Coming out of the University of Kentucky, Eric Bledsoe was regarded as one of the most athletic players in the draft, but he still needed to learn how to play point guard. While that may remain true after two full seasons in the NBA, there is no denying Bledsoe’s ability to impact games on multiple levels.
Nicknamed “baby LeBron” by King James himself, Bledsoe has been putting on an aerial display of dunks and blocks all season long. If he were six inches taller, he might look like a version of the reigning MVP.
Nine points and nearly three rebounds and assists per game may not look like much, but zoom out and analyze it from a different angle and the picture becomes clearer.
First, he is backing up one of the best (if not the best) point guards in the NBA in Chris Paul. That is a major reason why the electric guard is playing a meager 18.5 minutes per contest. However, prorate his numbers over 40 minutes and things begin to standout: 20.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 6.3 assists are his per-40-minute numbers. Those would put Bledsoe in Paul Pierce’s range.
Obviously, there is no way to know if Bledsoe would be able to keep up his play over 40 minutes each night or become a player of Pierce’s caliber. However, those numbers are one reason why teams are going to be hard-pressed to swipe him away from the Los Angeles Clippers.
Furthermore, Bledsoe's PER of 22.87 ranks him 13th in the entire league and second among point guards behind teammate, Chris Paul.
To go along with Bledsoe’s impressive numbers is his development. He is having a career year in nearly every statistical category, most notably his turnover ratio and hit shooting metrics.
According to Hoopdata, Bledsoe’s highest field-goal percentage came his rookie season, where he shot 42.4 percent from the field and 27.6 percent from behind the arc. This season, Bledsoe’s development and hard work at improving his shooting is clearly evident by watching him play and looking at his statistics. He is shooting a career-high 50 percent from the field and 36.4 from three.
Bledsoe’s shooting has improved, but more importantly, his shot selection is getting better as well. The previous two seasons Bledsoe would be a blur in the open floor, but if teams were able to get back on defense and slow him down, he was more of a liability in the half court than an asset.
Obviously, it helps playing next to a scoring threat like Jamal Crawford, but Bledsoe is attacking the rim with such alarming success that defenses have to play off him. This has allowed Bledsoe to step into his three-point attempts and focus on maintaining his form on long jumpers.
According to Hoopdata, Bledsoe has an effective field-goal rate from three of 54.6 percent. While long two-point jumpers remain his weakness, Bledsoe is shooting a career-high percentage from thee to nine feet and from 10 to 15 feet.
Finally, the main strength of Bledsoe’s game is his speed and length. He can beat nearly anyone rim to rim with the ball, but he can also defend extremely well.
Bledsoe’s defensive rating, according to basketball reference, is a mere 98. His ability to lock down speedy point guards, body up more physical guards and jump out in passing lanes makes him extremely efficient on both ends of the floor.
More importantly, Bledsoe’s defense leads to his offense, as evidenced by his 1.5 steals per game. Nobody is going to catch Eric Bledsoe from behind, especially with him finishing above the rim and with staggering power.
Overall, the Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs may not have been ready for Eric Bledsoe last season in the playoffs, but the rest of the NBA is not ready, either. Bledsoe’s career season thus far, despite limited minutes, is sure to make him a hot commodity on the trade market.
But do not fret, Clipper fans. Eric Bledsoe is a vital piece of the Clippers' championship-caliber roster and might be for quite some time.