Chris Paul's Injury Gives Eric Bledsoe Opportunity to Shine

Tim Keeney@@t_keenContributor IFebruary 2, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 27:  Eric Bledsoe #12 of the Los Angeles Clippers scores on a layup during the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center on January 27, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.  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 Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Having the best point guard in the NBA constantly "suit up" on the bench has to be a lot easier when you also have the best backup point guard in the NBA. 

Thus is the intriguing predicament the Los Angeles Clippers currently find themselves in. 

Chris Paul, who is currently third in the league in PER behind just LeBron James and Kevin Durant (decent company to find yourself in), suffered what appeared to be a minor knee on Jan. 12 against the Orlando Magic.

Here we are nearly a month later, and the unstoppable point guard has gingerly played in two games, missed nine others and doesn't appear close to a comeback (via the Los Angeles Times' Brad Turner):

There is no timetable for his return.

That would be a devastating blow—just ask the 2009-10 New Orleans Hornets—for most teams, but Eric Bledsoe has been admirable in his stead, helping the Clips tread water (5-4) without their star. 

Of course, if you watched the former Kentucky stud in limited action earlier this season, that's probably not all that surprising. 

In 39 games off the bench this year, Bledsoe averaged 8.4 points on 47.1 percent shooting to go along with 2.7 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.7 blocks and 1.5 steals in just 18.1 minutes per contest. 

He gave immediate production every time he entered the game, and most believed that once he received more playing time, everyone would learn his name. And quickly.

That time is here.

In nine starts, Bledsoe has struggled a little bit with his shot. He's shooting just 35.9 percent from the field, but he's still putting in 11.4 points along with 4.9 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.1 blocks and 2.3 steals per game. 

According to Basketball Reference, Bledsoe has an offensive rating of 101. That's a massive increase from his first two years in the league, but it's a number that leaves room for improvement. Still, as ESPN Stats & Info pointed out, he showed signs of being a distributor Wednesday against Minnesota:

Nevertheless, Bledsoe's best attribute on the floor right now is undoubtedly his sticky defensive presence. 

Not only does he have a tidy defensive rating of 98, but he leads the league in steal percentage at 4.1. 

As such, it's unsurprising that he's getting praise like this from ESPN's Chris Palmer:

Bledsoe may not technically be a starter when Chris Paul is healthy, but with the All-Star sidelined indefinitely, the Clippers are lucky he has starter talent.