Eric Bledsoe, is it always sunny in Phoenix?
Eric Bledsoe was traded from the Los Angeles Clippers to the Phoenix Suns this offseason. Previously, Bledsoe’s role was backing up Clippers point guard Chris Paul. Because of this, there is a large amount of mystery surrounding Bledsoe as a player and how good he can truly be. During Bledsoe’s time as a Clipper, he showed flashes of brilliance which led people to ask what he could do as a full-time starter in the NBA. It appears as though this trade to the Suns will provide Bledsoe with the opportunity that everyone has wanted to see. This has led to a fair amount of hype and excitement for the upcoming season on what Bledsoe will bring to the table.
Firstly, it must be said that it is expected that Bledsoe will start the season playing shooting guard, but new Suns Head Coach Jeff Hornacek has spoken about the possibility of Dragic and Bledsoe being interchangeable playmakers and scorers for the Suns. This means that both players will have opportunities playing each of the guard positions. I definitely think that Bledsoe has the ability to be successful at both of these positions, but it will be shown that there are certain areas he needs to improve in order to live up to the high expectations that the media has developed.
After being around and training with Bledsoe, new teammate Goran Dragic spoke highly of his new teammate’s abilities.
“He’s a mini-Lebron James,” Dragic said of Bledsoe. “He’s got that big strength so when he’s in the open court, he’s unstoppable. Like a lot of fans know, I like to play fast basketball. When I get the ball to the other guy, he’s going to run. We’re going to score a lot of points.” – Suns on NBA.com, Goran Dragic “Excited” About Suns’ Offseason
Dragic, being Bledsoe’s teammate probably has good reasons to make statements like this. This quote however, has caught fire and is being liberally shared all over the media, including Twitter. This only helps to highlight my belief that Bledsoe is on a perilous slope towards being overrated, no small thanks to the lofty expectations that are being set in the coming season.
There is no denying the fact that Eric is a highly athletic, lockdown defender. Unfortunately, despite being a three-year player in the league, he still has a lot of shortcomings on half-court offense. This obviously is a significant problem for someone who is expected to spell minutes at point guard.
Missing the dimes
There are a number of key statistics that make it quite easy to show how poor Bledsoe was on half-court offense last season. During the 2012/13 season, Bledsoe recorded an assist percentage of 23.5%, which is the percentage of teammates field goals that a player assists on while they’re on the court. For comparison, Brandon Jennings –who is typically considered selfish for a point guard– had an assist percentage of 29.1% last season. Assist percentage gives us a good look at someone like Bledsoe, because of the lack of minutes he was playing as a Clipper, and clearly tell us his deficiency to play the one, largely due to his inability to run an NBA offense effectively.
Taking care of the rock
In half-court offense, Bledsoe clearly had trouble with his decision making and awareness. This is also highlighted by the fact that he turned the ball over 3.2 times per 36 minutes during the last season. Obviously, this is far too much for someone who might be handling the ball more next season. Bledsoe is quite a good ball handler, which helps to highlight just how poor of a decision maker he can be at times on half-court offense.
This is going to be extremely problematic for Bledsoe next year if he can’t become much better at making the correct decisions, and being aware of where his teammates are at all times. Obviously this is something players in the NBA can still survive without developing, but if Bledsoe has any chance of reaching the potential that people believe he has, these are definite areas he needs to focus on.
The silver lining
Fortunately, it isn’t all bad for Bledsoe. He has shown that he has the ability to be a very good offensive transition player because of his athleticism and ability to finish around the rim. It has also been previously mentioned that he can be a lockdown defender, which is an extremely important skill for an undersized combo guard in today’s NBA. This would also lead to more transition opportunities, which might mask his half court offensive deficiencies somewhat.
It must also be said that Darren Collison showed a lot of potential when he played behind Chris Paul at the Hornets and was never able to reach expectations once he left. This doesn’t necessarily mean that Bledsoe can’t be successful now that he has left Paul’s shadow, but it helps to show that people expecting Bledsoe to become an All-Star in the next year or two should be prepared for disappointment.
Overall, Bledsoe has the chance to be quite a good player in this league at either of the guard positions. If he can manage to limit his turnovers and create for his teammates more he has a chance at reaching his potential. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done and I don’t think that Eric will be able to make as much improvement as he would need to in order to reach the sky high expectations that others have set.
What do you think, where Eric Bledsoe’s performance end up in the months ahead? Let us know what you think, leave a comment and share your thoughts.