The Golden State Warriors acquired Steve Blake from the Los Angeles Lakers in order to plug a major hole in their bench. The move primarily gave the Dubs someone who could generate offense and steer the ship, while giving Stephen Curry a needed rest.
Blake didn’t cost the Dubs much, as they unloaded fan favorite Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks to acquire the 11-year veteran. Blake, who is in the final year of his contract, averaged 9.5 PPG, 7.6 APG and 3.8 RPG in 27 games with the Los Angeles Lakers.
So what can Blake provide the Warriors' bench, and can he be the stopgap that coach Mark Jackson is looking for?
A Reliable Point Guard
The bottom line is the Warriors' bench doesn’t hold its own weight. The bench unit is second to last in scoring and assists and dead last in field-goal percentage.
The bench also plays the second-fewest number of minutes in the NBA, meaning Coach Jackson relies on his starters a lot more than other teams.
Blake isn’t going to single-handedly boost the bench out of its current positions, but he will definitely curtail the scoring drought and replenish the assist numbers.
Blake is currently shooting 39.9 percent from behind the arc (through February 22), so he is a factor when he has the ball and can help the spacing of the other four on the floor.
He knows how to handle the rock, and he is good at distributing the ball to transitioning players on offense. His assist-to-turnover ratio this season is 2.93-1, and he is averaging a career high in assists.
With weapons like Harrison Barnes, Jordan Crawford and Draymond Green available, Blake can start maximizing their production.
But most of all, he can take the point and give Curry the necessary minutes to rest and stay fit for when Coach Jackson needs him most during the final months of the season.
He can also be inserted into the game and let Curry switch over to the 2-guard. This move will let Curry move without the ball and really improve his shot selection.
The bench has not succeeded because it has not had a player to guide and sustain the offense. Coach Jackson has tried to use converted shooting guards without success.
Blake is a true point guard who knows how to run and set up the offense. He is patient with the ball and waits for transitioning players to get open.
One of the biggest disappointments this year has been Harrison Barnes. He has struggled when he is not surrounded by the top unit with a line of 8.4 PPG, 3.7 RPG and 1.0 APG.
The telling statistic is that he is shooting only 38.9 percent from the field, meaning that he is not getting open or creating quality shots. Blake will help Barnes get his scoring average over 10 points and give him more quality looks.
The other exciting result is that Jordan Crawford can move back to his natural position as a shooting guard and give Klay Thompson more of a break. Crawford will have a chance to improve his numbers, compared to his time with the Celtics.
Leadership and Experience
One of the biggest benefits in this trade is a category that is not judged by a statistic. Blake brings leadership to this young team and especially to the bench.
The Warriors have a lot of young talent on the bench that still needs development. They have six players who are 25 or younger with limited NBA experience.
If one of the NBA’s greatest players is commenting that Blake is such a huge loss to one of their biggest rivals, the Warriors did well for themselves.
I expect Blake to play about 20 minutes per game and put up a line of 6.1 PPG, 4.7 APG and 3.5 RPG. He will take full ownership of the second unit, so expect a strong uptick from the bench.
The Warriors' front office has been looking hard to replace Jarrett Jack since they lost him during free agency last summer. Blake has the grittiness and toughness—along with the clutch shooting—to replace that missing piece.
Who else would have predicted that Blake could have such an extended NBA career and is the last remaining NBA player from the 2002 Maryland Terrapins team that won the NCAA Championship?
The Warriors made a very smart move. Now the bench just has to prove its worth.