Forgot About Dray
This look at the bench's 2012-13 season is the seventh and final feature in a series reviewing the Brooklyn Nets' inaugural year playing at Barclays Center. For more, read about GM Billy King, PG Deron Williams, SG Joe Johnson, SF Gerald Wallace, PF Reggie Evans and C Brook Lopez.
Andray Blatche felt forgotten: First, the league let him clear amnesty waivers; then he signed a non-guaranteed deal for the first time in eight seasons; and all season, media and fans called it a "comeback."
The 26-year-old would admit his final season with the Wizards proved rocky, yet felt a need to remind people about previous year: in 2010-11, Blatche started 63 games, averaging 16.8 points and 8.2 rebounds in 33.9 minutes. When he accepted a backup role in Brooklyn, playing center after an NBA career at the 4, Blatche was unsurprised he produced with career-best efficiency against second-team bigs.
According to ESPN.com, Blatche's player efficiency rating of 21.98 ranked 14th in the entire NBA and second among centers, trailing only teammate Brook Lopez (24.81) – enabling the Nets to claim their centers were the league's top tandem.
"Dray was a big part of what we did this year," Deron Williams says. "He's so talented. He's unbelievably talented. It's just a matter of consistency and him bringing it every night."
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For the season, Blatche averaged bench-highs of 10.3 points and 5.1 rebounds, shooting .512 from the field in 19.0 minutes. He often played alongside point guard C.J. Watson, who also joined the Nets on a minimum deal (after being recruited by Williams during free agency). Watson's three-point shooting – he finished a team-high .411 from three-point range – provided a key weapon for the second unit, also allowing him to play alongside Williams if the Nets needed to go small.
The two steadiest bench performers were complemented by a rotating selection of wings, with Keith Bogans, MarShon Brooks and Jerry Stackhouse all playing significant minutes. Bogans even started 23 games, replacing Gerald Wallace and Joe Johnson when each was waylaid by injury.
After Brooks started 49 games during a lockout-shortened rookie season, his role was reduced entering his second year, though he managed to post 5.4 points (.463 FG%) in just 12.5 minutes. And Stackhouse, the 17-year-veteran expected to spend much of the season preparing for an eventual coaching career, found his three-point shot when called upon in November, shooting an astounding .536 (15-28) from long range that opening month.
Kris Humphries adjusted to a bench role after opening the season as a starter, finishing the year with 5.8 points and 5.6 rebounds in 18.3 minutes. Rookies Tyshawn Taylor and Tornike "Toko" Shengelia each showed flashes in limited minutes, and European import Mirza Teletovic contributed solid shooting for stretches. Though Watson wields a player option and Blatche is an unrestricted free agent, General Manager Billy King believes he'll be able to keep the bench productive next season.
"I'm not really going 'I've got to make a trade,'" King says. "It could be adding minimum guys. We found Mr. Blatche and he was a pleasant surprise. You look at what Chicago did: they got rid of a lot of their pieces, and then they added new pieces and those players stepped in and played well. So there are guys on other rosters that don't play who may fit here and be productive. It's not just about making trades. Maybe it's adding some guys. The great thing is that we're in Brooklyn. We're an attractive market."
Blatche often expressed his gratitude to the Nets for providing an opportunity, and said repeatedly he plans on returning, though he'll need to make "the best decision" for himself at the time it's presented. Due to a complicated amnesty-related formula in the collective bargaining agreement, Blatche's decision likely won't involve earning significantly more than the Nets can offer, which he admits is factoring into the decision. During the team's wrapup day, King even suggested that were Blatche to return, he might shift back to his natural power forward and start alongside Brook Lopez.
Whether a Net or not, Blatche will be ready.
"I'm very blessed to have a second chance," Blatche says. "And especially for it go the way it did, being able to help a team go to the playoffs and peak. So this summer I'm going to do the same thing I did last summer: Work hard and be prepared for next season."
View the Bench Season Highlights photo gallery.
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