The B-Side: Eric Bledsoe Finds a Home off the Ball

Rob MahoneyNBA Lead WriterApril 23, 2012

Getty Images
Getty Images

The B-Side is a recurring feature here at Bleacher Report that gives kudos to the unheralded: the brilliantly executed set that leads to a bland layup, the swarming coverage that causes a shot clock violation or even the phenomenal move that ends with a blown finish. Every night in the NBA is filled with plays that are noteworthy for a wide variety of reasons, and this space is set aside to enjoy the alternatives to the standard highlight—one clip at a time.

Up until a few weeks ago, few players faced as much NBA uncertainty as Eric Bledsoe. He simply has a way of making broad zones into fine lines; Bledsoe's style and lack of positional definition make him tough to place, and on a Clippers team that's now set at point guard for the foreseeable future, Bledsoe's default NBA slotting had been conclusively swept out from under him.

Bledsoe can still be a point guard (in some sense of that term), but he's lost any theoretical hold he once had on being L.A.'s "point guard of the future." Paul's presence on the roster—in addition to Mo Williams' hold on the backup responsibilities at the point—forces Bledsoe to prove his on-court worth by other means and in other roles. And, despite his fairly ambiguous status throughout most of the Clippers' season, Bledsoe has managed to find a valuable niche as an off-ball worker for one of the league's most prolific offenses.

One example, albeit one twisted by the chaos of a forced turnover:

Yet this kind of play points out exactly where Bledsoe has found the most comfort as a Clipper. Maybe he really is too wild to be a primary ball-handler. Maybe his vision really is too limited to run a top-tier offense. But his athleticism and instincts are resources that can easily be harvested, particularly when playing alongside a creator of Paul's magnitude.

There, Bledsoe's athleticism isn't countered by opponents trying to stick him on the dribble, but a ready weapon against the greater weaknesses of opposing defenses. And limited though his perceptions as a playmaker may be, Bledsoe manages to navigate the baseline and paint like a natural. Bledsoe—in spite of his complete lack of an outside shot—was made for off-ball work on offense, and forcing him to make plays because of his height does both him and his team a disservice.

Defensively, Bledsoe—like Paul—is pesky enough to prevent being exploited by bigger defenders. He's a versatile asset prime for cross-matching, and although that may be an imperfect solution, it seems a far more elegant one than possibly forcing a brilliantly capable player into a nonsensical role.

NBA players are professionals who deserve an opportunity to do what they do best, so long as they can demonstrate their on-court worth; guys like Bledsoe (and by extension, similar players like Avery Bradley) may seem limited by conventional standards prescribed to their height, but talents so robust deserve implementation, no matter the normative hangups.