributes make him a presence as a shot-blocker (and shot-alterer), but especially as a ball-thief as well, enabling him to just poke away steals while playing the passing lanes—really telling us a great deal about his instincts for the game in the process.”
-NCAA Weekly Performers, December 26th, 2007
As is almost always true with players transitioning from college to the pros, the one thing most likely to translate is rebounding ability, and DeJuan Blair
is no exception to the rule. While he's no longer the clear-cut most dominant rebounder in the league like he was at the NCAA level, Blair's 13.3 total rebounds per-40 minutes pace adjusted ranks 8th in our database
and his 4.9 offensive rebounds ranks 3rd
Blair's ability to create extra possessions on the offensive glass is perhaps his greatest attribute as a player, especially in the situation he's on with so many good scorers on his team. Still showing the same great strength, pursuit, and fundamentals that he showed in college, Blair is a major force on the boards on both ends of the floor.
Part Five: Defense
On the defensive end is where Blair struggles the most. He lacks great lateral quickness to stay with anyone who drags him out and away from the basket. This is evident in isolations and pick and roll situations, where he's forced to switch or hold a hedge for an extra second. Moreover, like many college big men, Blair has a tendency to lack aggressiveness when he picks up a foul. He will drop his hands and get out of the way in order to avoid picking up a foul. The ability to play solid position defense without fouling is a skill he will have to develop in order to play in the NBA.”
-NCAA Weekly Performers, April 8, 2009
On the defensive end, Blair hasn't had the most seamless transition to the NBA, though it certainly gets covered up pretty well on the best team in the NBA with one of the best defensive coaches in the league. Blair's focus and effort level are virtually always there (and he wouldn't be on the floor much on that team if they weren't), while his positioning and off-ball awareness are both very high, a big reason he manages to get 1.2 steals in just 22.2 minutes per game with his limited athletic abilities, something he did quite a bit in college as well.
While Blair's positioning and awareness are both very good, he's prone to being exposed in a variety of ways when the opposition tries isolating him, most noticeably defending the post and on pick-and-rolls.
On pick-and-rolls, Blair's large mass and average change of direction ability make it very risky for him to run out to contest jumpers or hedge screens on the perimeter, so the Spurs often have him play passive in these situations, something that leads to a lot of open pull-up jumpers for the ball-handler. He's fairly limited in the way he's used on pick-and-rolls, though to his credit he does do a solid job sticking with the big on rolls to the basket, showing good agility and mobility in that regard.
In defending back-to-the-basket big men, Blair's effort level is once again high, as he contests shots and fights for position, but he often overextends himself going after entry passes and isn't able to recover. Further, when he is matchup has the ball in his hands, his fundamentals are not where you'd expect them to be, as he doesn't use his hands and forearm well to hold him off, not getting anywhere near the leverage he's capable of with his strength and physique, as he's just not taking full advantage of NBA post defense rules. His height is also problematic, as it leaves him very prone to being shot over, something that happens quite often.
Surprisingly, Blair actually proves somewhat serviceable defending perimeter isolations, though he often gets the weaker of the two frontcourt matchups and isn't tested often. His foot speed is certainly below par, and he's prone to being taken by players with quick first steps, but when he gets into his position he does a solid job sticking with his man and at least not making it easy, thanks to his tremendous length.
Looking forward, it's hard to imagine Blair developing into much more than he currently is now, a strange thing to say for a player just 21 years old that is already starting for the best team in the league. The problem for Blair is the two areas where he shows the most capacity for improvement – post defense and mid-range shooting – are areas he has shown little to no learning curve in since he emerged on the national scene his freshman season at Pittsburgh. That said, there is precedent for hard-working big men completely reinventing segments of their game early in their NBA careers, with Glen Davis
(post defense) and David Lee
(mid-range shooting) being two recent examples.
In order for Blair to take his game to the next level and place himself among the league's most impactful role players, he's going to need to put in the work in those two areas, and all the signs suggest he has the requisite work ethic to do so. Regardless, even if he doesn't do that, he's already on the path to a very productive career, and he's in the perfect situation to put his unique talents to work, playing off San Antonio's Big Three. As long as he can remain healthy, Blair has already established a very high floor for the rest of his career., and is clearly one of the biggest steals in the draft over the past few years.
