Steve Blake Thriving Under Mike D’Antoni’s System

After two sub-par seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, Steve Blake needed a jolt to get his numbers back to where they used to be. That jolt came when Mike D’Antoni took over as head coach for the Los Angeles Lakers earlier this season. Blake has improved noticeably from the last two years with D’Antoni as head coach.

That said, seeing point guards thrive Mike D’Antoni’s high octane offensive system is nothing new.

Screen shot 2013-04-07 at 9.36.06 PM

The table above demonstrates the impact D’Antoni has on his point guards. All of these point guards scored more when coached by D’Antoni. Interestingly, Steve Blake’s career average is actually greater than his points per game this season with D’Antoni (not shown). That being said, none of the point guards above had to share the ball with Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol, Antawn Jamison, and Metta World Peace – six players who were all the primary scoring option for their respective teams at one point in their careers. This just means there are fewer scoring opportunities for the former Terrapin, and as a result fewer points.

Blake, however, has improved almost all of his important offensive totals from the last two seasons.

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The table above exemplifies Blake’s improvement in a variety of offensive categories under D’Antoni. While Blake’s numbers are not exactly All-Star worthy as evidenced by his Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 11 (league average is 15), at least he’s become somewhat of a contributor on the offensive side of the ball. He is definitely shooting the ball better this season and he’s also stepped up big when Steve Nash has been out due to injury. He’s looking more like the $4 million guy the Lakers signed in the summer of 2010.

There was a period this season when both Blake and Nash were missing from the lineup. The Lakers were struggling mightily (Darius Morris was the starting point guard for those games. Ouch.) and the thought of Blake coming back from injury and helping the team wasn’t exactly on the minds of Laker fans. However, with Blake healthy this season, the Lakers are 24-16. Without him, 16-21. 

In a point guard driven offense, Blake’s health has been important for the Lakers. Part of Blake’s improvement has been D’Antoni’s system, but let’s give Blake some credit here. Darius Morris wasn’t able to elevate his game when he was the starting point guard for the team back when both Nash and Blake were hurt. Morris had an Offensive Rating of just 96 and a PER of 8.2 this season. With him as the starting point guard, the Lakers were 8-9. Moral of the story is that a point guard must have some skill to thrive in D’Antoni’s system. Blake has it and the Lakers have been able to win more with him in the lineup. He’s been able to elevate his game, relatively speaking, and the Lakers have to be happy with him in 2012-13.

Blake’s defense has been stellar, too. In a system that preaches to never-ever even think about defense, the Lakers defensive rating is lower when Blake’s on the court (105.3) than when he is off (107.5). Not too shabby.

Finally, to further the notion that D’Antoni has been crucially vital for Blake’s relative success this year, check out the table below:

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(Plus/Minus per 100 possessions)

D’Antoni’s pick-and-roll oriented system works best with a big that a point guard can run the pick and roll with. Blake has been playing best with all the Lakers’ big men as exemplified in the table above, which shows two-man combination plus-minus differentials.

His best plus/minus totals in two-man combinations are all with tall, physical players like Pau Gasol, Earl Clark, Dwight Howard, and Metta World Peace. Whereas when he’s paired with smaller guys like Jodie Meeks, Kobe Bryant, or Steve Nash, the team doesn’t do as well.

So what do we learn from all of this?

  • Mike D’Antoni’s system has had a positive effect on Steve Blake. The system is pick-and-roll heavy and as a result, the Maryland guard does best when paired with big players. But then again, every point guard (except Darius Morris) has thrived under D’Antoni. 
  • Blake’s numbers (both regular and advanced metrics) have increased from last year.
  • Blake can play some defense.
  • Darius Morris bashing continues. Dude does not belong in the NBA.
  • Use my words and these numbers with caution. At the end of the day, he’s still Steve Blake. I’m not trying to make a case for him as the sixth man of the year. It’s just good to see a guy who was ridiculed for the last two years as one of the worst point guards in the league turn it around and make a positive impact on a team that has had several players (Pau, Dwight, Nash) have some of the worst years in their careers statistically.
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About andrekhatch

Red Sox. Cowboys. Lakers. Penguins. USC.
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