Time to take a look at our newest acquisition at point guard. I'm going to sum up my outlook on Mr. Blake in one sentence that's going to make nearly every guy in the joint cringe with uncomfortable rejection memories:
Stevie baby...I love you, but I'm not in love with you.
Blake is a good point guard. He's better than most people think and he does a reasonable number of things well. But when it comes to thinking about a serious basketball relationship he's definitely stuck in the "friend zone". He's just not that sexy. There's just not enough potential for fireworks. He reminds us of our brother.
Don't get me wrong...there are a lot of things to like about Steve's game. He's a smart player. He's a point guard who cares about making other people better and knows how to do it. He has developed a fine outside shot and demands coverage. He's maintained a fairly consistent 3-to-1 turnover ratio over the last couple of years while playing significant minutes. He tries harder on defense than most NBA point guards. He's got a little grit to him too. He'll be a steady, veteran presence on this young team. He's competent in both the halfcourt and running games. Although he's not an imposing physical presence he's neither too short nor too small nor too slow. Most of all you can trust him. He's not going to do anything dumb. He's going to run the plays. He'll be a dream for the coaching staff that way.
But those same qualities that make him valuable also show what he's missing. In some ways he's too dependable. Once in a blue moon he'll have an outstanding outing. Intermittently he'll score in double figures or get double-digit assists. But most nights it's 7 points and 4-5 dimes and a nice pat on the back. He holds the fort. He doesn't storm it. If ever there were a team crying out for a Blake-type point guard it would have been the Carmelo Anthony/Allen Iverson Denver Nuggets. It could have been a match made in heaven. It ended up...adequate. Blake had some fine games but a lot of the time they were better off with the ball in somebody else's hands. That will be less true with our young core of talent but as those guys emerge it will probably start to develop the same way. Which do you fear more, Steve Blake coming down the floor with the ball or Brandon Roy? Even Jarrett Jack can lay claim to the occasional brutalization of the opponent. Blake just...doesn't.
I love Blake's free throw percentage. I love Blake's three-point shooting percentage. I'm not in love with his overall offensive game nor his overall percentage. Most times when he's covered he's in trouble. He's also quite capable of slumping. The TV Mikes made a big deal out of his defensive efforts when he was with us the season before last. I saw what they were saying but I also saw games where he was simply overmatched and got burned like everybody else. He knows how to work but he's not a stopper or even a serious "botherer" most nights.
My expectations for Blake are simple. I expect him to play hard. I expect him to run the offense efficiently and not play matador defense. I expect him to earn Nate's admiration by being the first point guard in his coaching tenure that isn't prone to unnecessary turnovers. I expect him to hit the outside shot when left alone. I expect him to run the pick and roll better than we've seen for years around here. I expect he will play traffic cop when he's on the court with the kids. I think he has a decent chance of winning the starting spot at some point during the season, possibly from the get-go. I expect him to be every bit the crowd favorite that he was two years ago. Those are all good things. Nevertheless I will not be upset if and when somebody wins the position from Blake. When all is said and done, you'd expect most of these things from any good NBA point guard. They've been in short supply around here lately so Steve is a godsend. Hopefully that will not remain true forever. I'd love to have somebody who does all of this well while adding a little danger to the mix.
When it comes right down to it there are a lot of highly-touted points guards in this league who don't have as well-rounded of a game as Steve Blake does. Only a fool would disparage what he brings. He's just not the kind of guy who makes you jump for joy and I'm not sure I'd like what it says about this team if he really is the long-term solution at the point.
Oh, and for those who think such a mildly critical assessment is still too harsh, don't worry too much for Steve. For one thing people have been saying worse about him his whole career. More importantly, if memory serves he has the hottest...wife...ever. As long as she finds him unbearably sexy it doesn't really matter what the rest of us think, does it?