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DeJuan Blair: April 23, 2009
Jonathan Givony: Hello DeJuan. Thanks for your time. So can you just fill us in, what's going on with you, where you are at? Are you finishing up the year at Pitt?
DeJuan Blair: I'm just finishing up the semester, getting stuff done with school, then you know, getting ready for the journey, as I like to call it.
Jonathan Givony: So, it seems like your coaching staff made a pretty big push to keep you at Pitt, and I guess they may have come away a little disappointed. Has there been any lingering effects of that?
Yeah but, I would have done the same thing. Not to be big-headed, but who I am, and what I am to the team, but you know I had to make a decision and I think I made the right one. So, you know, its good for me and my family and everything, and it made them (Pitt) look good also, getting an NBA prospect out there, so, it's going to be fun.
Jonathan Givony: Now that you're 100 percent in the draft, what are you focusing on most in terms of preparing yourself for the private workouts?
I'm focusing on my quickness and my agility and my jump shot. That's about it, these things, all my weaknesses, try to power my power, my finesse skills also. So I'm working on a lot of stuff, its going to be a good May for me.
Jonathan Givony: So you're going to be doing some private workouts here after the early entry deadline comes out, is there any particular player you're looking forward to competing against? Someone you saw on TV? Someone from the Big East? Something like that?
Nah, I'll take whoever's in my way and show what I can do against them. It's going to be like a game, I'm going to be out for everyone, just like everyone is going to be out for me. So I'm going to have fun at the same time, as me doing business, so I'm getting to meet a lot of people, you know, just having a nice little bang with everybody that I've been seeing. It's going to be fun, I can't wait for it to happen.
Jonathan Givony: What have people told you about the draft process? Any players you've talked to or any guys that have been through it already that are helping you prepare for it?
I actually talked to Amare Stoudemire
a little bit, but I haven't talked to him a lot about the draft process. I'm just going to take it one step at a time hopefully it'll come out to my advantage, to the best of my ability. Just like I said, I just want to have fun on the journey, its going to be fun, you know. It's going to be a long one, a tough one, but at the same time you still gotta have fun and enjoy the program. A lot of people from my city haven't been exposed to what's about to go down for me, and that's a blessing off top, but with me working out, and me losing weight and things like that, it's going to be all right man. I just wanna have fun.
Jonathan Givony: Not only were you the best offensive rebounder in college basketball this year, but according to an article I saw by Luke Winn, you were the best offensive rebounder in the last eight or nine years of college basketball. Can you take us through the nuances of what makes a great offensive rebounder from a technical standpoint?
Like I tell everyone who asks me that, you've just got to go get the ball. You can't just let the ball come to you, cause if you let the ball come to you, then it's a chance that both of y'all can get it. If you outwork the next guy, and jump, and reach for the ball, it's going to be an 80% chance that you can get the ball. If you go get the ball, I don't know if you watched any of the games, I like to tap the ball to myself, or tap em off the glass, and get a lot of them. The big key of it is to go get it, don't let it come to you. That's what I do. I try to move everybody out of the way and go get it.
Jonathan Givony: As the shot is going up in the air, let's say Levance Fields is shooting a three, are you looking at the trajectory of the ball, or trying to, kind of predict the angle it's going to come off?
Yeah yeah yeah. You gotta go take the angle. First of all your rebounding IQ has got to be pretty good just to go get the ball, you gotta go get it, and you gotta know where its going to come off at, and just go get it and chase it down. It takes a lot of hustle, its going to take a lot out of you, but at the end of the day that's going to be big. That's what I try to do, I try to have fun, try to go down there and just get it. Sometimes it bounces to me, sometimes it bounces away from me. Its fun, its fun rebounding.
Jonathan Givony: How do you feel about how your rebounding can translate to the NBA level, where everybody is bigger, they're stronger, they're longer, they're quicker, they can jump higher, what are your thoughts on that?
That's just a bigger challenge you've got to step up to. There's gonna be a lot of big people, a lot of big guys, so I'm just gonna try to keep doing what I was doing. Nobody is gonna stop me from getting the ball, and if they do. I'm going to try harder to go get it. So hopefully I can keep it up in the NBA.
