Los Angeles Clippers

How Chris Paul's Thumb Surgery Will Open the Door for Eric Bledsoe

SAN ANTONIO, TX - MAY 15:  Manu Ginobili #20 of the San Antonio Spurs and Eric Bledsoe #12 of the Los Angeles Clippers battle for a loose ball 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)
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Maxwell OgdenCorrespondent IIIAugust 27, 2012

For those who have missed out on the biggest non-free agency NBA news of the Summer, five-time All-Star and Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul has had surgery on his thumb. As a result, CP3 will be sidelined for roughly eight weeks of time.

This will likely cause him to miss the entirety of the Clippers' training camp.

Although Chris Paul has always battled injuries and recovered adequately, this time could be different. This is not to suggest that the Wake Forest alum will not be able to return to form, of course, as he most likely will. Instead, this is to acknowledge a door that one man is about to open and sprint through.

That man, of course, is Eric Bledsoe.

It would be naive to suggest that Chris Paul will lose playing time to Bledsoe or any other teammate. Paul is widely believed to be the best point guard in the game today, which all but guarantees the starting spot in Vinny Del Negro's lineup.

Just because Chris Paul holds onto his minutes, however, does not mean another player will not find more for himself. That player, as previously alluded to, is Eric Bledsoe.

Bledsoe burst onto the scene during the 2012 NBA postseason, displaying a defensive tenacity and all-out effort that was key to the Clippers' historic 27-point comeback against the Memphis Grizzlies. The effort carried over throughout the duration of the playoffs and the production followed along.

Eric Bledsoe registered a 23-point performance in Game 1 and a 17-point outing in Game 4 against Tony Parker and the San Antonio Spurs.

This also came with a Western Conference semifinals average of 2.3 steals per game—a number that Eric Bledsoe could easily flirt with if the minutes were available.

Although his statistics won't see a boost as a direct result of Chris Paul's injury, his minutes could by virtue of the opportunity he's set to receive in training camp. Chauncey Billups and Jamal Crawford will make that difficult, unfortunately, as both have carved out reputations as borderline elite players at their position.

Fortunately for Bledsoe, Billups is coming off of a season-ending Achilles injury and Jamal Crawford just had his worst season since 2002. Billups is also 35 while Crawford is an aged 32.

Bledsoe is 22.

If Eric Bledsoe is able to impress Vinny Del Negro enough, which he likely will, it's hard to imagine he won't receive more playing time. Chris Paul is entering his contract year and Bledsoe very well could be the next in line for a franchise hoping to maintain and improve upon its newfound glory.

Although the Los Angeles Clippers believe that Chris Paul will re-sign, it's not hard to find glimpses of doubt and uncertainty within their brass and fanbase. As a result, building for the future becomes a legitimate move to consider.

After all, we're talking about a franchise that would rather have two point guards in the starting lineup than a true shooting guard. Even if they do manage to re-sign Chris Paul during the Summer of 2013, could anyone be foolish enough to choose a 35-year-old point guard with a history of injury over a 22-year-old defensive force for the long-term?

With Chris Paul sidelined for eight weeks, don't be too surprised to know that answer by the start of the season. The future will prove to be now.

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