Can DeJuan Blair be an All-Star when Tim Duncan retires?

by

Can DeJuan Blair of the San Antonio Spurs be an NBA All-Star when Tim Duncan retires?

DeJuan Blair became a favorite of just about everybody involved with the Spurs in his single season in the NBA (there’s gotta be someone who doesn’t like him, right?). Selected with the 37th overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, analysts immediately dubbed Blair the steal of the draft. His 7.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game were solid for a rookie, but nothing spectacular.

What were spectacular, however, were the performances Blair put on in games where Tim Duncan was unavailable. On January 13 of last season, the Spurs paid a visit to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Duncan sat out the game after playing 40 minutes the night before and Blair started in his place. 48 minutes of game time later, Blair racked up 28 points, 21 rebounds and two blocked shots. In the last game of the regular season, with Duncan resting before the playoffs, Blair put up 27 points, 23 rebounds (8 offensive) and four assists in a 96-89 loss to the Dallas Mavericks. Another performance of note, though one that doesn’t factor much into the general message of this post, was his showing in the Rookie-Sophomore Challenge.

This output in the absence of Duncan leads to the question, can Blair put up similar numbers on a consistent basis when Duncan retires? Obviously, it’s damn-near impossible for a 6’7” post player with little to work with for a jump shot, or any post player for that matter, to average 20 points and 20 rebounds per game. But can Blair put up the requisite numbers on a nightly basis to make him an All-Star?

According to Basketball-Reference.com, Blair’s per 36 minute numbers last season are close to what he would need to get the attention of voters and opposing coaches. One area not in the table that he needs to work on, and will with proper development, is fouling. Foul trouble limited Blair’s minutes in a number of games during his rookie season, and 5.4 fouls per 36 minutes is not a good sign. Otherwise, here are Blair’s numbers per 36 minutes:

Name Points per 36 minutes Rebounds Assists Blocks
DeJuan Blair 15.4 12.7 1.6 0.9

Looking at the per 36 minute numbers from last year’s Western Conference All-Star big men, Blair has some work to do. But he’s close.

Name Points per 36 minutes Rebounds Assists Blocks
Amare Stoudemire 24.1 9.3 1.0 1.1
Tim Duncan 20.6 11.6 3.6 1.7
Pau Gasol 17.8 11.0 3.3 1.7
Zach Randolph 19.8 11.2 1.8 0.4
Chris Kaman 19.4 9.7 1.7 1.3

Needless to say, per 36 minute averages are not the end all, be all of selecting All-Stars. For one, there’s no guarantee that increasing Blair’s minutes will likewise increase his production. Some players are more effective in limited action. With Blair, we have a small sample of very impressive performances in expanded minutes, performances where Blair was not the focal point entering the game. It’s tough to say how good he would have been if the opposing team entered the game prepared for Blair being the number one or number two option offensively.

The starting spots on the All-Star team, voted by the fans, go to the stars. And as much as people seem to like Blair, he’s not there yet. His only real shot is latching on as a reserve, and coaches have their own reasons for selecting the All-Star back-ups. Those spots go to the best of the rest, players who are having excellent seasons. Sometimes it’s a player deserving of a starting spot but — thanks to the irregularities of fan voting — he doesn’t get it. Other times spots go to players on the teams having the best seasons. Almost every season this past decade, you could count on the Spurs having a couple of All-Stars. Same with the Lakers. When Duncan retires, who’s to say the Spurs will have a good enough record to warrant an All-Star spot or two?

But where the future looks promising, is seeing how limited Blair’s offensive game is right now. As mentioned previously, Blair has no jump shot. It’s the primary reason he couldn’t play alongside Tim Duncan last season, as Duncan is more effective when paired with a big man who can hit a 15-foot jump shot. Blair worked this summer with Spurs shooting coach Chip Engellend, but we don’t yet know the extent of his improvement in that area. Time will tell.

A magnet for rebounds, DeJuan Blair could be an All-Star for the San Antonio Spurs when Tim Duncan retires?In addition to the lack of shooting prowess for Blair, his post game needs to be more creative. Because he’s shorter, Blair’s back-to-the-basket game is limited to a lot of up-fakes and using his wide base to create space. There’s not a polished up-and-under move or jump hook for him to throw at defenders. Most of his points come off of offensive rebounds and rolling to the basket on the pick-and-roll. Adding any sort of post move and/or jump shot to his game will immediately give a bump to Blair’s scoring numbers.

But where Blair did excel last season, was as the roll man in Spurs’ pick-and-roll situations. Often paired with Manu Ginobili, Blair scored 1.05 points per possession on plays where he took a shot as the roll man, according to Synergy Sports. He shot 56% from the field on those plays and scored 54% of the time. Blair even had 11 And-1’s.