Jonathan Givony: Something that's unique about you is that not only do you get a lot of rebounds, but you also get a ridiculous amount of steals, for a big guy. We know that guards are able to pick people's pocket and stuff like that, but how does a big guy actually go about getting so many steals?
First of all, you've got to have the long arms I have. Then you've got to try to be quicker than the next person. If you've got a big slow guy on you, you know I'm kind of quick for my weight, for my body, and I know that fools a lot of people, but I like to kind of go around people and just go get it. I know I keep saying go get it, but that's the objective of all of basketball – if you shoot the ball, go get it. That's my mindset- go get it. That's how I do it.
Jonathan Givony: It sounds to me like ‘go get it' is something like an instinct, it's a knack, its something that you're born with, right?
Yeah yeah, it's something that you're born with. If you ain't got that go get it mindset, then you aren't going to be a leader, for the past two years in offensive rebounding.
Jonathan Givony: Where do you think that your “go get it” came from?
You could say where I'm from, I guess. Where I'm from kind of has that mindset. That's just sort of how I got it, playing against bigger guys when I was younger, it makes me who I am today. I appreciate where I came from because it kind of gave me that animal mindset, not backing down from anybody, go at everybody, step up to the challenge mindset, so where I came from is pretty big for me.
Jonathan Givony: One thing that we like to do when we're evaluating NBA prospects is to look at where they were ranked in high school—see what the expectations were from them going in to college. That sometimes tells you a little bit about a guy. I was surprised to see that you weren't the most highly ranked guy in college- you weren't an under the radar guy, but you weren't the most highly touted either. I saw guys like Jai Lucas, Taylor King, Jamelle Horne, that were ranked ahead of you by some services. What can you tell us about the type of player you were in high school, compared to what you are now?
In high school I tore both my ACL's, which was a pretty major setback, but as far as all that went, first of all I didn't have the city on my back in high school. When I went to Pitt I had the city on my back, I'm from Pitt, so that was kind of big. Generally, I was a little chubby, I was a little fat, I had two knee surgeries, and everything just kind of came together for me when I got to Pitt, which was cool.
Jonathan Givony: One of the comparisons that people make a lot about you is Paul Millsap. For you is that flattering? Or is it far fetched? What do you think when people to compare you to other players?
Everybody has their opinion on players I play like, but I'm just playing like me, I'm just being me. At the end of the day, I'm going to play like DeJuan Blair
, I'm not gonna play like nobody else. These are some excellent things to hear, coming from Millsap, and Elton Brand
, and all that. I want people to say ten years from now, that a guy reminds them of DeJuan Blair
, and that's a pretty good accolade I want to have.
Jonathan Givony: I think the importance of that is, when we first started doing this in 2003, there was kind of a sense that if you're a 6'7, 6'8 power forward, you've got no chance, forget about it. That was the consensus, and we fell into that too. But in the past few years there have been some players who showed us that you can't rule out the 6'7, the 6'8 guys. Paul Millsap is one of those, Carl Landry, Brandon Bass, Chuck Hayes, Udonis Haslem, I mean the list goes on and on. Do you look at those guys as inspiration, do you feel like their success is helping you right now?
Yeah, that's inspiration for me to be compared to them, because they obviously weren't picked #1, or #5. They're great players, and they worked to get where they want to be. That's what I plan on doing, I'm gonna work on, not just getting picked off what I can do. The rebounding and everything, that's nothing right now, if I can't do that in the NBA then, I mean it's going to be fun to get there, and show everyone what I can do instead of people saying what I can do.
Jonathan Givony: Talking to some scouts about your game, a lot of people say that you play below the rim. That was in college, but at the same time, you did score over a point every two minutes you played, on 60% shooting. Do you feel like you're going to be able to score in the NBA at a pretty good rate?
Yeah, that's what I'm working on. I'm working on my finishing above the rim, and it'll be cool, I've just got to lose a little bit of weight and get some muscles in my legs, and it'll be all right. I've just got to work, I won't let a day go past where I don't work on my weaknesses. I'm gonna try to get them to where I want them to be, and to where everybody else wants them to be, and hopefully that'll turn some heads.
Jonathan Givony: What about your jumpshot? That's something we didn't really get to see a lot of in the past two years, do you think that's going to be something that'll become a part of your game in the future?
