Heading into last week’s trade deadline, the Warriors’ front office, along with most of the fanbase, knew exactly what it needed: a backup to Stephen Curry. So, owner Joe Lacob and general manager Bob Myers traded for point guard Steve Blake, though many would call what L.A. did “gifting.”
The Lakers took in fringe players Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks, while the Warriors might have acquired a player who could be the difference between making the playoffs or not and/or advancing or not.
Yes, Blake could be that important.
As solid as the Warriors (35-23) have been this year and as terrific as Curry has been, something’s still seemed amiss with this team. Maybe even a few things. The Warriors have been turnover-prone, their bench has been subpar and late-game decision making has been suspect.
In addition, Curry’s had to log virtually all of his 37.4 minutes per game (6th in the NBA) at point guard, and the toll it’s taking on him is apparent. Curry is shooting 41.6 percent from 3-point range, above average for most players but not for him. He’s been over 45 percent from beyond the arc in each of the past two seasons.
Curry also leads the league in turnovers and with the weighty playing time it’s only natural that his defense, not a strong suit anyway, would wane. And it has.
So, how perfect is Blake, who can help in all those areas? First and most obviously, Blake’s presence will allow Curry to play off the ball, a place where he has thrived in the past. Last season Jarrett Jack afforded the Warriors the same luxury, and often Jackson’s finishing lineup included a Jack/Curry backcourt.
But when Jack left for Cleveland in free agency, it created a void. Golden State tried to fill it by signing Toney Douglas (since traded) and then acquiring Jordan Crawford, but neither proved adept at running a team.
Which is what Blake does. Blake should make the Warriors a smarter and tougher team as well as provide them with a reliable ball-handler late in games. At 33, Blake is still quick enough to deal with pressure and he’s always been stingy when it comes to turning the ball over (3-to-1 assist-turnover ratio).
It seems logical that the sometimes-shaky Warriors will turn to Blake when the stakes get higher.
So far Blake has four games and 79 minutes under his belt for the Warriors, but not a whole lot of those minutes have been alongside Curry—just 16 of them, to be precise. In other words, Jackson hasn’t yet played Blake and Curry together for an extended stretch or down the stretch. You’ve got to figure that’s coming.
As much as Curry has improved playing point guard, there’s always going to be a little bit of a catch-22 when you play him there. And it’s that you’re basically asking one of the game’s most prolific shooters to pass. With Blake, a pass-first point, Curry is likely to get more (and better) shots.
Curry is also likely to receive less manhandling from opponents. More and more teams are pressuring Curry sooner up the floor, wearing him down and either taking the ball out of his hands or turning him over.
A Blake-Curry backcourt takes care of that.
Consider, for example, the final 4.5 minutes of the first half of the Warriors’ 103-83 loss to the Bulls on Wednesday. Golden State was hanging in, down just 40-34, when four turnovers (including two by Curry) fueled a run that sent Chicago into halftime up 56-45.
It was a situation that called for a steady hand and some poise, but on this night Jackson elected to keep Blake on the bench. That’s fine because there figures to be plenty more of those situations the last six weeks of the season, and it seems just a matter of time before Jackson goes to him.