DeJuan Blair is deceptively quick for a guy with his girth. Couple that with above-average ball-handling skills, and you’ve got the makings of an excellent face-up post player. Once he gets a jump shot, that is. And this summer, Blair appeared to slim down some, presenting the possibility that he could own an even better first step.

Until Tim Duncan retires, though, how much court time Blair sees depends on his defense. As an undersized big man, opposing teams sometimes view Blair as the weak link on the defensive end of the floor. In Game 2 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals against the Phoenix Suns, the Suns gave the ball to Amare Stoudemire repeatedly in the fourth quarter when Blair was in the game. More than a third of the shots Blair defended last season were in the post. Of those, Blair allowed 1.07 points per possession.

On the flip side, Blair was reasonably successful defending the pick-and-roll in his rookie year. He gave up only 0.9 points per possession when defending shots by the roll man in pick-and-roll situations. This is a good sign considering how often NBA teams run the pick-and-roll and the good looks players get at the basket when receiving the ball as a roll man.

Continuing the development Blair showed as a rookie, is it unreasonable to expect him to contend for an All-Star spot in two or three years? No, not unreasonable. But weird things happen when some guys play starter’s minutes, and their production dips. There’s nothing to make us think that Blair will encounter this same fate, other than his fouling habits, and his performances in Tim Duncan’s absence last season stand on their own.

  • Man In Black

    Both Splitter and Blair can’t primarily play the post. It’s important that either player can play high to the other’s low at times. Splitter is a good enough passer to pass the hi-lo to a shorter Post. Haven’t seen that since when? Malik from Tim? It’s been awhile.

  • http://48minutesofhell.com Andrew A. McNeill

    @Man In Black

    Fab Oberto was excellent in that regard.

  • Man In Black

    True Andrew, he was the passer, not so much the dunker. Splitter exhibits some of that guile. DeJuan does too, but his results are hit or miss. We need more hit if the Spurs are to really contend. They will contend.

  • andy

    some great comparisons and role models for blair posted here. really shows the breadth of the spurs fan base knowledge.

    @jim

    yeah, i guess “phenomenally” was pushing it, but i was thinking back to boozer’s rebounding when he came into the league compared to blair’s, and though booze has improved, i think blair is still the better rebounder. fair enough, i wasn’t giving boozer enough credit. btw, how does seeing if blair can play d, score more, for 36+ mins show us he or boozer’s a better rebounder? :p i don’t know if he’ll be better than booze, but i think he could be if he works hard. i may not like boozer’s turncoating ways, but i’ll give him credit for working his tail off to become a good nba undersized 4.

    my main point with the parker/blair all-star tangent was that all-star berths are tricky things. we all know how difficult it is for small market players to make it, unless their team is having a great season. even a player as popular as melo was having trouble getting the nod early on (admittedly, i’m not a huge melo backer). if parker re-ups and is the focus of our team three years from now, and our record is middling, i don’t see blair making the team unless he’s putting up phenomenal numbers. i suppose i could’ve made that more clear, but that’s what i was trying to say. i think duncan could make it in the future, even if he’s not playing well anymore, as a legacy. there are always people who aren’t earning those berths, and as much as i’d hate to see tim fizzling out instead of riding off into the sunset like dave, these things happen.

    long story short, i think blair has the tools to make an all-star appearance, but there’s plenty of unfavorable variables in the process to say he’ll make it for sure.

  • andy

    http://nbaplaybook.com/2010/09/16/can-he-bounce-back-roger-mason/#more-5492

    mason signed for 1.4 mil? i like that letting rmj walk means more time for the youngsters, but i think he’ll revert to better shooting numbers in nyc. good look at a former spur to illustrate the importance of consistency in your shooting though.

  • Jim Henderson

    rob
    September 17th, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    “Has that ever been accomplished before? Two all star post players on one team?”

    Yes, but usually not in the same year.

    That said, I think Blair has a better chance to reach all-star status than Splitter.

    andy
    September 17th, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    “….how does seeing if blair can play d, score more, for 36+ mins show us he or boozer’s a better rebounder?”

    Well, it’s just that it’s not always as easy to maintain your rate of productivity in the most dominant facet of your game (i.e., rebounding) as your minutes expand considerably, and you begin to expend more energies in additional areas of your game (e.g., beyond rebounding). So it’s still hard to say at this point whether as a starter some day whether Blair will be much better than Boozer in rpg. It’s possible though.

  • Gary

    my money is on our little guard for the all-star thing

  • rob

    spursfanbayarea

    Great examples of two post players from the same team being all stars. Some how my memory failed me regarding Parish/McHale and Olajowan/Sampson. And I guess the Duncan/Robinson appearance in the 99-00 all star game technically should be counted. But David was far from being a true all star that year.

    Enter Splitter and Blair. One year apart from joining the Spurs. Their unknown abilities as of yet to dominate the post like the players you mentioned. And there are a lot more unanswered questions regarding their ability to being all stars than the players you just mentioned.

