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Portland Trail Blazers Sign Steve Blake with Bi-Annual Exception

Steve "Bad Penny" Blake joins the Portland Trail Blazers roster for the third time in his career. How did this signing help the Blazers? What can Blake bring to the table?

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

In case you missed it, Steve Blake is now a Portland Trail Blazer for the third time.

From the earlier Breaking News piece:


Multiple sources are reporting that the Portland Trail Blazers signed Steve Blake to a two year contract for the Bi-Annual Exception. The contract is for 2 years and $4.2 million, with a player option for year 2.

This is Blake's third stint with the Blazers. He was first signed as a free agent in 2005, then sent to the Milwaukee Bucks in a package trade for Jamaal Magloire. He signed again in 2007, and was traded with Travis Outlaw to the Clippers in 2010 for Marcus Camby at the trade deadline.


Opinions seem to be swinging all over the map on this signing. Let's be honest. It's hard to go wrong with a Bi-Annual Exception deal. It's $2 million per year. Even with a player option on the second year (possibly continuing Portland's fascination with single-year rentals of free agents) it's not like the Blazers are breaking the bank. They took far more of a risk on Thomas Robinson's $3.5-$4.5 million rookie scale contract. We don't know that Robinson can play. We know exactly what Blake will give half of his salary last year to boot.

More than 50% of Blake's shot attempts in his career have come beyond the three-point arc. That rate soared to an astonishing 60% in 2012-13, hovering at 56% last season with the Lakers before ballooning to 66% after has was traded to the Warriors. Some people drink a Coke or two a day, others guzzle 2 liter bottles habitually. If Coke were triples, Blake would be the latter. That's a skill the Blazers appreciate. It also helps explain his low overall field goal percentages over the last few years. Those hardly matter. He was shooting long.

Blake's three-point field goal percentage riding a roller coaster from 34% to 42% and back down to 38% over the last three seasons might be of more concern. When a guy trades in a particular skill you want him to do it well no matter what. Blake's injuries accounted for some of the variation. Beyond that, his production reflects how he was used as much as any slippage in his mastery.

Blazer fans already know that the dribble drive is not Blake's forte. He needs to play off of a strong shooting guard in order to remain effective. In Portland that was Brandon Roy. In L.A. he had Kobe Bryant. When Bryant was healthy and effective, Blake became a weapon. When Bryant was injured or had a poor season, Blake tended to slump. When Blake went to the Warriors--an offense that relies heavily on guards getting their own threes--his percentage dropped big time.

The Blazers aren't a "get your own" team. Blake will have plenty of catch-and-shoot opportunities in Portland.  Portland's offense will provide a good environment for Blake and he'll likely return the favor. He'll also get the chance to play beside Damian Lillard, who looks as comfortable off the ball as he does handling it. Lillard will become the Roy/Bryant analog. Instead of paying for a combo guard, the Blazers will convert Damian: starting point, reserve off-guard with Blake alongside. It's a budget solution to a potentially-expensive problem...a little jury-rigged, but suitable for now.

What else does Blake bring to the table?

He's not going to demand shots the way Mo Williams did. There will be no "Steve Ball" in the fourth quarter. This could be a plus or a minus, depending on how other bench players step up in the scoring department. It'll be good for guys like Lillard, Chris Kaman, and Will Barton. Being able to stay out of the way and hit threes when needed pretty much describes what the Blazers need from their extra point guard at this juncture.

Blake turned over the ball plenty last year--almost as much as Mo--but he has a better history of taking care of the rock than Williams does.

Blake's defense is not great. He gets after it but he doesn't have the physical presence. But again, he's a $2 million reserve backing up one of your best high-minute players. Avery Bradley would have been cool, but he also cost four times as much.

This is not a splashy signing. If the Blazers were going to make one of those, the MLE was the spot for it. BAE's don't get you splash. You get a cup, look into it, and hope to find some water. Blake should be able to carry water for the Blazers. It's an efficient move, a smart way to tide over the backcourt while the 96 other young guards on the roster develop. Efficient and smart are just what you want in these low-money situations.

The new Blake Era might also spell the end of Mo Williams' tenure in Portland. Mo did about what you'd expect with the complaints. But Mo also wants a 3-year, $3 million per season deal. The request isn't unfair, but how much utility would the Blazers get out of that kind of contract? Williams isn't their permanent solution. He'd be a veteran stopgap, like Blake. The Blazers would wring the most out of Year 1 of that contract and get some return in the second year if their young guys didn't step up. By Year 3, with an evolved roster and a 34-year-old Williams, who knows?

Portland achieved just about the same thing with Blake at 2 years for $2 million per. They don't need a hybrid, shoot-heavy guard now. With Blake backing up more steadily at point than Mo did and Lillard (plus friends) becoming the New Mo behind Wesley Matthews, the Blazers have their backcourt covered at half the cost and with no third year obligation.

In the spectrum of possible BAE acquisitions, this move was pretty strong. The Blazers addressed an immediate need, filled and steadied their backcourt, banked another three-point shooter, and saved money doing it. That's plenty for a 2-year, low-money signing. Steve Blake isn't the type to cause hot flashes and high fives, but thumbs should be pointed pretty firmly skyward for this value-level deal.

--Dave / @DaveDeckard