On February 19th, one day before the NBA’s trade deadline, the Golden State Warriors solidified their point guard position by acquiring veteran Steve Blake from the Los Angeles Lakers for bench players Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks.
Blake gives the Warriors a backup point guard, something they have not had all season. Toney Douglas, Bazemore, Nemanja Nedovic and Jordan Crawford had all attempted to fill this role but all failed at that position.
Blake provides the Warriors with a three-point threat off the bench as well as a distributor who can play with Stephen Curry or can run the team with Curry on the bench. The acquisition of Blake changes Crawford’s role with the Warriors, who was the primary backup point guard before Blake was obtained. Crawford is clearly not what the Warriors expected as a backup point guard, who has been much more of a free shooter than a willing passer.
During his time with Golden State, Crawford is only averaging two assists per game, a fairly low total for a backup point guard. The Warriors were expecting much more out of him because of his nearly six assists per game and a 3-to-1 assist to turnover ratio in Boston. Crawford was starting in Boston but Golden State thought with all its shooters spreading the floor, Crawford could be even more efficient as a point guard. Instead, Crawford is turning the ball over as much as he is assisting others and Curry has continued to play almost 40 minutes per game.
Blake provides the Warriors with a true point guard on their team, which will allow Crawford to play shooting guard, a much more comfortable position for him. Crawford’s season was in doubt with Golden State because after the Warriors acquired Blake, it was reported that the Warriors were shopping Crawford.
The Warriors were not able to trade Crawford and probably worked out for the best, since Golden State has one of the worst benches in the NBA and desperately need the scoring potential of Crawford. The Blake acquisition has already paid dividends for the Warriors, as they won both games against playoff contenders in Houston and Brooklyn. The numbers do not pop off the page with Blake scoring nine points and dishing out six assists in two games, but what does is Curry’s minutes.
In an overtime win over the Rockets, Curry played 38 minutes and in the win over the Nets, he only played 32 minutes, which is significant because the Warriors want Curry to be as fresh as possible when the playoffs come in April. Blake should also help the Warriors toughness as he is able to defend point and shooting guards. He will help to change the Warriors reputation, converting a “finesse” team into a tough one. If the Warriors need any indication on what type of competitor Blake is, they just need to look at Kobe Bryant’s Twitter page, where he calls him “a psycho competitor”.
As for Crawford, he has taken 18 shots in 33 minutes since Blake was acquired and averaging nine points per game. He is enjoying his new position and the green light coach Mark Jackson has given him on offense.
Blake, who will turn 34 on Wednesday, gives them a new and improved Jarrett Jack, who was instrumental to the Warriors’ success last season. As the season goes along, look for the Warriors to play Blake with Curry, à la Jack. Blake may not have the shooting prowess Jack had, but he is a better leader and takes better shots in the flow of the offense.
This deal makes Golden State deep at every position and will allow players to be comfortable and be more efficient in their roles. Blake will be able to run the second unit and get Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green and Crawford better shots in the flow of the offense, instead of relying on Curry to play 40 plus minutes per game.
It is scary to think that the Warriors’ bench has not hit their stride all season and the team is still the sixth seed in the Western Conference. If the bench can shoot on all cylinders with the leadership of Blake, no one team will want to face them in the postseason.