Why Eric Bledsoe Is Destined to Break out for L.A. Clippers Next Season

Maxwell OgdenCorrespondent IIIAugust 15, 2012

SAN ANTONIO, TX - MAY 15:  Eric Bledsoe #12 of the Los Angeles Clippers leans over to catch his breath during a break in the action against the San Antonio Spurs in Game One of the Western Conference Semifinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center on May 15, 2012 in San Antonio, Texas. The Spurs defeated the Clippers 108-92. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

The 2012 NBA postseason was one of extreme highs and devastating lows for the Los Angeles Clippers.

On one hand, their appearance alone made waves, as it was just the fifth time the franchise had made the postseason since relocating to Los Angeles in 1984. Unfortunately, the playoffs ended with a sweep at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs.

The label of "pretender" was once again placed upon the Los Angeles Clippers.

Not all created disappointment, however, as the Clippers found themselves in possession of a rising star. Eric Bledsoe, who was selected with the 18th pick of the 2010 NBA Draft, burst onto the scene with high-quality minutes and smothering defense.

John Wall's former backup at Kentucky proved to the world that he could play with the big boys every time out.

His shining moment was in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals, when Bledsoe overcame Tony Parker and the San Antonio Spurs to score 23 points in 27 minutes. Bledsoe followed the performance by putting up 17 points on 8-of-10 shooting during a three point loss to close out the series.

No matter how impressive they are, the statistics still do not tell the story. Instead, Eric Bledsoe's contributions range well beyond a box score. His energy, tenacity and intelligent play of the passing lanes helped turn a seemingly pedestrian Clippers team into a threat for the crown.

Such was on full display as Bledsoe was one of the key players in Los Angeles' legendary 27-point comeback against the Memphis Grizzlies.

As a result, Eric Bledsoe has built up a full head of steam and loads of momentum heading into the 2013 NBA season. Expect the former Kentucky Wildcat to make the most of the pending opportunities and further turn heads.

Such will be evident as Bledsoe finds the floor and continues his fearless pursuit of glory in 2013.

One might question where his minutes will come from, as Chauncey Billups and Jamal Crawford are clearly the bigger names with more experience. What's important to note, however, is that Bledsoe does not need 30 minutes a game to contribute.

Not when he's a 22-year-old unknown with nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Bledsoe will likely find his playing time as the reserve point guard, with Billups and Crawford splitting time at the 2. While in the game, he'll often work without the ball in his hands and play the role of slasher off of screens. His offense, however, is far from what we should be focusing on.

Bledsoe has the athleticism, strength and quickness necessary to be a lockdown perimeter defender. He utilizes each of those to perfection; his motor is unquestioned, and results are even more encouraging.

With Chris Paul set to become a free agent after the 2013 season, expect Vinny Del Negro to take full notice of such abilities.

Although fans may not want to hear this, the Los Angeles Clippers must plan for the worst. Although they certainly expect to re-sign CP3, there is no guarantee that they will. For that reason, they must breed what could be the point guard of their future.

The best way to go about that would be to offer Bledsoe as much time at the helm of the team as possible. Time that will lead to nothing short of brilliant play.

Expect Eric Bledsoe to be a top contender for Most Improved Player of the Year.