What a difference a year makes.
Nearly twelve months ago, Pitt sophomore DeJuan Blair was facing a major disappointment, having not been drafted in the first round as was expected. Concerns were raised about his health and instead of becoming a potential lottery pick, he slid along with Pitt senior Sam Young into the second round. And more importantly for both, out of the slots for guaranteed contracts.
Fast forward a bit to the Summer league. Blair dominated other young players and by the time the season rolled around in the Fall, he began seeing significant minutes with the Spurs. There were some outstanding efforts along the way - 18 points/11 rebounds in 22 minutes against Boston in December, 28 points/21 rebounds on the road versus Oklahoma City in a one-point win in January, and 27 points/23 rebounds in the regular season finale on the road at Dallas. There was even a 22 point/23 rebound effort in the NBA Rookie/Sophomore game over the All-Star weekend.
Now, heading into next year, Blair could compete for a starting spot. Future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan could stand in his way, but head coach Gregg Popovich might be tempted to put both in the starting lineup - especially against longer teams such as the Lakers.
Blair faced a litany of criticism for leaving Pitt early. But it's now apparent that he made the right decision, even though it hurt the Panthers in the short term.