The biggest story as of late—apart from All-Star Weekend—has been the potential deal of Paul Millsap from the Utah Jazz for Eric Bledsoe of the Los Angeles Clippers. It was first reported by ESPN.com on February 17 and would be an intriguing trade for either team. However, the Jazz would certainly benefit the most.
Currently, Utah has been forced to start veteran Jamaal Tinsley at point guard. With Mo Williams missing time with a thumb injury, the Jazz are desperate for a competent player to run the offense. While the team is doing well with what they have, deploying Bledsoe is far more enticing than Randy Foye or Tinsley.
He's averaging 9.6 points and 3.3 assists as a member of the Clippers, mostly as a reserve. Bledsoe's energetic play off the bench as made him a fan favorite, which would make LA's decision risky. However, bringing in a forward like Millsap alongside Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan is hard to pass up.
Due to being relegated to a reserve role, Bledsoe's averages don't tell the whole story. When examining his contributions with Chris Paul missing time with an injury, his numbers jump right off the page.
Bledsoe upped his production to 14.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 2.5 steals and 1.3 blocks per game in Paul's absence. His defense is mighty for his position, however, that is something we'll examine later. Bledsoe didn't shoot that well, converting just 40.5 percent as the starting guard, yet was able to hit at a 43.8 percent clip from beyond the arc.
It should be noted that while his long-range shooting percentages are high, Bledsoe attempts just one per game. He's a low-volume shooter, instead preferring to get into the paint and score on easy shots. According to NBA.com, an astounding 59.5 percent of Bledsoe's offense comes in the paint, with 28.4 percent from mid-range and 11.5 percent from three-point range.
Will Bledsoe help the Jazz return to being a top-tier team?
A deeper look at Bledsoe's scoring indicates his proficiency with the pick-and-roll. He's shooting 42.7 percent on such plays, which should make for a lethal combination should he arrive in Utah. Having Al Jefferson and/or Derrick Favors setting screens gives the Jazz the luxury of a pick-and-pop or a roll man as well.
Bledsoe's athleticism and ability to finish inside will give defenses headaches, as they will be forced to pick their poison with Utah's big men or allowing Bledsoe to coast to the rim and finish.
On the other side of the ball, Bledsoe's defensive prowess is quite intimidating despite standing just 6'1". He's averaging 1.6 steals and a stellar 0.9 blocks, which leads all guards. The well-versed shot-denier Dwyane Wade trails Bledsoe by 0.03, which is completely negligible, however, the two are always on the lookout to send shots flying.
While such a statistic most probably derives from the guard's athleticism, it is just one more aspect of Bledsoe's game that would prove to be beneficial to the Jazz. He would be reunited with former Clipper Mo Williams in the backcourt and together would a great duo for Utah.
At this point, the trade remains a discussion rather than an imminent transaction. As seen in the original report, the two teams will more than likely "discuss the feasibility of a trade headlined by Bledsoe and Millsap before the deadline".
Utah fans should remain hopeful, as adding a guard of Bledsoe's caliber would launch the Jazz as a top team in the West. Losing Millsap will be difficult, however, with Favors and center Enes Kanter ready to step in and contribute. Having the two big men on hand makes Millsap's departure easier, and the welcoming of Bledsoe extremely anticipated.