Yeah that's another thing. Dribbling and my jumpshot, I'm trying to polish all of that. I'm actually working on it right now, and I'm going to be all right around the draft and around the workouts. I just have to keep working at it, and it'll be where I want it to be.
Jonathan Givony: A big part of these workouts is drills where you have to shoot 50 jumpers, 100 jumpers, 150 jumpers. How do you think you're going to look in these drills?
Like I said, I'm working on that right now. I'm shooting 300, 400, 500 jumpers a night, that's just my night. Fatigue isn't an option in my category, I'm going to lose the weight, get in shape, get into the best shape I can, and the sky is the limit for me if I get to where I say I'm going to get around draft time.
Jonathan Givony: I saw an article the other day where they quoted Rod Thorn, who is the president of the New Jersey Nets. He was saying, in his words, “Get me a moose. Get me someone who can defend, who can rebound, who can set screens, who can do all the dirty work.” To me that sounds like a description of you, would you describe yourself as a moose?
That's a pretty funny combination, I've been compared to Millsap, but I've never been compared to a moose. I'll take it.
Jonathan Givony: If it'll get you drafted 11th you'll take it right?
Oh heck yeah, a moose. That's some funny stuff.
Jonathan Givony: Let's talk about off the court. On the court we can see that you're a pretty physical, nasty dude, but off the court it seems like you're always smiling, and we only hear good things about your attitude. What do you think you bring to the table in terms of off the court personality in terms of teams looking at you?
That's just how I am, I like to meet new people, I like to have fun around people. I'm a really respectful guy, my mom and my dad taught me manners, and I'm really respectful and really fun to be around. I'm a giving person, and hopefully a lot of people see that in me, but I'm just having fun. All that stuff about me, I just like to have fun, and you know, stay to myself. I'm a quiet type of guy, but if I get to know you, we could be the best of friends. I'm a polite gentle giant, a lot of people call me a gentle giant, I've got a lot of people calling me that, and that's a nice name for me also.
Jonathan Givony: Do you think your weight is going to be an issue in the NBA over the next few years?
No it's not. I'm losing all that, I mean that's what I'm working on now. I'm going to Tampa in the next couple weeks to start on that, and I'm going to be real good by May in Chicago. I'm going to be good.
Jonathan Givony: Where are you at right now, if you don't mind me asking?
I'm like at 273 or something like that, I wanna get down to about 260, 265. That ain't nothing. I just have to keep it up.
Jonathan Givony: The reason I ask is, when I talk to teams, that's often the first thing that comes.
Jonathan Givony Absolutely. Because a lot of guys in their 19s or 20s, their body is a lot different than when they are 25 or 26. So what would you tell them to ease their mind when that comes up in the conversations you're going to have in private workouts? I'm sure they're going to ask you about that.
I would tell them, don't worry about it, I'm going to lose it, I'm working hard, but I don't wanna lose too much weight, or I won't be the person that I am. I'm just going to try to tone it up, I'm going to tone it up. It's really not a concern for me because I know I'm going to lose the weight, I'm gonna work, I've got a personal trainer that's going to help me get the way I want to go.
Jonathan Givony: A couple weeks ago, when you declared for the draft and were asked to explain why you're not just testing the waters, you said something along the lines of, “I'm an internet freak, I go on all the draft boards, nobody's got me going in the second round, that's almost a guarantee for me. Were you being serious with that comment?
No, that was just, there was a little hostility coming from the crowd, there was a lot of tears watering up. If you were there, everybody laughed, so it was kind of a little joke. I actually don't go on the internet. I was told that question was going to come up, I shouldn't have said it, but I was just trying to liven up the room a little bit.
Jonathan Givony: What's the best thing that you learned in your two years playing for Jamie Dixon?
To be coachable. To be coachable and listen. If you call him and ask him, you know, and to be respectful also. He taught me a lot of stuff on the court about adapting to college, being respectful and coachable, because NBA coaches will be on you, just like he do, you just gotta learn to deal with it like you deal with everybody. He taught me a lot.
Jonathan Givony: What kind of NBA player is Sam Young is going to be?
I don't know, he's going to be a tricky NBA player. You don't know until Sam starts playing, you never know. He's a workaholic, but you never know what type of a player he's going to be, probably an excellent player, but you don't know.
