Warriors-Lakers Trade

On February 19th the Lakers traded Steve Blake to the Warriors for Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks. Blake makes about $2 million more than Bazemore and Brooks combined. All three players are free agents after this season. For the Lakers this trade is just a way to save money. Because the Lakers pay the luxury tax this trade saves them more than just the $2 million in base salary. The Lakers have almost no chance of making the playoffs this season. This trade will save them money and might improve their draft pick slightly because it makes the team worse. Since all three players are free agents after this season the Lakers will still have tons of cap room after this season. Bazemore is a restricted free agent so the Lakers could sign him as a backup point guard but it seems unlikely they would spend big money on him. This trade also doesn’t affect the Warriors long term because Blake is a free agent at the end of the season although the Warriors don’t have major cap space until the summer of 2016. The intention on the Warriors part is clear. They have needed an offensive boost for their second unit all season, and their back-up point guard play has been poor by championship contender standards. Their second unit is good defensively but it struggles mightily to score points. Steve Blake is a good ball handler. He can pass or score out of the pick and roll. He will greatly improve the Warriors second unit offensively. He is a minus defensively. He is terrible in pick and roll defense. He also frequently loses his man when guarding off the ball. Green and Barnes who will play with Blake on the second units are much better defenders and will probably guard the best offensive players on the floor for opposing teams. This might cause some additional problems because Blake will be undersized when guarding shooting guards or small forward which could lead to some good post up opportunities for opposing offenses. Acquiring Steve Blake will mean an improvement for the Warriors second unit. Golden State plays their rotation differently than some other teams. For example when James and Wade are both healthy Eric Spoelstra makes sure that one of them is always on the floor. When either James or Wade is in the game and the other isn’t they are the focal point of the offense. There is never a time when both players are on the bench, so Miami doesn’t need another player to be a huge creator and scorer off the bench; they just bring spot up shooter and defensive guys off the bench instead. Warriors head coach Mark Jackson manages his rotation differently. He plays his starting 5 of Curry, Thompson, Iguodala, Lee, and Bogut together for the majority of the game. He also plays a unit of Thompson and 4 bench guys and a unit of Curry, Iguodala, Barnes, Lee, and Bogut for the minutes that Thompson is on the bench. One of those three units is on the court the entire game. The 4 bench players that play with Thompson will be the same for an entire game. From game to game it has varied because of injuries to Warriors bench players this season and the number of point guards that have played for the Warriors this season. When playing this style of rotation all three units have to be great. If one unit is going to be on the floor for as little as 7 minutes a game in a close playoff game it cannot be bad. This is why the Warriors have made two trades this season for a backup point guard. All season the Warriors bench line up has been their biggest weakness. The problem stems from a lack of talented bench players but also from bad coaching by Mark Jackson. The Warriors bench units have been good defensively. Green, Barnes, and former point guard Tony Douglas are significantly above average wing defenders. Barnes and Green are big enough to handle small forwards and undersized power forwards. When healthy Festus Ezeli and Jermaine O’Neal are both good defensive big men. They can guard in the post and rebound effectively although both lack the lateral quickness needed to play good pick and roll defense. Both players have missed a significant number of games this season but O’Neal is healthy now and Ezeli will be back in time for the playoffs. The Warriors bench is very strong defensively but on offense they can’t score points. The Warriors have attempted to solve this problem by trading for players that can score points for this bench unit. Instead Mark Jackson should just play his line ups differently. He could play two offensively gifted players like Lee and Thompson with 3 bench players. A unit like that would be very good defensively and Thompson and Lee would score enough on offensive that it wouldn’t matter that none of the bench players were good offensive players. He could then rest Thompson and Lee while playing a different lineup that featured Curry, Bogut and Igudala offensively. Curry’s ability to run pick and roll, pass, and score off the ball would be enough to lift a group of sorry offensive players. By playing some of his starters alongside the bench players for stretches throughout each game Mark Jackson could craft line ups that are solid offensively and defensively throughout the entire game. Instead Jackson has chosen to play his team in a way that has resulted in stretches of games where the Warriors are getting outscored in bunches while their starters look on from the side lines. Jackson has refused to change and now has traded for a backup point guard as if that is the way to solve this problem. In the playoffs this problem will be minimized for the Warriors as starters start to play a great number of minutes. The Addition of Steve Blake improves the Warriors, but a coaching adjustment could have done the same thing.

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