Bucks Lead

Bucks Lead Season Review #10: Eric Bledsoe

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I’m very happy I have the opportunity to write a season recap on Eric Bledsoe, because I’m hoping it’ll help me sort out some of my own thoughts on him. Bledsoe has been a polarizing force amongst Bucks fans since he joined the squad last November. If you scroll through twitter on any given day you’ll see him as the centerpiece of everyone’s trade proposal, which is pretty odd for a guy who was widely considered the 2nd or 3rd best player on the team for the majority of the season. We haven’t even seen Milwaukee’s big-three play together for a full regular season and people are already saying the KEG is tapped.

 

Don’t get me wrong I think Bledsoe can be a solid trade-piece for the right team. He’s a super athletic guard, who can score in bunches, and even if that’s not necessarily what you need, his contract comes off the books after next season which makes him an asset to any team looking to clear cap space. On the other side of the coin, he plays a position that’s stacked with talent in this league, which decreases his worth, and I’m not sure if what Milwaukee would get in return is any better than letting this experiment run for one more season under a competent coach. Worst case scenario, the Bucks let him walk in 2019 and open up a little space to operate in free agency. Ultimately this decision is out of my hands and, like the rest of you, all I can do is sit back and see what Bud and Horst come up with. So let’s take a look at how the Bled-show performed this season, and see if we can get to the bottom of why so many people are calling for his head.

 

On October 22nd, 2017 Eric sent out his infamous “I Don’t wanna be here” tweet and was almost immediately placed on Phoenix’s trading block. Milwaukee was instantly associated with a small group of teams known to have shown interest in acquiring Bledsoe. (Side note: One thing I’ve seen from Horst since he took over the GM position is that he always seems to inquire about what it would take to get any player that is seemingly made available. It doesn’t mean he’s necessarily interested in everyone or that he’s looking to blow up the roster, but it does show that he’s thorough and tries to be aware of the value teams place on individual players. It’s a “no stone left unturned” philosophy and I like that in a GM.) On November 7th the Bucks traded Greg Monroe and a first round pick to the Suns in exchange for Eric Bledsoe. Monroe had struggled to live up to the expectations placed upon him when he signed with Milwaukee in the summer of 2015 and parting ways here felt like the right thing to do. The first rounder was set to convey next month, had the Bucks “won” a coin-toss that was to determine the draft order between them and the Miami heat. Milwaukee lost the toss and thus, the pick will likely convey next summer when it will hopefully land later in the twenties rather than in the teens. All in all, a pretty fair trade and one Bucks fans should be satisfied with assuming the team performs well enough next year to push that pick back.

 

Three days after being traded Eric Bledsoe was set to play his first game as a Buck. He was immediately inserted into the starting lineup and played 29 minutes against the Spurs in San Antonio. He put up 13 points on 40% from the field and added 4 rebounds and 7 assists to round out a pretty decent stat-line, considering the circumstances. Eric’s speed and explosiveness stood out immediately as something Milwaukee had lacked before his arrival and gave the team another level of versatility. His impact on the team was clear as he quickly became the Bucks’ third best scoring option, putting up 17.7 ppg on 47% from the field and 35% from 3-point range. Bledsoe led the team in assists and steals averaging 5.0 and 2.0 respectively. He also added 3.8 rebounds per game, the most among any of the Bucks’ guards. He had a slightly better stat-line last year with Phoenix, putting up 21.1 points, 6.3 assists, 4.8 boards, and 1.4 steals. I think we need to credit this to the fact that he was one of two competent players for the Suns in the 2016-2017 season, along with Devin Booker, which allowed him to play a much larger role.

 

No matter what you think about Eric Bledsoe, you have to admit that he put up some solid numbers over the regular season. You also have to admit he put up some disappointing numbers in the playoffs. In 7 games against the Celtics Eric averaged 13.6 points, 3.7 assists, 3.6 rebounds, and 1.0 steal. Down in every category from the regular season, which is… not great. In a series that close you’ve got to think that if Bledsoe had managed to pull it together for one of those games in Boston, the Bucks would’ve been able to advance. The worst part of Bledsoe’s playoff performance might not have even been on the court. In the post-game press conference after Game 1, Terry Rozier mistakenly referred Eric Bledsoe as Drew Bledsoe. Then, after getting absolutely worked by Rozier for the second straight game Eric responded to a question about Terry, saying he “didn’t know who the f*** that is”, a line that would’ve been a lot cooler had their on-court matchup been a little more competitive.

 

 

The two played physically and exchanged some words over the next five games, but after the Celtics took Game 7 it was quite clear which of the two came away on top. Terry proceeded to demoralize Bledsoe further by wearing a Drew Bledsoe jersey to Game 1 of the Celtics series against the 76ers and selling a t-shirt, in partnership with Barstool Sports, in which he is portrayed as a cartoon, wearing a “scream” mask, as well as the aforementioned Drew Bledsoe jersey.

That’s about as rough of a playoff series as one man can have and, honestly, if this is the reason people want the Bucks’ to part ways with Bledsoe, I can’t say I don’t get it. This was hard to watch and it’s not going to be easy for Eric to come back from. He might need to head down to New Orleans and pay a visit to a witch doctor, maybe he needs to hike Kilimanjaro, or take a spiritual journey down in South America. I don’t know and I’m not going to pretend to. What I do know is that the next time he sees Terry Rozier, whether it’s on a basketball court or at the supermarket, he has to dunk on him as hard as he can in order to restore his reputation.

 

All that being said, and playoffs aside, Eric Bledsoe still had a good year for the Bucks and gave them the third option they desperately needed in Jabari Parker’s absence. He needs to learn how to be more of a facilitator on the court and he takes far too many difficult jumpers early in the shot-clock, especially with guys like Khris and Giannis on the floor. He also needs to be more consistent on defense, he’s shown flashes of what he can do, defending what is absolutely the most offensively talented position in the league, but he takes too many plays off and Milwaukee doesn’t rotate well enough to cover that. These are all things that I believe can be fixed with the right coach. Budenholzer is a defense first guy who emphasizes ball movement on offense and if he can get Bledsoe to buy into that system I’d love to see what he can do for this team.

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