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Posted at 12:48 PM ET, 04/07/2011

Is Blatche’s offensive improvement a mirage?

In his recent article about Andray Blatche’s “career-best two-game stretch,” Michael Lee explains Blatche’s poor shooting with this:

His problems began when he broke a bone in his right foot last June and was unable to do much basketball-related activity. He gained weight, arrived in training camp out of shape, and developed problems with his left knee that affected his burst and his lift. With his shot getting blocked inside, Blatche was forced to take jumpers, resulting in a 43.8 field goal percentage that is his worst since his second season.

Sounds plausible, but is this accurate? Did Blatche shoot more jumpers because his shot was getting blocked inside? Is this what caused Blatche’s sub-par shooting? Let’s test these theories against data extracted from the league’s official play-by-play reports.

First, has Blatche been getting his shot blocked inside more frequently this season? According to data published at 82games.com, no. In fact, this season opponents are blocking Blatche’s inside shot attempts (and shot attempts overall) at the lowest rate of his career (except for his rookie season).

Blatche’s “blocked” percentages by season; first for all FGA, then for inside FGA:

Season — All — Inside

2010-11 — 8% — 10%

2009-10 — 9% — 12%

2008-09 — 9% — 12%

2007-08 — 11% — 16%

2006-07 — 11% — 15%

2005-06 — 7% — 14%

So, what about the other part of the explanation — that his shooting percentage has dropped because he’s attempting more jumpers? Turns out, this is also incorrect. The numbers at hoop-data.com show that Blatche is taking (and making) more inside shots this season than he did last year, and that he’s taking fewer long jumpers period.

This season, 38 percent of Blatche’s field goal attempts are “at the rim,” (compared to 34 percent last year) and he’s making a career-best 66 percent of them. He’s getting about the same number of attempts in the 3-9 foot range (18 percent of his shot attempts vs. 17 percent last season), although he’s shooting significantly worse (.243 this season to .458 last year).

Blatche’s jumper from 10 feet and out has been less accurate this season, but he’s actually attempting 5 percent fewer jumpers this season than he did last year. The numbers on Blatche’s shooting from 10 feet and beyond this season could reflect a regression to the mean (last season, he posted career-best accuracy marks on jumpers, but this season’s numbers are closer to what he’d done through the first few years of his career) or could be related to injury and conditioning.

There is some possible good news for the future when analyzing Blatche’s shooting accuracy by distance. Blatche is likely to shoot much better from 3-9 feet in coming years. This year, he’s made less than one-in-four from that distance, but his career norm is closer to 45 percent.

I’d also predict that his shooting on long twos (16-23 feet) will climb from .303 this season to something closer to the 35-36 percent he’s done in the past. If he’d shot career norms from each of those distances this season, his FG percentage could be 4-5 percentage points better.

There could be some drop-off in his at-the-rim conversion rate, which is significantly better this season than it was previously. On the other hand, it’s possible that Blatche has actually improved in this area — his percentage inside is in line with that of other PFs (including Lamar Odom, whose career pattern the Wizards should be hoping Blatche follows).

I wrote back in January that the Wizards should trade Blatche, and I haven’t changed my mind. But Blatche appears to still be an important part of the team’s rebuilding plans, and there are some positive indicators that he may be able to help the team in the future.

By Kevin Broom  |  12:48 PM ET, 04/07/2011

Tags:  Wizards, Kevin Broom

 
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