Jonathan Givony: On one hand the NBA is a much more physical game, they let a lot more stuff go, but on the other hand, you seem to have some problems sometimes hedging screens on the pick and roll and stuff like that. What kind of defensive player do you think you're going to be in the NBA?
I really don't know. It depends on what team I go to, what type of defense they want me to play. I'm going to be a good defender. I just want to be able to switch those screens instead of hedging them. That's why I'm trying to get my quickness up, working on defensive drills also, so, it's going to be interesting.
Jonathan Givony: Where do you plan on preparing for the draft?
I plan on preparing for the draft in Tampa, Florida, at IMG.
Jonathan Givony: How would other students on Pitt's campus describe you?
They would describe me as a fun guy. Like I said, I'm a lovable guy. I like to have fun, I talk to everybody, even if you're sitting over there, acting like you don't want to talk, I'll ask you what's wrong. I'm a good dude. You hear that a lot from a lot of players, but you know me, I can back it up. I'm a really cool dude, I'm a really cool person if you get to know me.
Jonathan Givony: Good stuff. That's pretty much it from our end. Thank you so much for your time.
Thank you, man.
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Situational Statistics: This Year's Power Forward CropApril 23, 2009
Looking at the post production of the players on our list, Blair's productivity was impossible to ignore. He posted the highest FG% (59%) and the highest PPP (1.12) of any player on our list in back to the basket situations. Standing 6'7, Blair displayed incredible strength in overcoming his height disadvantage, on a nightly basis. However, he would be well served to improve his jumper to help compensate for the issues he's bound to run into trying to score against bigger and more athletic players in the NBA on a nightly basis, which could be tough given that his .2 jump shots per game rank last in our sample. He also isn't a great finisher around the rim on non-post up situations, ranking 4th worst in that category.
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NCAA Tournament Performers, 4/2/08-- Part TwoApril 2, 2009
In one of the greatest NCAA tournament games in recent memory, DeJuan Blair and the Pittsburgh Panthers came up short and ended their season a game away from the Final Four. Although his sophomore campaign is over, Blair certainly left his mark on the season and has solidified himself amongst college basketball’s elite – being recognized on Monday as a first team All-American. His great play, impressive physique and the multiple intangibles that he brings to the game has clearly caught the attention of basketball pundits and NBA scouts everywhere.
DeJuan Blair’s statistical output this season has been nothing short of spectacular. He ranks #1 in PER with an astounding 38.9, which is due in large part to his efficiency offensively and the high value placed on offensive rebounding – an area where Blair excels at averaging 8.1 per-40 minutes, which is first in the nation by a wide margin, and also the most amongst all players in our database in the last eight years. Adding to this rebounding prowess, Blair is averaging 18 total rebounds per 40 pace adjusted, good for second in the nation, and exemplifying even further his efficiency on the glass.
There are a plethora of reasons as to why Blair excels on the boards, and it all begins with his unique build for a basketball player. Blair resembles more of a linebacker than a power forward, and because of his low center of gravity, standing at a modest 6’7, and his wide frame, weighing in 260 pounds, Blair is able to take up a lot of room in the painted area. In addition, his frame helps him and his teammates, seeing that he sets some of the best screens in the country. Furthermore, his freakishly long wingspan makes up for his lack of height and his incredibly soft hands enable him to wrestle boards away from the opposition.
With all of that said, there is still a feeling at times that Blair can give more, particularly on the defensive end. It seems as if he needs something to get him going - be it a matchup against co-Big East player of the year Hasheem Thabeet or a hard foul placed on him by a Villanova player in the Elite Eight. Otherwise, he has a tendency to go about his business quietly and refrain from putting his stamp on the game. The fact that he can potentially do more speaks volumes as to the player that he really is.
On the offensive end, Blair has definitely shown great improvement. He scores at a nice rate, 23 points per-40 pace adjusted, which ranks him 12th amongst the 88 elite college players ranked in our 2009 or 2010 mock draft. On top of that, he is extremely efficient, finishing 59% of his 2-point shots, which ranks him 11th in that category. He uses his body to his advantage inside and in the post, as he finds different ways to get his defender on his back – making it easier for him to finish. He certainly plays below the rim however and his lack of leaping ability has made him susceptible to blocked shots, although he has improved in utilizing crafty moves to get shots off. There is a distinct concern that at the NBA level he will struggle much more to score around the basket, though, considering his lack of size and explosiveness.
