How DeJuan Blair Helps Beef Up the Wizards Frontcourt
Often times it's difficult to make sense of Ernie Grunfeld making sense, but Wizards fans shouldn't have too many gripes this summer. The Washington front office is pulling all the strings to improve (or replenish in some instances) a second-round playoff team from just a few months ago.
Sticking to the offseason script of subtle, efficient, and cost-effective, the Wizards acquired 25-year-old forward DeJuan Blair from the Dallas Mavericks in a sign-and-trade that will send the Mavs a $2.1 million trade exception (which was acquired by Washington when they traded Eric Maynor to Philadelphia last season).
Not to be a Washington homer, but this is another move that belongs under the "good" column for the Wizards. Here's a brief breakdown of the transaction.
Money and Budget
Blair's new contract with the Wizards is reported to be a three-year deal, worth $6 million. And wouldn't ya know it - the final year of the contract comes as a team option.
Not to harp on the issue, but the Wizards' intent is becoming more and more obvious with every signing. Like the two-year deal for Paul Pierce, and the three-year deal for Kris Humphries, the Wizards are constructing all new contracts with the summer of 2016 in mind - when hometown hero Kevin Durant becomes a free agent.
It should also be noted that, in terms of future cap room, the Wizards are preparing to pay Bradley Beal - the 21-year-old two-guard the team drafted third-overall in 2012 and have watched developed into a promising NBA star.
Additionally, what's great about Blair's contract (and Humphries' contract, for that matter) is the fact that the team-option is extremely affordable. Say the dream does come true for Wizards fans and Durant returns to DC - the Wizards could essentially bring back solid frontcourt depth in the form of both Humphries and Blair for less than $6.5 million (estimated).
When it comes to rotational players like Blair, referring to per-game statistics can be a bit misleading. Take Blair's production from last season for example, where averaging 6.4 points and 4.7 rebounds per game tends to scream mediocrity.
But when you consider the fact Blair posted those numbers while averaging less than 16 minutes per outing, reception changes. Stretch that kind of output over the course of 36 minutes (i.e. a starting role) and you get an impressive 14.7 points, 10.9 rebounds, more than two assists, and nearly two steals.
Unlike Humphries who can drift away from the paint to knockdown jumpers, a majority of Blair's scoring will come from within 10 feet of the bucket. Despite being an undersized big man at 6'7", Blair makes up for it with his 265-pound frame. He's strong and bulky, easily eating up space down low and playing with great anticipation in order to provide himself with clean-up opportunities and cutting finishes around the rim.
How He Fits
After the departure of Trevor Booker, and with the looming possibility of Kevin Seraphin leaving Washington for more money elsewhere, the Wizards are beefing up their frontcourt depth and arguably improving what they had last season.
Blair may not be a defensive stalwart, but you won't be left questioning whether or not he's fighting for position or looking to secure a board. And by just barely out-rebounding their opponents on average last season (42.2/42.1 per game), the Wizards were clearly looking to add feisty rebounding types.
There's also some position versatility that comes with Blair, as he's able to fill-in at center if need be. Although not the rim-protector type, Blair once again falls back on his ability to carve space in the paint and fight for boards. Last season in Dallas, Blair played a career-high 36 percent of his minutes at center.
The Wizards' current starting frontcourt of Marcin Gortat and Nene, albeit effective and strong, does require some insurance. Although the Polish Hammer plays more like he's 28 than 30, Nene is 31 and hasn't played more than 61 games in a season in three years.
As an added bonus, Blair brings with him valuable experience and work ethic, despite becoming the fifth-youngest player on the Wizards roster. In addition to being a part of arguably the best organization in the league for four seasons in San Antonio, Blair has been to the playoffs in each of his five NBA seasons, and has strung together solid production to the tune of 17 points, 13 boards, nearly two assists, and better than two steal per 36 minutes, with a 24.4 career playoffs PER.
Fans Could Get Used to This
Again, this is odd for Wizards fans. The front office is making quality moves, while remaining prudent, and relatively under the radar. And for the first time in a long time, Wizards fans can boast (at least a little) about their team's frontcourt depth. From a net perspective, the Wizards upgraded their talent from Booker and Seraphin (who hasn't left town just yet) to Humphries and Blair, and for a lower cost to boot.
Blair is a guy I'm willing to believe in, which may stem entirely from the fact that I was banging the table for the Wizards to draft him early in the second round five years ago, and instead they drafted some dude name Jermaine Taylor who they then sold to Houston only never to be heard from ever again.
Or maybe, just maybe, it's because per-36-minutes stats have consumed me when it comes to gauging rotational players and, in that case, DeJuan Blair is just as beastly on a stat sheet as he appears in person.