    Boston had a coup the year they got Parish from Golden State being they also managed to draft McHale and were fortunate to have both players in their prime. Could you imagine what the Spurs would have been like if Duncan and Robinson were able to play together in their prime?

    Again…too many unanswered variables regarding Blair and Splitter. But hope can remain eternal that both become one of the best 4-5 combinations in the league. But in order to become all stars…they would have to be the “focal point” of performance. For the next few years I think Parker/Ginobili will remain focal points. And who knows how Anderson is going to develop.

    Come to think of it…the Spurs have quietly done a great job at revamping the team with potentially great players for the future. All of which have the “potential” to becoming all stars. But none of which have proven anything as of yet.

  • rob

    By the way spursfanbayarea

    …I wasn’t saying that you said they would become all stars. I was just pointing out how difficult it would be for both to become all stars playing for the Spurs if they were not to become the focal point(s) on this team.

  • JustMe

    Go Spurs Go!!

  • spursfanbayarea

    @rob
    I wasn’t answering the question of whether they would be all stars or not. You asked if it happened before. I just gave some examples of when 2 post players made the all star team in the same year. Duncan and Robinson were allstar teammates 3 times(98,00,01).

    @Jim
    The examples I gave were all allstar teammates in the same years.

  • B Burke

    Come on. There is almost no chance that Splitter and Blair both wind up as All-Stars ever. For that to happen there would have to be some kind of big-man flu that just wipes out every other forward and center in the conference, somehow skipping over SA. One of these guys has never even played in the NBA.

    This is not necessarily a knock on the Spurs – even the Clippers have a current All-Star at C and a No. 1 overall draft pick at PF. Half the WC rosters have legitimate All Star potential in the frontcourt.

    So, would anyone like to bet on this?

  • d.l.

    duncan and robinson in their prime holy …dont tease me mj wouldnt have as many rings and would def be right up there as best 1-2 punch..heck i think they already are..as for blair he’ll be an all star..maybe not this year (maybe) but sometime..hes already to good of a rebounder..u give him 35 min and garunteed hes pullin down at least 12 boards..and he’ll improve his o game enough to push 20 pts.. i saw him in college.. too many times and he was a pain in the a… go spurs..

  • Jim Henderson

    spursfanbayarea
    September 18th, 2010 at 6:46 am

    “The examples I gave were all allstar teammates in the same years.”

    Yes, good examples, but as I said, not many separate pairs over 20 years. Duncan & Robinson were probably the best 4/5 combo in NBA history.

    B Burke
    September 18th, 2010 at 9:57 am

    “So, would anyone like to bet on this?”

    You’re right. It’s VERY unlikely that BOTH Splitter and Blair become all-stars, even more so in the same year.

  • rob

    spursfanbayarea

    “I wasn’t answering the question of whether they would be all stars or not.”

    I know that.

    Hence my response…

    “I wasn’t saying that you said they would become all stars. I was just pointing out how difficult it would be for both to become all stars playing for the Spurs if they were not to become the focal point(s) on this team.”

    …because I could see how my earlier response could sound like I was interpreting that’s what you said.

    And as I admitted…I had forgotten about Parish/McHale, Duncan/Robinson. Though I still contend that Robinson was on the decline when Timmy started playing for the Spurs. Still…Robinson was “admirable” in letting Duncan become the main focus and all star early in his career. Will Duncan do the same if Blair or Splitter show the same promise?

  • spursfanbayarea

    @rob
    ” Will Duncan do the same if Blair or Splitter show the same promise?”

    I definitely believe that Duncan would do the same if splitter and blair were all star capable. Duncan is at the twilight of his career. He already has sacrificed minutes and stats for the betterment of the team. Duncan in his prime could have scored more at the expense of winning. Duncan has always done whatever was needed to win. Duncan is very effective in the minutes he plays and could be even more effective with a solid big man next to him. If there was a post player better than duncan that player would be guarded by opposing teams best big. Duncan would then get to go against a teams second best defensive big which would favor him. Also in a few years duncan will be 37 years old. At that age you definetly can not be a go to guy for 36 plus minutes.

  • rob

    Thanks for the candor spurfanbayarea. I too hope that be the case if either or both Blair and Splitter prove to be that ominesent replacement to the post once Duncan retires.

  • Bushka

    Just as an aside guys, in relation to dejaun being an all star I really don’t think his d has any bearing whatsoever.

    How often has a guy been posted to the all star game on the back of elite defense?

    Personally I don’t think he will get there but I do think he will be a first quality power forward

  • rob

    Off topic but interesting reads that mention Tiago Splitter and James Anderson.

    http://www.hoopsworld.com/Story.asp?story_id=17351

    http://www.nba.com/2010/news/features/john_schuhmann/09/16/rookie-survey/index.html

    Tiago Splitter for ROY?

