In the 2009 NBA Draft, the San Antonio Spurs wasted no time in selecting DeJuan Blair when he fell in their lap at the 37th overall pick. Other teams passed up on him despite being projected as a lottery pick due to concerns about his ACL-less knees and being undersized at the power-forward position.
The Spurs took a gamble and believed in Blair when they locked him up with a multi-year contract. Looking back at Blair's rookie season campaign, it's safe to say the Spurs made the right decision.
Blair averaged 7.8 points and 6.4 rebounds while shooting 55.5% from the field in just 18.2 minutes of playing time in 82 games.
He started 23 games in the regular season where his numbers improved to 8.8 points, 8.4 rebounds and 56.3% field goal shooting in 23.6 minutes of action. If we use his per-minute stats his numbers will be more impressive -- 20.5 points and 16.9 boards per 48 minutes. Talk about a steal in the draft!
But in basketball, while stats are looked at to measure players' performance, there are a lot of intangibles to be considered.
There is no doubt that Blair had a good rookie year. He made it to the Rookie All-Star Game where he should have won the M.V.P. trophy but more importantly, he played a key role in the Spurs' rotation.
However, there are still areas of his game where he can improve.
On offense needs to improve his free-throw shooting. He shot a woeful 54.6% from the foul line in 82 regular season games. He also need to develop a mid-range jump shot and back-to-the-basket moves to make him more dangerous in the post.
In his rookie season, Blair relied on cutting to the basket and making put backs that showed he knows how to use his bulk and wingspan to get around the basket and grab some boards. Adding more to his offensive arsenal will make him a better all-around player and should be harder to stop in the post.
On defense, he is giving up a lot of height which causes him to commit more fouls. Also his lack of lateral quickness is a reason why he misses defensive rotations that makes him less effective on the floor and a liability on defense. Blair may need to lose some weight to make him quicker and he has to fully understand the Spurs' defensive principles to be an effective defender.
The off-season training could help him. He will not attend the 2010 Las Vegas Summer league but will have an individualized off-season training.
He has the right attitude towards the game, is hungry to learn and a hard worker. If he can improve on those things mentioned above, then expect a better second season for Blair.
It's no secret that most new Spurs players play better during their second year. George Hill is a testament to that. If this holds true for Blair, then things are going to be better for number 45 next season.
What are your thoughts? Are there other areas where Blair can improve to be a better player? Leave us your comments.