Y! Sources: The Los Angeles Lakers trade guard Steve Blake to the Golden State Warriors. http://t.co/ddMbY2ZV5W— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) February 20, 2014
Will the veteran point guard do enough to elevate the Warriors above the gaggle of playoff hopefuls in a crowded Western Conference? That's a trickier question.
Before answering it, it'll help to run down exactly what kind of impact Blake can make on this Warriors team.
On the year, Blake is averaging 9.5 points and 7.6 assists in 33 minutes per game. He's knocking down 39.7 percent of his shots from long distance and has taken good care of the ball. Thanks to a bevy of injuries, he's probably been pressed into a larger role than his talent warrants, but Blake has performed steadily overall.
Calling him more than a specialist on offense is a stretch. He can't finish inside, and he's not a shot-creator of any real repute.
Fortunately, leadership, three-point shooting and steady ball-handling are three things the Warriors desperately need.
It might be surprising for casual fans to learn the Warriors—labeled for the past few years as a high-flying, run-and-gun outfit—aren't actually a great offensive team. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are a deadly backcourt duo, but Andre Iguodala has basically stopped shooting the ball and Andrew Bogut hardly looks at the rim on offense.
Even after running up the score on the Philadelphia 76ers before the break, the Dubs were only the NBA's No. 11 ranked team in offensive efficiency entering Wednesday's contest against the Sacramento Kings, per NBA.com.
Blake can help the Dubs on offense in a couple of ways.
The first reason is obvious: Blake can hit a three. He's at 39 percent for his career from long distance and has been attempting a career-high 4.9 per game this season. Everyone the Warriors have brought off the bench at the point has struggled to stretch the floor.
That won't be a problem for Blake.
Second, he'll give Curry a badly needed break at the point. Moving Curry off the ball has plenty of benefits, not the least of which is the way it forces opposing defenses to keep track of him as he darts off screens and threatens to shoot from anywhere inside 30 feet.
But from a pure fatigue standpoint, Blake is a blessing for Curry. There have been far too many instances this season in which a visibly exhausted Curry has given up the ball at the top of the key (usually after about three quarters of facing constant double-teams and traps) and jogs slowly to the corner.
There, Curry often stands still, too wiped out to move. Sometimes, he even crouches low with his hands on his knees.
Golden State's best player routinely plays to the point of total exhaustion.
The Dubs thought Toney Douglas could spell Curry, but they were wrong. They thought Bazemore would develop enough to take over a few minutes at the point, but he didn't. They even thought Jordan Crawford might be the answer.
He (foreseeably) wasn't.
Blake isn't a star by any stretch, but he can give Curry a break. That's a good thing for the Warriors' best player, their offense as a whole and their ability to stay healthy down the stretch.
Adding Blake is basically an admission by the Warriors that they swung and missed on the Crawford-as-point-guard experiment. It seems Brad Stevens and the Boston Celtics used a two-week sample of solid play from Crawford to convince the rest of the league he was a capable floor general.
Or maybe it was only the Warriors who were sold on that notion.
Either way, Crawford hasn't been anything close to the answer as Curry's backup. But he's not entirely without value.
Crawford is a legitimate shot-creator on a team that largely lacks them. There's a debate worth having about the value of shots created off the dribble, but nobody can argue Crawford's ability to generate a somewhat clean look at the bucket out of virtually nothing.
If the Warriors can slot him into the role of designated bench gunner, it'll be better for everyone. Keeping Crawford from firing off shots too early in the clock or with a pair of defenders draped on him might be a challenge, but it'll be an easier one to face than forcing him into a role he was never going to fit.
In a way, the Dubs traded raw, youthful enthusiasm for leadership. Bazemore was the team's resident goofball, the guy who celebrated on the sidelines and kept everyone loose in the locker room. But this is a Warriors team that, increasingly, is all about its business.
Ownership is growing impatient, the pressure is mounting and play time is over. As much as anything, the Blake acquisition is a sign of the Warriors growing up. Sentimentality and good vibes take a back seat to cold, battle-tested experience.
If a Curry 3 falls and there's no Bazemore to cheer it, does it make a splash?— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) February 20, 2014
Frankly, Blake's mentality and reputation for hard-nosed play is more valuable to the Warriors than the happy-go-lucky personality they traded away in Bazemore.
And it should be.
Blake is a professional, which is why, despite his professed love of Los Angeles, nobody should be worried about getting anything less than his best effort. In the immediate aftermath of the trade, he sounded conflicted, per the Los Angeles Times' Mike Bresnahan:
Blake: "Real mixed emotions. The hardest thing really is my family. Now I'm going to have to spend four months probably away from them."— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) February 20, 2014
But Blake will show up in Oakland with his lunch pail. You can count on that.
Moving the Needle?
Blake gives Golden State a lot of what it needed. He offers shooting, realigns roles more sensibly and adds real leadership. He'll be the first guard off the bench and will likely find himself on the floor at the end of more than a few games—if he can stay healthy.
Most of all, he's a sign the Warriors are dead serious about, well...being taken seriously.
And don't assume the Dubs are done dealing, either.
Warriors not pushing away from the table after Steve Blake trade. Still trying to generate other deals before Thursday noon PT deadline.— Scott Howard-Cooper (@SHowardCooper) February 20, 2014
Getting Blake was a finely calculated financial move, one that didn't cost the Warriors their most valuable trade assets. ShamSports' Mark Deeks provides the details:
Warriors can absorb Steve Blake's deal using the perfectly sized $4 mil Biedrins TPE, thereby leaving the $9.8 mil Jefferson one untouched.— Mark Deeks (@MarkDeeksNBA) February 20, 2014
Ultimately, Blake addresses some key needs. But it's hard to argue he does more than make the frightening proximity of the lottery a little less worrisome. The Dubs shouldn't miss the playoffs, and Blake's contributions on the court and in the locker room will assure they won't.
This is a small move, and definitely a good one. But let's not make it out to be more than that. The Warriors need to either make a bigger splash before the deadline or suddenly find a mixture on the current roster that sparks a run up the standings.
Blake will help, but he's not a game changer.