Blair also does an excellent job at establishing deep position in the post. He’s also deceptively quick down there, often using the baseline and reversing on the other side of the rim to shield his defender – putting them in “jail”. He doesn’t have any type of face-up game at this point and lacks consistency with his shot – which will be something he must work on diligently if he’s to find a way to become some type of an offensive option at the next level. His free throw percentage actually declined this year, going from 62.4% to 60.5%. With a good shooting coach and plenty of hard work, it’s not out of the question that he becomes at least a capable mid-range shooter in time, which will be very important for him.
One of his better qualities is his patience, as he doesn’t really force anything and does a good job at kicking the ball out to open shooters. He sports a solid near 1-1 assist to turnover ratio, which ranks him competitively amongst the NCAA’s elite power forwards.
On the defensive end is where Blair struggles the most. He lacks great lateral quickness to stay with anyone who drags him out and away from the basket. This is evident in isolations and pick and roll situations, where he’s forced to switch or hold a hedge for an extra second. Moreover, like many college big men, Blair has a tendency to lack aggressiveness when he picks up a foul. He will drop his hands and get out of the way in order to avoid picking up a foul. The ability to play solid position defense without fouling is a skill he will have to develop in order to play in the NBA.
Blair can be an asset to any NBA team if he chooses to forgo his junior year and enter the draft, which seems likely considering that he currently projects as a strong first round pick. He is a high character guy who plays with a lot of emotion and energy on the court. He also has a likeable personality and will be someone that others want to be around. He has the potential to be an outstanding role player and ferocious rebounder, and it won’t be surprising to see him making an impact in the NBA next season.
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NCAA Weekly Performers, 12/28/08December 28, 2008
After a strong freshman season that put him firmly on the national map, DeJuan Blair has stepped up his production substantially about a third of the way through his sophomore campaign. The undersized power forward committed himself this summer to working out and improving his physique, and the results have been very noticeable, both in how Blair looks and moves on the court. This added agility and quickness has made him even more of a force on the glass, and has allowed him to be more of an offensive threat with the basketball.
A tremendous number of Blair’s points still come as a result of his tireless work on the offensive glass. He by far and away ranks as the top offensive rebounder in our database (nearly 50% better than his nearest competitor) and is second only to Blake Griffin in total rebounds per game so far this season. The Pittsburgh native continues to show an amazing nose for the basketball, relying on his great positioning, freakish 7’3” wingspan and outstanding hustle to haul in six offensive rebounds per game. As was the case last season though, Blair is still hurt by his lack of explosiveness around the rim. He still gets a fair number of his put back attempts blocked or altered since he doesn’t elevate well. Granted, he has always done a great job of using his body to create space for a shot, but when talking about the NBA, simply creating contact won’t be enough to ensure a free look in the paint.
Blair’s post game last season showed promise, but clearly needed time to develop; that is still the case, even if we’ve seen noticeable improvement. His touch has gotten softer, as he still goes to the middle a lot with a nice looking baby hook, but the rest of his game is still built around his physical ability. He is lighter on his feet somewhat this season so he does a better job of pinning his man and shooting quickly, but there just isn’t a real back to the basket game here yet. The most glaring issue that has carried over from last season is Blair still needs to improve on recognizing where he is in relation to the basket. Often times he finds himself fighting to shoot from underneath the backboard as a result of setting up shop too low on the block.
Considering what his role will be at the next level, in spite of the nitpicking, Blair has likely become an adequate enough scorer to justify the minutes he earns through his tenacious hustle. He is after all scoring the ball at a very nice rate this season (23 points per-40 minutes pace adjusted) and is doing so on terrific efficiency, currently shooting 63% from the field.
We mentioned Blair’s jump shot as showing a little bit of promise last season based on his shooting form, but he hasn’t stepped out to shoot very often this year. Occasionally when he is forced off the block, which isn’t often, he will step away and shoot a mid-range baseline jumper. His form still looks solid, albeit sometimes he line drives his shot, but based on his declining free throw percentage (currently at a very poor 56%), it still looks like he has a ways to go before this is a consistent weapon.
