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The Emergence of Andray Blatche

Last week's trade deadline was busier than a Boston Dunkin' Donuts on a snow day. The Rockets unloaded Tracy McGrady's bad karma in exchange for Kevin Martin. Caron Butler became Dallas' Josh Howard 2.0, and Howard celebrated his exile to Washington by injuring his knee. The Cavs gave LeBron a late Valentine's Day present of Antawn Jamison, along with a copy of Muddy Waters' "Baby Please Don't Go." There were teams that cleared out cap space, and others who primed for a playoff run. But the biggest winner at the trade deadline was almost certainly...Washington's Andray Blatche?

Blatche, in the span of one week, has emerged as possibly the most desirable fantasy pickup for the stretch run. Going on the "in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king" principle, Blatche has suddenly gone from a backup player to an elite producer, due mostly to attrition and partially to a modicum of talent. Think about it - who exactly do the Wizards have left? Gilbert Arenas is suspended for the rest of the year. Brendan Haywood, Butler and Jamison are off to greener pastures. Howard played four games and was summarily lost for the season with a knee injury. Blatche has, in the span of the last week, become the proverbial one-eyed man.

Most importantly however, Blatche has stepped up and embraced his role as the new top offensive option in Washington. In his first night starting after Jamison was traded, the 23-year-old Blatche promptly dropped 33 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. He followed that up with nights of 18-11, 24-6 and a 25-11 Monday night against the Bulls. Blatche has averaged 17.3 shots per game since Jamison left, well up from his season average of 8.6. And Blatche isn't just a scorer and rebounder either - his 80|PERCENT| free throw percentage makes him an extremely valuable asset in all fantasy formats. He always had the talent, but Blatche finally seems to be putting it all together.

And it's not like there's going to be someone to slow Blatche's momentum and absorb his offensive touches. Mike Miller hasn't stepped up nearly as much as most experts thought in Butler's absence. Randy Foye, Nick Young and Al Thornton are..well, Randy Foye, Nick Young and Al Thornton. And while JaVale McGee has a ton of talent, he's probably still a year or two from realizing it, though increased minutes this year will certainly help. If you had any question as to whether the Wizards' other talent would siphon opportunities from Blatche, look no further than the fact that Quinton Ross played 18 minutes on Monday night. Quinton Ross. The defense rests its case.

A lot of fantasy players get excited during trading season because it means new players on new teams, instilling hope that a fresh start will rejuvenate newly traded veterans. Don't fall for it. While McGrady, Jamison, Butler and Martin may be popular trade pickups right now, the true value lies in players like Blatche that are seeing unlimited opportunity on teams that are devoid of other options.