With the Steve Blake introduction yesterday this seemed like a good time to share my thoughts on the Blazers' most recent acquisition. It's one of the things I didn't have the time to cover fully during Summer League and besides I hate giving just my knee-jerk reaction. I like to let things marinate a little because situations can look totally different after just a few days of reflection. So here you go.
These are the reasons I like Steve Blake as a Blazer:
--As George Karl said to us on the day the deal was announced Blake is a steady presence and is good at involving other people. Our young guys will probably need a hand scoring and a point guard like Blake setting them up makes it easier. Both of our other point guards are young and somewhat inconsistent so adding him makes sense.
--I love his outside shooting. He'll hit the shot if you leave him alone and our point guards are going to be left alone a lot this year. It's a dimension we don't have in the same way without him.
--He knows how to play halfcourt offense as well as running the fast break. The other guys (that we've seen play anyway) are either-or.
--He can slip into a starting role or come off the bench and still give you production.
--He won't make many mistakes. Jack and Sergio are prone to them and by the number of times Nate mentions "turnovers" I'm sure it drives him crazy.
--For a point guard he doesn't need the ball much. He'll be willing to defer if Brandon needs touches.
--He's a perfect "culture guy" for Pritchard and Nate is already familiar with him. He's also a likeable community player for the fans.
--The two year deal with a third-year option is no-fault for us. If he never plays a minute it's no harm, no foul.
Here's what I'm worried about:
--We may end up needing a little more punch at point guard...not a 20-point scorer or a ball hog but someone the defense will fear a little and respect a lot. I don't see Blake as that guy. Another way to say it is that he's good at most everything but not great at anything. We already have a lot of players like that.
--He's a willing defender, which is nice to see, but that's different than being a good defender. A lot of people tend to mix up those two, especially when one or two good defensive performances stick out in the mind as a fan. He's a decent, basic defender but he's not going to stop great players or stay in front of quicker ones. I don't see him alleviating a lot of the defensive pressure on the backcourt or saving the big guys a lot of fouls.
--While I like his long-distance shooting when he's open I don't like his shooting at all when he's covered. His ability to get his own shot is just a notch or two above Ime's and that's not good.
--He's coming off a year where a bunch of things went south on him. His track record before that year was neither long nor sterling. Sometimes guys rebound from that. Other times they just sink into oblivion. I'm not sure what will be the case for Blake.
--I don't like what this does for Jarrett Jack's confidence. If you believe in Sergio you shouldn't like what it's probably going to do to his playing time either. Granted as far as acquisitions and displacements go this was a mild one, but it's still there. Blake isn't a grizzled veteran brought in to play third-string point guard and teach the kids on the way to his first assistant coaching gig. He's going to compete for the starting spot and require minutes even if he doesn't get it. It's hard to envision him starting on a championship-level squad and with that contract you've got to assume he's either gone or coming off the bench two years from now. What happens in the meantime to the guys we expect might be there? I know they're not ready yet but I'm not sure how much this really helps...especially Jack. Maybe there's some leading by example but youngsters need more than example. They need court time and support. Granted this was more a move to support Oden and Aldridge than Jack and Sergio, but still.
I guess in the final analysis I see some hope in this move and I understand the reasoning behind it. Nevertheless in my gut it still feels like a lateral move...not a bad move, just a sideways one. I'm hard pressed to find much wrong with it, but I'm also hard pressed to see why it won't be semi-immaterial by March of next year. Either Jack and Sergio will fall flat on their faces and we'll need someone better than Blake to take over the team or they'll start to fulfill some of their promise and we won't really need him. The worst outcome of all might be that we never find out. Blake should definitely make it easier on Lamarcus and Oden, which again is the main point, but I can't help wondering why year after year we can't seem to find an answer at the point guard position that's satisfying. Oh well...I guess that's a question for another day.