You have to wonder, if Spencer Dinwiddie had crushed it in Orlando for the Summer League, would Steve Blake be a Piston?
Well, Dinwiddie didn't and Blake is.
Days after Summer League let out in the wake of Dinwiddie's lackluster showing, the Pistons traded Quincy Miller to Brooklyn for Steve Blake. It was more of Stan Van Gundy and Jeff Bower's something for nothing trades, though Miller was more interesting than most assets they had parted with to that point.
Though Miller had shown little during his cup of coffee with the Pistons late last season, Van Gundy raved about the work Miller had put in over the offseason, particularly in beefing up his lean frame. That, along with averaging 30 points per game, 10 rebounds, and 4 blocks in the D-League last season, made it disappointing to see the prospect go.
Brooklyn just waived Miller, as their motivation for the deal was in cutting costs. For Blake, it was his second move of the summer. He was effective last season for the Portland Trailblazers, serving as their backup point guard all season. But they moved him on draft day along with their first round pick Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to acquire Mason Plumlee to help fill gaps left by the departure of LaMarcus Aldridge and Robin Lopez.
Blake made obvious sense for the Pistons. They wanted a veteran point guard to hedge bets while Brandon Jennings recovered from an Achilles injury and Spencer Dinwiddie continues to develop.
They made a similar move last season with John Lucas III. Blake is better.
2014-15 Year in Review
None of Blake's numbers from last year jump out at you. His 50 percent true shooting percentage is below average. Shooting 35 percent from three isn't that impressive. A 26 percent assist percentage is mediocre, especially with a 23 percent turnover percentage.
But those aren't the important ones, the reason Van Gundy moved for Blake. It's 1,529 minutes. That was good for sixth on the team for Portland last year. On their 51-win team.
So despite subpar numbers, Blake was good enough to play a significant part on a team that was looking to contend.
Blake's role on the offense was essentially to facilitate for his teammates and serve as a three point threat. He flashed a nice chemistry with Chris Kaman, likely dating back to their time together with the Los Angeles Lakers, but also was effective with LaMarcus Aldrige as well. For both players, they operated particularly well out of the pick-and-pop to take advantage of the two big men's midrange game.
It's relatively easy to picture Aron Baynes thriving alongside Blake in a similar way.
The rest of Blake's offense revolves around his up-and-down three point shooting. The bright side is that his down isn't typically much worse than 35 percent. The other bright side is that his up is around 41-42 percent. But the not-bright side is that his three point shooting has been on the decline for the past three years.
Blake has never been a good defender, and he's definitely not at 35 years old.
In many ways, he's reminiscent of last year's backup point guard, D.J. Augustin. Augustin was more of a scorer, but the rest of their career numbers are startlingly similar.
In short, you can do better than Steve Blake as your backup point guard, but you can also do a whole lot worse.
One other aspect of Blake that was probably attractive to Van Gundy is the chip on his shoulder. He's always been a guy ready to go nose-to-nose with anyone, even if that guy has a few extra cheeseburgers on him. Last year the guy was Kenneth Faried, but he also includes confrontations with Dwight Howard, a random fan, college teammate during practice, and others on his resume.
Van Gundy talked about adding toughness over the offseason, and Blake certainly seems to bring it through through a willingness to put up his dukes.
2015-16 Projected Production
Steve Blake is the ultimate example of the kind of player that doesn't really move the needle to make your team better, but doesn't hurt your team. The replacement level player.
Blake enters his time with the Pistons in a competition for the backup point guard spot with Spencer Dinwiddie. But unlike most position battles, it's less about Blake winning the job and more about Dinwiddie failing to win it.
Van Gundy already knows what he'll get with Blake. So he'll likely spend the preseason determining if he can get the same level of productivity out of Dinwiddie. If not, Blake will be the team's primary backup point guard until Brandon Jennings returns from injury around December.
Personally, I like Dinwiddie's chances. My expectation for Blake is that he serves a similar role to Joel Anthony for the season. That he plays the part of a security blanket in case of injury to the primary point guard rotation, getting the occasional chance to stretch his legs in mop up duty.
It'd be a new experience for Blake, as he's always found his way onto the court throughout his career. It's been a decade since Blake last failed to surpass 1,000 minutes. That may be the case this season though, even if Dinwiddie does fall flat in the preseason.
The team has about 13-15 minutes per game worth of backup point guard minutes remaining behind Reggie Jackson. If the same guy serves as backup point guard all season, sure, he'll hit 1,000 minutes. But once Jennings makes his way back around December, presumably those minutes and more will be going to him.
The only way Blake's going to keep that streak of 1,000+ minutes going is 1) hope Dinwiddie fails to win the job in the preseason, then 2) play well enough, like extremely super duper well, to inspire enough confidence in Van Gundy to want to trade Jennings and roll with what's working, then 3) Dinwiddie performs well enough in practice, Grand Rapids, or in spot minutes to inspire enough confidence in the team's depth in the event that Jackson misses any time, then 4) there's an active trade market for Jennings very quickly after his return from injury.
If that happens, Blake will hit 1,000 minutes.
30 games, 9 minutes per game, 2 points, 49 percent true shooting, 1.5 assists