Defensively, Blair is still being plagued by the many of the same problems as last season. When he is forced to step out and cover perimeter players he is susceptible to being beaten off the dribble. On the block, though he holds his position very well, he is undersized and can’t jump all that well; therefore he is an easy player to shoot over for more athletic big men. As far as his professional aspirations are concerned, he will certainly have to do a better job of defending the pick and roll in order to be a success. Scouts will love the hustle that he brings to this end of the floor, if nothing else. And you can’t ignore the results he gets at the collegiate level, being the anchor of arguably the best defensive team in the NCAA. Blair’s intensity level and toughness are a great foundation to build off of—now it’s time to improve his technique and fundamentals.
Blair is the classic case of a frontcourt force at the collegiate level that initially projects out as a tweener in the NBA. There have been several examples of players like this who have managed to develop into successful contributors, most notably Jason Maxiell and Paul Millsap in recent years. Blair bears a strong resemblance to both of these players, and if anything projects as a terrific rebounder and backup power forward—if not more than that. Only being a 19-year old sophomore, Blair still has upside to grow into, as he’s shown with the improvements he’s made this season. Blair’s hustle, strength and toughness make him an appealing prospect to NBA teams looking for a quality banger inside who can provide solid minutes to a competitive half-court team.
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Top NBA Draft Prospects in the Big East (Part Two: #6-10)October 27, 2008
Dejuan Blair doesn’t look like your typical NBA prospect, but he had quite the freshman season for the Pittsburgh Panthers. Standing 6’7 with an excellent 7’3 wingspan, Blair is undersized for an NBA power forward, and really didn’t show the athleticism to compensate for it last year. However, Blair played at 265 pounds with a physique that looked like it was carrying quite a lot of baby fat, so he’s clearly nowhere near his physical potential yet. According to newspaper reports, Blair says he’s lost about 10 pounds this offseason while hitting the weights hard, coming back with a more chiseled physique. How his body reacts to the difference will be critical in assessing his long-term potential.
Looking at Blair’s game, it’s hard not to start with his excellent prowess on the glass, as he ranked 5th in our entire database in rebounds per 40 minutes pace adjusted, and 2nd in offensive rebounds by the same criteria. Blair does a very good job using his weight to get inside position, and shows great hands to go along with good timing and a relentless motor, which is evident in all areas of his game. Blair gets most of his shots off putbacks, by making cuts to the basket, or sealing off his man in the post, though he’s very much an under-the-rim player, something he can hopefully improve upon with his improved physique. While Blair is pretty good at converting inside, there were many instances last season where having a little more explosion around the hoop could’ve scored him an extra basket, as he’s prone to having his shot blocked or miss badly on his under-the-rim lay-up opportunities.
In the post, Blair also establishes excellent inside position, having his way with the lighter opponents he faces on a nightly basis. While he doesn’t have the most advanced arsenal of moves just yet, he has a nice groundwork to build on, going to hook shots, turnaround jumpers, and drops steps regularly. His footwork isn’t bad, but he lacks range on a lot of his moves and also isn’t very quick getting them off, both of which could improve by getting in better shape. Blair also rarely will use his left hand or turn right shoulder, leading to a lot of awkward situations in the post. Also, his lack of explosiveness tends to hurt him in this segment of his game as well, as there are many times where he could do much better if he was able to just power over his man to the hoop.
Blair’s jump shot wasn’t a consistent staple of his game last season, and it has a ways to go before it will be considered one. While his form isn’t terrible, he seems to have little feel for shooting the ball, not showing much touch at all, often overpowering shots badly. His free-throw percentage was also an unimpressive 62.4%, though Blair claims to have worked hard on his jump shot this offseason, something that is refreshing to hear, seeing how he’ll likely need to develop his mid-range shot to have a fighting chance in the NBA.
On the defensive end, Blair is somewhat of a liability on the perimeter and on pick-and-rolls, but he tries to make up for it by playing with non-stop effort and decent fundamentals. In the post, while he holds his position well and plays smart, energetic defense, he’s prone to being shot over due to his lack of size, and his lateral quickness can be exploited here as well against quicker opponents. Again, it’ll be interesting to see how his improved physique affects this area of his game.