    Oddly enough Anderson isn’t mentioned for his scoring but is mentioned for his defense and playmaking ability.

  • GitErDun

    Both Anderson and Splitter are going to turn some heads. Add those two to Hill and Blair and you have some fine upstanding solid basketball players. If Neal, Temple, and Gee develop – wow. Best thing is the Spurs have the core to spend time developing them. They won’t be just thrown to the wolves to get better on their own. I can see why Pop is optimistic.

    On the other hand take Demarcus Cousins who is incredibly immature. He is going to just be tossed out on the floor to be taken advantage of. He had trouble with officials and conditioning in summer league. In the regular season he is going to be taken advantage of and pushed around and intentionally frustrated on a nightly basis. Its not going to be pretty. “Rookie fouls” may drive him nuts. Guys like Kevin Garnett will be all over him.

  • spursfanbayarea

    @GitErDun
    You are right that Demarcus Cousins is definitely considered immature. But you are definitely underestimating his skill set. He will get his share of rookie fouls but will be an immediate contributor to his team. His size, athleticism, and strength are remarkable. He doesn’t have to wait a few years to get his size like most young bigs who come in too light to battle in the paint. As for bringing along players slowly in the D-League or on the bench. It doesn’t guarantee they will be ready to contribute. Perfect example is Mihamini. He was groomed and trained in the system, able to put on weight and never could stay on the court. Blair was put on the court and learned much more than just watching from the bench or in the d-league. Its always better to have game experience.

  • andy

    @bushka

    i agree that blair’s d has no bearing whatsoever on his garnering and all-star berth. i was simply disagreeing that he’s never going to be a great defender. once again, with his length, strength, quickness, and tutelage by pop and duncan, i can see him learning the finer points of being a great post defender. keep those arms up straight big fella!

  • Sheper

    what does it mean?Blair even had 11 And-1′s.

  • Bushka

    11 times he took it strong got fouled and made the free throw for a three point play.

  • Colin

    You guys over-analyze the hell out of this! Dejuan Blair might have a couple seasons that are potentially all-star worthy (no one can predict for sure).

    To really construct all-star #’s and impact on the defense, he will need some semblance of a jump shot. We all know he can rebound and hustle! Let’s hope he is practicing this skill.

    Other than that, he will be an instrumental role player on just about every team he plays on (as long as he’s healthy).

  • http://www.yahoo.com TITO

    Im so freakin excited about them Spurs!!! I can’t wait4 the season to start!! Dejuan Blair reminds so much of Charles Barkley

  • RABIS

    I’m a spurs fan for a longtime and also a lakers hater.

    I mostly like whoever plays good for the spurs to win.
    Dejaun Blair is a good player who gives 100% whenever he is on the floor.
    But he has some defeciencies on both defensive and offensive side of the ball game.
    Defensive, he cannot defend big PF’s and C’s .
    Offensively, he cant hit a decent jump shot and does’nt have post moves.

    With those defeciencies, I dont think Pop will play him during crunch time in playoffs. May be he will play good minutes in regular season but not in playoffs.

    I want spurs to beat the lakers badly and I know this wont happen unless TP, MG and TD play at a high level and the role players do, what they are supposed to do.
    I still cant find a role player worth Robert Horry. Remember the big shots he hit in 2005 NBA finals AND there wont be 2005 championship without him AND I dont see anybody with that potential in the spurs squad right now.
    I like somebody to prove me wrong.

  • J2

    The Spur’s braintrust is working with Blair to develop a mid-range jumper. He can drive the lane like a guard, but opposing defenders can give him alot of space because they don’t have to respect is mid-range jump shot. His high scoring numbers when he’s started are significantly due to getting lots of garbage points of offensive rebounds, which is great. Add in an ability to create his own offense, and he becomes a legitimate star. He may even make it there without this development, but when the opposing PF is strong at rebounding and can keep Blair boxed out, he won’ get the offensive boards, so scoring off offensive boards is not a reliable offensive game.

    Blair is already playing like Malik Rose when Rose was at his peak, and Blair is quite young yet.

  • Pingback: San Antonio Spurs 2010 Training Camp Roster | 48MoH | 48 Minutes of Hell()

  • Pingback: Give Me The Rock » Blog Archive » Fantasy Basketball Preview: San Antonio Spurs()

  • Pingback: DeJuan Blair provides Tim Duncan relief | 48 Minutes of Hell()

  • Pingback: Evolution through blood, sweat, and teadrops | 48 Minutes of Hell()

  • Pingback: Tim Duncan and DeJuan Blair can defend for the Spurs in 2010 | 48 Minutes of Hell()

  • Pingback: Evolution through blood, sweat, and teardrops()

  • Pingback: San Antonio Spurs 2010 Training Camp Roster | 48MoH()