Is Anyone Paying Attention to Eric Bledsoe?

Two years ago, Eric Bledsoe held the Phoenix Suns hostage until they paid him a max deal. It was a familiar negotiation: you know me so what are you going to pay me. What the Suns knew was that Bledsoe, a Calipari product, had this amazingly preternatural ability to hurt his knee and miss a lot of games. What the Suns also knew was that Bledsoe was a versatile player. He could defend at the rim, given his six foot size. He could dribble pull up and then three points would be on the board. He could drive downhill for a bucket. He had court vision and was skilled in the paint with the dribble. More importantly, he had that one thing so many NBAers thinks they have but are in short supply of. Eric Bledsoe is tough.

A one year Kentucky product, Eric Bledsoe was the 18th pick in the 2010 NBA draft. He was selected by the Clippers who had no idea that Bledsoe would battle Chris Paul as a starter. It wasn’t that Bledsoe was as good as Paul; he wasn’t. But it was clear that Eric Bledsoe was good enough to run a NBA team.

Bledsoe’s first year in the league, Paul, as usual, was injured. Bledsoe took his place and even though he had his rookie moments he passed the eye test. The biggest blunder in Doc Rivers history was getting rid of Bledsoe because he couldn’t or didn’t want to pay him considering the Clippers still had to pay DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin.  If they had Bledsoe next to Paul a couple of years ago, the Clippers may have made a Western Conference Finals appearance.

Or not.

Bledsoe has the Chris Paul injury disease. He has played an 80 game schedule twice in six years. This year he is on track to make it three times out of seven years.

Bledsoe had a shin injury that later became a meniscus injury. Another meniscus injury ended his 2015-16 season and the question was suddenly legitimate: can he stay healthy. Is he Derrick Rose-ing the Suns?

Umm….no.

He was the first Sun since Amare Stoudamire to have three straight 30 point games. He only needed 11 days to drop three 40 point games (January 22, January 28, February 1). He dropped 11 dimes against the 76ers. 13 dimes against Toronto and the Lakers.

He is having a career year passing the ball, 6.3 assists, and scoring the ball, 21.6 points. Had the Suns been a playoff team Bledsoe would have been in the All-Star game. His offensive rating of 113 is the highest it has ever been. HIs 21.5 PER is the highest it has ever been. He is the 16th ranked point guard (Real Plus-Minus).

It’s not a perfect season. The Suns only have 18 wins. Bledsoe is only shooting 35% on pull-ups and catch and shoots, and his defense is a career worst, ranked 56th among point guards, not much better than old Jose Calderon and Deron Williams. Because his team should snag a top three lottery pick- they are that bad- and this is the NBA that only notices superstars that are on bad teams, Eric Bledsoe is invisible.

But to all the haters who clowned him for his $70 million dollar contract, he is having the last word. Of course, he is not making his teammates better, they are too young and inexperienced. But he is making himself better and in this league that counts for something.

There has been talk about moving Bledsoe, particularly if the Suns get the number two pick and draft Lonzo Ball, the UCLA do everything point many consider a franchise changing talent. If that does happen, the Suns will want deep compensation, say Jimmy Butler.

Bledsoe only has two more years on a friendly deal of $30 million. He will be 30 by the time this contract ends and can really cash in with a contender. The only caveat is can Eric Bledsoe stay healthy? If he can, this is the best of times for Eric Bledsoe, despite the Suns pathetic record.

 

photo via llananba