The Trail Blazers have agreed to sign free agent guard Steve Blake to a two-year contract worth $4.2 million, according to Yahoo! Sports. Portland, which is over the salary cap, is able to sign Blake by way of the biannual exception. This will be Blake's third stint with the team, having signed with the Blazers as a free agent in 2005 and 2007.
Blake, 34, battled through injury last season to average 6.9 points, 2.9 rebounds and 5.6 assists between the Lakers and Warriors. As has been the case throughout his career, Blake was genuinely helpful prior to tearing a ligament in his elbow – an offensive caretaker and reliable deep threat who meshes well with most any lineup. Blake's game is low-maintenance and unassuming, and because of that he can fare as either the pass-first initiator of an offense or an off-ball complement to a more dynamic lead guard. He'll have the opportunity to play both roles in Portland, where Blake will log minutes both behind and alongside Damian Lillard.
Where this leaves Mo Williams, who filled a similar role for the Blazers last season, remains to be seen. Portland could still re-sign Williams using the "non-Bird"/non-qualifying veteran free agent exception, a provision which would allow a starting salary of up to $3.2 million and a contract lasting up to four years. That salary could interest Williams provided the Blazers are offering it, though the prospect of sharing minutes and responsibility with Blake might not be all that attractive to a guard who averaged 25 minutes per game last season as a key reserve.
Regardless, Blake will fill some of the same responsibilities with a bit more size and restraint than his predecessor. Both of those attributes are valuable in the context of Portland's needs, who were without recourse last season when Williams was targeted by bigger guards on defense or veered out of control on offense. That Blake is an out-and-out more competent defender than Williams should also help his case as a potential improvement, provided he can reboot his three-point shooting back to league-average levels. Blake had a rough time converting even wide open shots following a mid-season trade to Golden State, but between the benefit of Portland's ball movement and Blake's career-long standards we have reason to expect a bounce back.
Grade: B. Portland was in need of more consistent reserves and can depend on Blake to do his job every night. Even that basic capability will be of relief to Blazers coach Terry Stotts, who had little choice last season but to wear down his starters in most every game of import. Adding Blake (along with Chris Kaman at a mid-level salary) doesn't address that need for depth in full, though it's a decent effort at a reasonable price. Keep in mind: Many of the backup-quality point guards to hit the market this summer have fetched upwards of $4 million per year. Blake will earn roughly half that for a team that needs what he's able to provide.