Is Eric Bledsoe Trade Bait or a Critical Piece to LA Clippers' Future?

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistFebruary 5, 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

The popular rumor that floated around for a good six minutes before being shot down after the Boston Celtics beat the Los Angeles Clippers was that the Clippers were open to trading Eric Bledsoe for Kevin Garnett, making it seem as if Bledsoe could definitely be used as trade bait.

Bledsoe has really come on strong for the Los Angeles Clippers this season, and it only makes sense that the trade rumors would start up with a movement to free him from the shackles of the Los Angeles bench.

What we've seen from him in the past few months is that he's a very capable defender, he can score well, get to the rim and really get out and run with a second unit.

However, after Chris Paul went down with a knee injury, it meant that Bledsoe would have to step up into a starting role and help keep the team afloat while their unquestioned leader nursed his knee on the sidelines.

It's taken some getting used to for Bledsoe, and he's still working out just how to play up to everyone's expectations when he's on the floor for 33 minutes a game.

As a starter he is averaging 12.6 points per game, 5.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists (all nearly double his reserve numbers), but he's doing it all while shooting just 39 percent from the floor, as opposed to 47 percent as a reserve.

There are two areas where we've seen him either stand pat or improve drastically in a starting role.

As a three-point shooter, he's getting better when on the floor for more minutes, shying away from shooting contested shots and taking more well-thought-out jumpers.

Plus, his defense has continued to work for him at an incredible level, with some even putting him up there with elite names.

NBA's 3 best defensive players 6-2 and under: 1. Eric Bledsoe 2. Avery Bradley 3. Chris Paul

— chris palmer (@ESPNChrisPalmer) January 31, 2013

So what's to be done with Bledsoe?

Obviously the Clippers already have the best point guard in the NBA, and if they could get a player of a high caliber like Kevin Garnett in exchange for the little dude, it wouldn't be that difficult of a decision as long as they had a backup plan.

However, it seems a bit overzealous to be dangling him around when there's still just no telling when Chris Paul is going to be back at full strength, this according to the Los Angeles Times' Brad Turner.

CP not practicing yet RT @qlippers: @ba_turner how's cp3? Is he practicing or just resting?

— Brad Turner (@BA_Turner) February 2, 2013

To give away a player who is really the only true point guard on the depth chart at a time when your star point guard is still neither here nor there is a wild and reckless move.

It's true, the Clippers haven't been great in Paul's 10-game absences, stroking a 5-5 record. But they have been good enough to jog in place without giving up too much ground to the top teams in the Western Conference.

So it seems that Bledsoe's future with the Clippers depends heavily on how Paul recovers in the coming weeks and what the trade would entail.

If they could land a quality player, potentially a frontcourt bulldog, to go along with a new backup point guard, then there would be few qualms about getting rid of a young guard who will be stuck behind Paul for years to come.

However, if Paul continues to struggle with knee problems, it's always good to have a backup plan. And Eric Bledsoe is one hell of a backup plan.