Steve Blake Trade Gives Flexibility to Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistFebruary 20, 2014

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Steve Blake isn't going to save the Golden State Warriors, but he does make their current situation more manageable.

As first reported by Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, the Warriors acquired Blake from the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for the seldom-used MarShon Brooks and towel-waving sensation Kent Bazemore. While not the blockbuster trade some were anticipating and hoping for, Blake's arrival is a needle-mover.

Inconsistency has dogged the underachieving Warriors, who were expected to build upon last year's playoff run after investing significant time, money and draft picks in empowering the roster. At 32-22, however, the Warriors are in danger of missing the playoffs altogether, with only 1.5 games separating them from the lottery.

Integrating Blake into an infirm rotation, though, puts even more distance between the Warriors and immense disappointment.


Second-Unit Savior?

Dec 29, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Golden State Warriors small forward Harrison Barnes reacts during a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena. The Warriors won 108-104. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

If there's anything about the Warriors Blake can save, it's their woefully erratic and oft-detrimental bench.

Looking beyond the fact that their second unit ranks 19th in scoring, the Warriors bench needs guidance only a legitimate point guard can provide. Jordan Crawford was brought in under the assumption he could be that floor general, but he's an uninhibited chucker at heart.

What happened with the Boston Celtics under coach Brad Stevens is something of an aberrationthe result of playing for a rebuilding team applying little to no pressure. Expecting Crawford to turn his circumstantial passing acumen into second-unit leadership for a contender was always unrealistic.

But the Warriors needed to take a shot. Losing Jarrett Jack to the Cleveland Cavaliers hurt. Though Jack is hardly an offense-managing sage, he was, unlike Crawford, a legitimate point guard. And so is Blake.

Crawford isn't a point guard; Blake is.
Crawford isn't a point guard; Blake is.Ben Margot/Associated Press

In 33 minutes of action per game with the Lakers, Blake was averaging a career-high 7.6 assists. Golden State won't give him the playing time necessary to duplicate that contribution, but what he was doing in Los Angeles is transferable. 

Collectively, the Lakers are scrubs, mostly no-names and misfits operating on one-year deals. Running their starless offense is like being handed the reins to a glorified second unit, so it's not as if Blake's numbers were the product of being surrounded by lights-out shooters and dignified scorers. Playing alongside role players and reserves is what he's done all season.

Plugging him into the second unit allows Crawford to play at shooting guard, his natural position. According to, he's posting a higher PER at the position with the Warriors.

Another trade notwithstanding, Harrison Barnes stands to benefit from Blake's arrival as well. He's struggled with his new sixth-man role all season and is clearly in need of a floor general who alleviates the burden of having to create for himself.

Barnes' shooting percentages are already markedly better when he gets to play alongside Stephen Curry, as are his overall numbers:

The Curry Effect on Barnes
WhenFG%3P%eFG%TS%Off. Rtg.
With Curry43.841.549.754.0103.9
Without Curry38.040.041.544.591.6

That's a huge difference. Enormous. Ten Manute Bol-sized men could lie down in the gap that exists between Barnes' efficiency with and without Curry.

Defenses won't double-team Blake the way they do Curry, but the former can weave his way in and out of the paint, creating open spot-up opportunities for his teammates. And Barnes needs more spot-up opportunities. 

On the season, he's connecting on 44.1 percent of standstill jumpers overall and 41.3 percent from deep, according to Synergy Sports (subscription required). Problem is, Barnes is seeing fewer standalone looks per game (2.7) than he did last season (2.8). That is an issue, as he averages nearly four more minutes of playing time in 2013-14.

Blake can help Barnes, who is best served next to a legitimate point guard at all times. He can help everyone in Golden State's underwhelming second unit. 

He can even help out the starting five.


The Curry Conundrum 

Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

Part of what made Golden State's 11th-ranked offense so dynamic last season was the ability to play Curry off the ball when Jack was in the game. With Jack in Cleveland and the Warriors still lacking a replacement, that part of the offense has been absent for most of this season.

Without the ability use Curry as a spot-up shooter, Golden State's offense has regressed to 12th in efficiency despite Klay Thompson's evolution and the addition of Andre Iguodala. Blake should help correct what's been a maddening offense all season with his ability to play the part of Jack.

Which is huge.

Curry connected on 52.1 percent of his spot-up threes last season, per Synergy Sports, and has experienced similar success in those situations this year, burying 52.9 percent of his catch-and-shoot bombs. 

But those opportunities have been infrequent compared to last season. After seeing 2.2 spot-up three-point attempts every night in 2012-13, Curry has been reduced to one per game in 2013-14. That's an absurd reduction. 

Meanwhile, the frequency with which Curry goes one-on-one has dramatically increased. Roughly 18.2 percent of his shot attempts come within isolations—up from 15.8 last season—where he's shooting just 40.3 percent.

For all he does, Curry is most effective when his improved playmaking abilities are complemented by his superb off-ball shooting. Jack's absence has stripped him of one of the most efficient parts of his game. Playing alongside Blake in spurts should make an already dangerous and merciless shooter that much more lethal.


Flexibility All Around

Blake can significantly help Golden State.
Blake can significantly help Golden State.Danny Moloshok/Associated Press

One of the best (and most underrated) parts of Blake's arrival is the fact that it's another no-risk move.

The Warriors didn't pay much for his services, and his contract comes off the books after this season. More importantly, it hasn't deterred their ongoing search for more talent, according's Scott Howard-Cooper:

Although Golden State had to use one of its many trade exceptions to acquire Blake, ShamSports' Mark Deeks reminds us that it still retained its largest one:

Still hovering close to the luxury-tax line, the Warriors must send assets out in return for whatever player they acquire, but Sam Amick of USA Today indicated that they're prepared to do that, citing Andrew Bogut and Curry as the only untouchables.

Flexibility still reigns supreme in Oakland.
Flexibility still reigns supreme in Oakland.Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

Repeated willingness to deal coupled with the ability to hold on to their most coveted assets could mean the Warriors are not done. Owner Joe Lacob is ready and willing to pay and do whatever's necessary to render the Warriors a legitimate contender, so Blake could be just the beginning.

"I don’t want to pay the luxury tax, nobody wants to," Lacob told Sporting News' Sean Deveney ahead of this season. "That’s why it is a luxury tax, it is very punitive. But if it means winning vs. not winning, I choose winning."

That desire to win at all costs is still there, and the means to demonstrate it still exists, even after the Blake trade, putting the Warriors in a more powerful, more flexible and more playoff-ready position.



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