It stung a little bit when Mo Williams agreed to a one-year, $3.75 million contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves. I don’t really know why, though.
I said all along it wasn’t looking good for Williams’ chances of remaining with the Blazers. There are simply too many questions, long-term questions, still left unanswered for Portland, and G.M. Neil Olshey cannot tie down the organization by offering a three-year deal to a 31-year-old backup point guard.
It’s too bad really. I wanted it to work out for Williams and Portland. It was a mutually beneficial relationship for both sides. The city and fans brought the best out of Williams, and Williams brought the best out of the city and fans. It was a really great fit while it lasted, but now it is time to move on… to Steve Blake, that is.
For those old enough to remember Blake’s first two tenures with the Blazers, he wasn’t exactly overly impressive:
It’s pretty impressive Blake is still in the league when you look at his per game numbers throughout his career:
And now, compare them to Williams’ stats throughout his career:
Throughout each of their careers, it is obvious who has been the better player, statistically, of course. Blake has played in more big games than Williams, though, so that has to count for something. While Williams was great last season for Portland, he did only average 9.5 points per game. That is replaceable, and Blake’s last-half season with the Lakers is an indication Blake could be the guy to replace that production.
It is not likely Blake will average 33 minutes per game, like he did with Lakers. And, it is not likely that the Blazers will play at the Lakers’ fast pace, which was the second highest pace in the league last season. For the record, the Blazers had the 11th highest pace in the league last season. Still, in his last season with the Lakers, Blake shot nearly 40 percent from three-point range and racked up almost eight assists per game, which is three percent higher and three assists more than Williams averaged with Portland. Granted, Blake played about eight more minutes per game.
Determining who is better between Blake and Williams is an exercise in futility because Blake and Williams are not the same players. Williams is a much more capable scorer, and Blake is all about passing and outside shooting. It’s going to be a different dynamic in Portland, especially off the bench compared to last year’s team, but I don’t know if Williams’ loss is going to be as significant as people think.
The Chris Kaman signing changed the dynamic of the bench. Somehow, the Blazers are going to free up 20-25 minutes for Kaman to play along the frontline with LaMarcus Aldridge, Thomas Robinson, and Robin Lopez. That is going to have some trickle down effect. Robinson and Dorell Wright still have to get some minutes. Blake is going to play in the 20-25 minutes per game range, if he is effective. Throw in C.J. McCollum and Will Barton, who both deserve a chance to prove what they can do and how they fit. Hopefully, the influx of bench players will allow Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews, and Nic Batum to get a few extra minutes rest per game during the regular season. Who knows how it is going to work at this point?
I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Williams. He was incredible at keeping Portland in some big games while the starters got a breather on the bench. His scoring presence and leadership will be missed, but it is so difficult to compare him to Blake. It is apples to oranges because they’re so different. I am not saying that Portland can replace Williams’ impact, both in productivity on the court and his intangibles off the court. I am saying Blake deserves a chance.
As the primary ball-handler when he is on the court, Blake allows Lillard to move to a wing-role where he can run off more screens, which also allows Batum to be more of a scoring threat if he wants. Too many times last season, I felt like Batum fell into the facilitator role when on the floor with Williams last season. Maybe, with Blake on the floor, Batum can find a predominantly scoring role next season.
Statistically, Williams is a much better player than Blake. For the Blazers next season, and moving forward, Blake might be distributor Portland needs to make another deep playoff run. I am optimistic that this will be the case. Regardless of how good Blake will be for Portland, he will bring a different personality than Williams brought for the 2013-14 season. One can replace the other positionally, but not intangibly.