This will be an important season for Blair if he improved his body as much as has been suggested, mainly because it should give evaluators a much better feel for what his potential is physically. If he can show improvements with his quickness, explosion, and conditioning, it would go a long ways for improving his chances to play in the NBA. Still, at 6’7 without much semblance of a jumper, it’s going to be something of an uphill battle for Blair, even though he’s clearly on the path to being an outstanding college player.
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NCAA Weekly Performers, 12/26/07-- Part OneDecember 27, 2007
One of the most impressive freshman in the country, certainly on a per-minute basis, has been undersized Pitt big man DeJuan Blair. #2 in the country for freshman in rebounds per 40-minutes pace-adjusted, #3 in steals, #8 in blocks, and #19 in scoring—it’s hard to deny the impact that Blair has made so far for undefeated Pitt. He made his presence felt to the entire country last Thursday matching up with Duke at Madison Square Garden, scoring 15 points with 20 rebounds and 3 blocks in an overtime victory on ESPN.
Standing the height of a swingman, with the physique of an offensive lineman, Blair does not look like your prototypical NBA draft prospect. He’s 6-7 and 265 pounds with fairly average athleticism, but he makes up for that and then some with his tremendous 7-3 wingspan and an unbelievable passion for the game.
Blair has suction cups for hands, which, when combined with his awesome length, motor, positioning and timing, make him one of the best rebounders in college basketball, already as a freshman. He is absolutely tenacious going after anything and everything that is even remotely in his area, grabbing an outstanding 10 rebounds in just 23 minutes per game. These same attributes make him a presence as a shot-blocker (and shot-alterer), but especially as a ball-thief as well, enabling him to just poke away steals while playing the passing lanes—really telling us a great deal about his instincts for the game in the process.
Offensively, Blair is a force inside the paint when he’s able to establish deep enough position inside, which he is often able to at the collegiate level due to his strength and sheer girth, which few big men can compete with. He can seal his man off and move him around in the paint while backing him down, at which point his length really comes in handy when attempting to finish around the rim. He can also set an excellent screen thanks to his extreme width, and is smart and nimble enough to know when to slip it and roll to the hoop where he can catch and finish nicely thanks to his soft hands. He can also handle the ball fairly well in the open court, not being a liability in these situations when in transition.
Not one of those super skilled and polished undersized big men who can create their own shot in the post at will, Blair is a bit limited when forced outside of 5 feet or so away from the basket. He has quick feet, but not much in the way of a versatile post game, showing almost a non-existent left-hand and sometimes lacking the explosiveness to finish plays around the rim. He’s so heavily reliant on his right hand that you’ll regularly see him blow a seemingly easy shot that he’s forced to make much more complicated on the left block by unnecessarily switching hands and trying to go for a reverse right-handed layup. He could probably stand to become a better passer out of double-teams, often not seeing the floor very well when trapped and thus being somewhat turnover prone in these situations in the process. He’s not immune to making freshman mistakes—not exactly a surprise considering that he’s indeed just a freshman, and not an incredibly touted one coming out of high school.
Defensively, Blair is as noted very good at coming up with blocks and steals, a testament to his length and excellent feel for the game, but he’s still somewhat of a liability when forced outside by a mobile big man playing the pick and roll. He just doesn’t have the lateral quickness at this point to hedge, switch, go over, or trap the pick and roll, which means his team’s only clear option here is to go underneath the screen—not an ideal option at all against a team with solid perimeter shooters. Moreover, athletic players with any semblance of ball-handling ability just blow by him at this point, which basically exposes his team’s entire half-court defense.
Already being severely undersized at 6-7 (most NBA big men will just shoot over him, even though his length helps here), this lack of quickness defensively really complicates things when talking about his NBA potential. He’ll have to trim down significantly (ala Jason Maxiell), and become a much more aware team defensive player to have a real chance at the next level—something that he has plenty of time to do only being a freshman. That will also help his conditioning, which at times looks poor when he spends more than 5-6 minutes on the floor consecutively. We do love his demeanor out on the basketball court, though—always smiling, but extremely intense and serious—truly looking like someone who enjoys every moment he’s playing, which is always a nice thing. We expect him to become a (very productive) fixture on the college basketball landscape for years to come.
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