This is the eighth in our series of Player Previews, in which we discuss what to expect in the coming season from each of the 2010-11 Los Angeles Lakers. Up today is Steve Blake.
Let's talk about this bloke Steve Blake.
When he played with the Portland Trailblazers, Mr. Blake was a Laker killer at the Rose Garden. He always seemed to be hitting a critical three that would keep the Lakers losing in Portland, so it's nice to have him on the Lakers' side for once. He is a tough player (mentally and physically) and has found a way to stick in the league coming out of the University of Maryland. I won't say he's not athletic, because that's a slight to anyone who can make it to the NBA, but he is more bound to the ground than some of his counterparts at the guard position. So he makes sure that when he has an open shot, he makes it. His specialty is long-range shooting; over his career he has shot 3-pointers at a 39% clip, and 2-pointers at only 42%!
One of Steve's assets apart from his long range shooting is simple: He won't hurt your team. He's great at dishing out assists (4.8 per game last year between Portland and the L.A. Clippers), with a pretty low rate of turnovers (2.97 assists for every 1 turnover, ranking him 12th in the NBA, sandwiched between Steve Nash and Kirk Hinrich). Derek Fisher's assist to turnover ratio was a respectable 2.58, and Blake is pretty much the opposite of Farmar in this regard, as Jordan was at the bottom of the league for PGs (3rd worst) at 1.76. On defense, Blake seems to be respectable enough, even though offense is his calling card. Not bad for your backup point guard.
I've mentioned this before elsewhere on SS&R, and it's worth mentioning again: I had the pleasure to watch Blake play in person when he was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers mid-season early this year. He knows how to move on offense, but one of the main flaws I saw on offense is one that you don't see much in the NBA: he doesn't shoot enough. Time and again I saw defenses play him as if he was going to pass every time, and he obliged by dishing the ball out more often than shooting. To his credit, he still did well. But Blake is too good of a shooter to waste that part of his game. If he would make himself even seem to be more of a threat to score by putting up a few early shots, he would make his life that much easier. It's just that everyone appears to know he will only shoot when wide open. This is pure speculation, but he seems to be more of a "coach's" player, so he's reluctant to seem like a gunner or a ball-hog, to the point of passing too much, especially on a drive to the basket.
I can't claim to be the expert on Steve Blake having only viewed him as an opponent, and in his short stint as a Clipper. Hopefully, some Portland fans can make it here to comment on how they think Steve will fit on this team, if they can bring themselves to type out "L-A-K-E-R-S" without any special characters. All fans welcome.
Role on the Team: With Derek a year older and Jordan Farmar gone to the Nets, expect Blake to put up big minutes while coming off the bench. It's been reported that Blake is picking up the triangle quickly, so expect him to gain Phil's trust in knowing how to run the offense. He's going to take care of the ball much better than any of the Laker guards we've seen last season. He'll be called upon to hit three pointers and stabilize the offense. And if Sasha hits a slump, or gets in the doghouse, look for Blake's minutes to increase further. Oh, and someone should tell him not to mess with Brian Shaw. But we know he wont, because Blake is a pro, which is the ultimate compliment to this 7 year veteran of the NBA.
Best-Case Scenario for His Season: Blake hits all of his open shots, some big-time threes, gains Kobe's trust, develops a great rapport with Pau, becomes a Laker fan favorite, earns himself a cool nickname, is a key component in the playoffs on the way to Laker three-peat, afterwards records a hit single with Ron Artest called "Love Dem Rings", and finishes his career with the Lakers.
Worst-Case Scenario for His Season: Blake finds himself lost in the triangle, gets burned by quicker guards, loses his confidence, and spends most of the season relegated to the bench watching the Machine take all his minutes.
What We Expect: Expect efficient offensive play within the triangle, low turnovers with nice assist totals in the box score, but also some nights where he's abused on defense by stronger guards, along with some big three point shooting nights, and other nights where you'll ask "Why didn't Phil play Steve more?" He's going to almost be a backup in name only, playing up to 20 minutes a game, so it'll be more of a platoon situation with Derek and a little bit of Sasha, although of course, Fisher will be starting and ending the games.