Golden State Warriors' general manager Bob Myers knew what he was doing when he acquired Steve Blake for a couple of the team's underachieving players. The Dubs needed a steady producer at the point guard position in order to drive the second unit and keep fresh Stephen Curry’s legs.
Blake looked like a short-term rental from the get-go with his comments, courtesy of Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: "This is one of the best places I've ever played at and in the future if they wanted me back, I absolutely, definitely would consider it."
The Warriors hope that the close-knit bond of his new team will sway Blake in a different direction.
A True Point Guard
Blake has put up a line of 4.4 points, 3.3 assists and 1.5 rebounds in 19.9 minutes through March 6. Those stats don’t overwhelm the eye, but he has done a lot of important things to improve the team.
Curry is the true beneficiary of the trade, as his minutes have started to decrease; he's but one game over 40 minutes since the acquisition. Curry now has more flexibility, as he can rotate between both guard spots and maximize his offensive potential.
However, the turnover bug has not stopped biting Curry, as he averages 3.9 turnovers per game. Blake, on the other hand, has been extraordinary when handling the ball with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 7.25-to-1 (29 assists to only four turnovers) since joining the team.
Blake has also solidified the play of the second unit, which looked like a lost herd before his arrival. He brings the necessary leadership, skill and the competitiveness to ensure sure everyone is playing at his top level.
Required Bench Help
Blake has significantly improved the bench with his steady ball-handling abilities. The Warriors’ reserve unit ranked dead last in points per game, assists and shooting percentage before the acquisition.
The jolt has raised the bench statistics significantly as shown in the chart below:
|The Steve Blake Effect|
|Warriors Bench||Before Steve Blake||With Steve Blake|
|Points Per Game||24.1||35.4|
|Assists Per Game||4.1||8.5|
|Minutes Per Game||70.0||94.4|
|Statistics via ESPN.com|
The overall season bench stats are not as promising, but at least the Dubs are rising from the cellar. The team now averages 25.6 points, 4.7 assists in 73.2 minutes.
Because of Blake’s impact, coach Mark Jackson has been able to finally rely on his bench, which he shied away from earlier in the season. Blake has done a very good job of replicating the magic that Jarrett Jack created for the Dubs last season.
Since Blake knows how to handle the point, he creates greater opportunity and extends the clock during each possession. He limits the poor percentage shot.
With the bench consistently improving, Blake will be the captain of the second unit. His competitive fire and basketball IQ will continue to raise its level of play.
Blake will also continue to get minutes with Curry, so I expect the normal mid-game rotations. Coach Jackson might even interchange Blake in the final minutes if one of the starting five is having a rough shooting night or is in foul trouble.
The only real criticism of Blake is that he is relying too heavily on the three ball in his early stay with the Warriors, as 22 of his 35 shot attempts have been from behind the arc. He is converting at a 36.4 percent clip.
Blake’s plus/minus number isn't the greatest at minu-21. He is not the quickest defender, but he knows how to position himself and play the ball.
Since he is primarily playing with the second unit, that plus-minus figure is not as significant. He needs to make sure that his teammates position themselves in the correct spots, so that that number doesn’t grow and leads don't evaporate.
With rotations shrinking as the season comes to a close and the playoffs approach, Blake will be a key factor in the march toward a Western Conference or NBA title. If GM Myers likes the contributions of his new backup point guard, then he might bring Black back.
Diamond Leung, Golden State Warriors beat writer for the Bay Area News Group, tweets that the possibility of Blake’s return is not out of the question.
Steve Blake open to re-signing with Warriors for reserve role http://t.co/Ul4krk47MI— Diamond Leung (@diamond83) February 28, 2014
Blake has made significant contributions in his short time with the Warriors. He has for the time being fixed the lingering bench problem, given Curry some minutes to rest and brought another weapon to bear from behind the arc.
As a result, Blake’s production earns a solid grade. Their record since his arrival speaks volumes.