According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the Los Angeles Clippers have traded point guard Eric Bledsoe and small forward Caron Butler to the Phoenix Suns in a three-team deal. This comes after months of speculation as to where Bledsoe would end up.
The question is, how does Bledsoe fit with the Phoenix Suns?
This news comes as a surprise, as the Clippers had reportedly been involved in talks with the Dallas Mavericks and Milwaukee Bucks. While the Bucks ended up being incorporated into the deal, with J.J. Redick heading to Los Angeles, no one saw this coming.
Even still, it happened.
Now, it's all about how Bledsoe fits into the Suns' plans.
The Suns are coming off of a season in which they were a Western Conference worst 25-57. This comes after they spent mountains of money to bring on the likes of Goran Dragic, Michael Beasley and Luis Scola.
With a new general manager in place, it appears as if no one is safe—not even their point guards.
This is where things get tricky since Goran Dragic is a significantly better option than Eric Bledsoe offensively right now. Bledsoe can turn the Suns into a run-and-gun team with his ability to push the pace and finish in transition, but when games slow down, his efficiency is damaged.
More importantly, Dragic is actually more efficient in the open court.
According to Synergy Sports, 28.9 percent of Dragic's points came in transition, where he shot 60.1 percent from the field. By comparison, Bledsoe converted 53.6 percent in transition during the 2012-13 season.
Dragic is proficient enough as a ball hawk to make an impact defensively, but Bledsoe can turn turnovers into points as well as anyone in the NBA. He was third in steals per 48 minutes during the 2012-13 season and is as difficult to defend as any with a full head of steam.
With the power to attack off of high screens, the Suns may have found their pick-and-roll duo of the future with he and Alex Len.
During the 2012-13 NBA regular season, the Phoenix Suns were fifth in the NBA in turnovers forced per game. In fact, Phoenix was one of 14 NBA franchises to post a positive turnover differential.
That's about the only thing worth noting when it comes to the Suns' defense.
According to Synergy Sports, the Suns were 17th in points allowed per isolation play during the 2012-13 season. They were also 19th in points allowed by the pick-and-roll ball handler, 27th against the dive man and 26th against spot-up jump shooters.
Bledsoe can have a positive impact in each of those areas.
Bledsoe's defensive fundamentals are severely overstated, but his ability to play the passing lanes makes him a player that every ball handler must watch for. Furthermore, Bledsoe does an excellent job of blitzing the pick-and-roll, keeping the proper distance between he and a ball handler.
He's not yet an elite on-ball defender, but as a 23-year-old point guard with explosive athleticism and a powerful 195-pound frame, the upside is undeniable.
Does He Start?
If there was one person to let off of the hook for the Phoenix Suns' shortcomings in 2012-13, it was point guard Goran Dragic. He led the team in scoring, assists and steals per game at 14.7 points, 7.4 dimes and 1.6 swipes with a Player Efficiency rating of 17.52.
With that being said, since this was the first trade executed by new general manager Ryan McDonough, it's relatively clear what this means.
Eric Bledsoe has started 38 games in three seasons, but the purpose of this trade is understood. The Suns aren't going anywhere in the next few seasons, and the selection of Alex Len in the 2013 NBA draft confirmed that.
Instead, they're looking to build for the future.
Dragic has trade value, which suggests he could start early in the season, but Bledsoe is the long-term option. He'll see at least 25 minutes per game, and by season's end, should take over as the team's starter.
Don't be shocked to see Dragic's name come up on the trade market even sooner, thus resulting in Bledsoe being granted the role of starting point guard.
Dragic will be able to add more wins to their slate in 2013-14, but the Suns won't be competing for a title any time soon. At this stage, all signs point towards the Suns developing their low-high tandem of Bledsoe and Len, thus developing chemistry as they approach the 2014 NBA draft.
There are no guarantees to be made, but Bledsoe is an open court menace with elite defensive upside and the ability to run the pick-and-roll. With nothing in place in Phoenix but a recently drafted center, that makes Bledsoe's role in Phoenix quite clear.
For the first time in his career, Bledsoe is preparing to be a franchise player.
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