Steve Blake's Measurables
- Mitch Kupchak on Steve Blake
When the Lakers acquired free agent point guard Steve Blake on July 15, it took only a cursory glance at his statistics, or a simple viewing of his play on the basketball floor to see that Blake was a willing passer, skilled shooter and solid defender.
What may have been less obvious from the numbers in particular, however, was something that Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak stated near the top of the team’s introductory press conference for Blake.
In fact, “One of the best players we’ve ever had as far as physical ability” is a phrase we might expect to hear about Kobe Bryant or Shannon Brown (which of course we do), but perhaps not Blake (which we had not), who doesn’t exactly stand out in a grocery store line like Lamar Odom or Pau Gasol.
But once afforded the details of Blake’s pre-draft workout, conducted by the Lakers following his senior year at Maryland back in 2003, Kupchak’s statement makes a lot more sense.
Helping to run the team’s workouts alongside Director of Scouting, Bill Bertka, is L.A.’s Director of Athletic Performance, Chip Schaefer. With the official data from that 2003 workout in hand, Schaefer detailed why it was so impressive to the team’s brass.
STEVE BLAKE’S 2003 PREDRAFT WORKOUT
Prior to each NBA Draft, prospects* come into L.A.’s training facility to undergo a series of tests, beginning with the standard height, weight, body fat, reach and wingspan measurements. Then come the physical measures, including the following: vertical jump; vertical jump with a step; four repeat jumps; speed; and four-corner agility.* Notable players from Blake’s 2003 workout: Cleveland’s Mo Williams; Toronto’s Marcus Banks; seven-year vet Quinton Ross and short-term NBAer Troy Bell.
At the end of the whole process, all of the data typed into a database, Schaefer creates rankings for each player that has been tested, and shares the information with Kupchak and his personnel staff.
Schaefer took us through the five drills, detailed Blake’s** numbers and offered his take on how everything stacked up: **Blake checked in at 6’2.5’’ and 169 pounds, with 4.6 percent body fat, a reach of 8’2’’ and wing span of 6’5’’.
No steps are allowed for the straight vertical jump; players must be rooted in the ground, but can swing their arms if they like. The Lakers allow prospects to try as many times as they wish. A machine called the Vertec, featuring vanes at half-inch intervals at which a player tries to swipe until failure, is utilized.
Blake’s Score: 31 inches, 7th out of 11 players. Ross and Bell both jumped 34.5 inches to lead the pack.
Schaefer: “We’re looking for a best effort. Some teams may limit the attempts, but we like them to continue to go until they fail to improve. Steve’s score was quite good.”
Vertical Jump With Step:
As Schaefer explains, some people – including Blake – are better at jumping off one foot, so the Lakers allow players to run up and/or take a couple of steps before rising to swipe at the Vertec machine.
Blake’s Score: 40 inches, tied for 3rd out of 11. Bell and Marcus Hatten tied for first at 40.5 inches.
Schaefer: “With a step, Steve was able to jump 40 inches, which is very good.” That’s an elite score for a point guard.
Four Repeat Jumps (Explosive Leg Power Factor):
The players are asked to jump as high as they can four times consecutively off a 4x4 rubber mat, getting off the ground as quickly as possible each time. An instrument measures the average height of the four jumps, as well as the average time off the ground.
Blake’s Score: Explosive Leg Power Factor of 2.62, fourth out of 11. Williams’ score of 2.71 was second highest.
Schaefer: “Steve’s average height (25.9 inches) is excellent for repeat jumping test, as was his off the ground time of 0.28. Anything under 0.30 seconds is excellent. Anything over 2.50 on the ELPF is also excellent, and Steve was at 2.62.”
Raw speed is hand-timed by Schaefer, as the players sprint as fast as possible from the baseline to the opposite free throw line.
Blake’s Score: 3.25, tied for first out of 11.
Schaefer: “Steve’s 3.25 is excellent, once again. Rarely do you get under 3.3 for that test.”
Four-Corner Agility Test:
The Lakers set up cones at the four corners of the lane, and instruct players to sprint from the baseline corner to the free throw line, slide laterally to their left, backpedal to the baseline, slide laterally to their right, touch the cone and then reverse it back around. The test is designed to reveal how quickly a player can change direction with economical body movement.
Blake’s Score: 10.47, first out of 11. Only two other players (Ross being one of them) finished under 11 seconds. Being the quickest is more impressive when you’re also the fastest, two things that don’t always go hand-in-hand.
Schaefer: “Anything under 11 seconds is good, anything under 10.5 is really good, and Steve ran the best of all positions that year with a 10.47, which is really superb.”
When all the scores are tabulated, Schaefer writes down one-line summary remarks about each player that are included in the team’s report.
“I can be fairly brutal if somebody is unimpressive,” he said, even if that clearly wasn’t an issue with Blake.
Blake, Steve: “Very quick and very good jumper. Very good repeat jumper. Great time on agility and speed test. Great overall testing results.”
The first question mark for a Devil’s advocate is how Blake’s scores (and by extension his athleticism) would stack up against a better draft class. While Marcus Banks and Quinton Ross have hung around the league for years, and Troy Bell is starring in Europe, the class has only one starting point guard in the league, Mo Williams.
Nonetheless, Schaefer explained that Blake’s numbers hold up against any draft class.
“I can tell you on a year-by-year comparison for the 11 years I’ve done the testing that Steve’s numbers would hold up very well, and he would rank among the top point guards consistently,” he said. “All of his numbers are superb, but I’m particularly impressed with his four-corner agility and speed, which really reflect well and quantify why he’s been as successful as he has, and why he’s a particularly tenacious defender.”
In other words, those two tests specifically showed the Lakers that Blake has elite speed and quickness with his feet, enabling him to stay in front of the league’s fastest offensive players, which is something he’s done successfully throughout his career.
Schaefer’s attention now turns towards trying to help Blake grow even further from a physical standpoint, a process that generally begins after Labor Day. While rookies like Kupchak’s second round picks Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter will start on a specific program, veterans like Blake are given quite a bit of latitude in the Lakers weight room.
“I give veterans the deferential respect that they deserve, where it starts as more of a conversation about what Steve likes to do, and so on,” said Schaefer. “Unless there is something they do that we think is awful, we allow them to do what’s helped them make successful, and then little by little expose them to some of our philosophies.”
One thing about which the Lakers can be assured: Blake won’t be limited from an athletic standpoint.
Schaefer has the data to prove it.