DeJuan Blair has proven to be an effective starter and elite rebounder in three seasons with the San Antonio Spurs — regardless of how you feel about Blair, this is a statistical fact; according to John Hollinger’s Player Efficiency Rating, Blair has produced at an above-average rate every season. Yet he still lost his starting role to Boris Diaw last season. He is likely going to log less time than Matt Bonner and Tiago Splitter as well.
This can be partially attributed to the multi-faceted Diaw, and the fact that his prevailing skills — namely offensive rebounding — are diminished in the context of an elite offensive team. The Spurs were the most efficient shooting team last season, posting a 52.8 effective field goal percentage (shooting percentage that adjusts for the extra value of 3-pointers). There simply is not many attempts to snatch up on the offensive glass; on a less efficient shooting team, say the Charlotte Bobcats who finished last in eFG%, Blair’s elite offensive rebounding would be utilized in an optimal manner.
That is the predicament the Spurs will be facing this season: How do they proceed with an obviously talented player, albeit flawed and a tad one-dimensional, when he does not jive with the philosophy and is inferior to the other pieces on the roster? Trading him is still likely and could potentially bring back valuable rotation pieces. Because of Blair’s paltry $986,000 salary (which is non-guaranteed), the Spurs would have to package a combination of Bonner, Splitter or Gary Neal to make ends meet.
This may not be the best option though it depends entirely on the return on their investment. Waiving Blair is also a possibility; this solution may be preferable because this would keep the roster in tact. Of course, by doing so the Spurs would be wasting an entire season of a valuable asset at an affordable price.
As of right now the Spurs are still exploring the trade market for Blair. General manager R.C. Buford understands the situation, as Blair has welcomed the idea of a trade, but he does not want to make any rash judgments. A trade will only come to fruition if the components of the deal are of some tangible value.
“We understand the way he feels,” Buford said. “If we were in his shoes we may feel similar. Having said that, DeJuan helped us win a lot of games and we have not had anything presented to us that puts our team in a better position than moving forward with DeJuan.”
Yet finding the ideal package for a player of Blair’s stature will be difficult. After crunching the numbers I found that Blair outproduced his contract by 632.6%. In other words, he produced six times the value of his contract last season despite the fact that most Spurs fans abhorred his defense. If he were to regain a similar role — and as long as he is paired with Tim Duncan, who alleviates the effect of his below-average defense significantly — we know he can be effective.
Blair could be traded by next week. But it is also just as likely that he finishes the season with the Spurs.
That may not such a bad thing after all.