Eric Bledsoe and the rest of the new Phoenix Suns by advanced stats

Posted by on July 31st, 12:02 pm

Eric Bledsoe entered this offseason as perhaps the most sought-after trade prospect that has yet to really prove anything.

Thanks to limitless athleticism and a variety of jarring plays he has made as Chris Paul’s backup the last few years, his potential is tantalizing yet 2013-14 will be his first opportunity to command his own team and prove he’s worthy of that “future star” label.

Yet that doesn’t mean it’s too early to take a look at Bledsoe, as well as a few other new teammates, through the lenses of advanced stats.

Perhaps Bledsoe’s biggest strength at this point of his career isn’t an advanced stat, but it’s noteworthy nonetheless. Only former teammate Paul and Ricky Rubio recorded more steals per 48 minutes than Bledsoe’s 3.37 mark last year, making this a category he’s already elite in. Opposing ballhandlers figure to have lots of trouble with the Suns since Goran Dragic has ranked in the top 20 in this department the last two years as well. Bledsoe is also an absurd shot blocker for a point guard, as his average of 1.70 blocks per 48 minutes in 2012-13 more than doubled the next best point guard at 0.7.

It may be too early to call Bledsoe the Suns’ best player, but his 17.60 PER would have led Phoenix a year ago, with Dragic nipping at his heels with a 17.52 mark. It’s hard to say whether Bledsoe can keep up his efficiency when playing more than 20 minutes per game and such a mark would not lead many other NBA teams, but it’s one reason so many teams coveted Bledsoe. Last season’s PER is an enormous jump from the 11.24 and 10.81 marks the former Wildcat put up during his first two campaigns, but such a third-year jump is not uncommon for such a raw player.

Bledsoe improved his true shooting percentage from a measly 45.4 percent all the way up to 51.3 percent as his overall shooting percentage went from 38.9 percent to 44.5 percent. The fourth-year guard has shot around 60 percent around the rim in each of his first three seasons, according to HoopData, but last year he improved from 18.2 to 45.0 percent from 3-to-9 feet. He has been a poor long twos shooter the past two seasons, hitting just 25.0 and 29.0 percent, but he doubled his three-point shooting percentage to 39.7 percent from 20.0 percent last year.

Thus far as a pro, Bledsoe has made a name for himself for his defense and his dunks, and his defensive efficiency numbers bear that out. According to NBA.com, the Clippers were 5.7 points per 100 possessions better defensively with Bledsoe on the floor. The Clips were also 7.6 points worse offensively, on the other hand, yet such a regression is expected for a player backing up an offensive maestro like CP3.

The Clippers’ most-used bench unit of Bledsoe-Jamal Crawford-Matt Barnes-Lamar Odom-Ronny Turiaf outscored opponents by a whopping 11.0 points per 100 in 283 minutes, a better mark than Los Angeles’ vaunted starting group. This lineup yielded a suffocating 89.8 points per 100 possessions, and Bledsoe was sure at the heart of that effort.

Bledsoe also thrived when playing alongside Paul, which could be a reason the Suns are optimistic he can play well in lineups with Dragic. In 185 minutes, the Clippers averaged an offensive efficiency of 115.9 and a defensive efficiency of 104.7, a net positive of 11.1, making them the third-best Clippers duo to play at least 175 minutes together. Somehow Lamar Odom belonged in the top two, and in 996 minutes covering 76 games Bledsoe-Odom were a positive 10.9 with a 93.7 defensive rating.

In terms of Wins Produced, Bledsoe was solid as well with a .151 WP48 that led to 4.89 Wins Produced (.100 is a league-average WP48). Such a mark ranks him slightly behind P.J. Tucker (.158) for tops among current Suns. Jared Dudley led the Suns in this department last year with a .174 WP48 that produced 7.89 wins, so perhaps Bledsoe’s contributions will merely cancel out what JD provided by this measure. Michael Beasley produced a team-worst -3.64 wins with a -.113 WP48.

In sum, Bledsoe was a terrific player in limited minutes who made major strides during his third campaign last season. If he can continue improving offensively to complement his already stellar defense, the Suns may indeed have a rising star on their hands.

The Indiana parts

If John Hollinger had been a member of the Indiana Pacers’ front office for the 2012 Draft, there’s no way he would have selected Miles Plumlee. After all, he ranked Plumlee dead last (60th) on his Draft Rater and likely was flummoxed he became a first-round pick. Hollinger wrote that his system “flat-out mocks Miles Plumlee, who is off-the-charts bad with a 2.49 Draft Rater projection.”

It’s unfair to evaluate Plumlee on the 55 minutes he played last season, but they weren’t good either. The Pacers were outscored by 8.4 per 100 whereas otherwise they produced a positive net rating of 5.2. Again, this is a meaningless small sample that could be subject to random variation, so I would put more stock in the negative draft evaluation than this negative piece of evidence.

With his athleticism maybe he figures it out and becomes a solid energy guy down the road, but expectations should be tempered for Plumlee.

Green played about half New Jersey’s minutes in 2011-12, and they were much better with him on the floor, going from minus 11.7 without him to minus 1.1 with him. In over 27 percent of Indiana’s minutes, the Pacers played about even with Green and plus 6.8 without him.

His PER also regressed from 15.88 in his career year with the Nets down to 9.92 last year whereas much of his career it has hovered between 11.5-13. Green’s true shooting percentage dropped from 57.4 to 46.5 percent last year as well.

The reason Green looks so overpaid right now is because he deserved every penny of the $3.5 million a year he will be making and then some based on his 2011-12 production, but he wasn’t the same player last season. If the Suns get the Nets Green, he may yet prove more useful for an effort besides tanking.

So many options

With seven players set to play under first-round rookie contracts next season, the Suns will face four decisions on whether to pick up a player’s 2014-15 option and a fifth on whether to sign Bledsoe to a long-term deal over the course of the next few months.

The Suns have until Oct. 31 to make these decisions, with the most pressing one concerning Bledsoe. Phoenix presumably acquired him to be a major part of their future so the team figures to make him an attractive offer. However, Bledsoe will gain leverage by waiting until he’s a restricted free agent next offseason, at which point another team could throw a crazy offer at him that the Suns would need to match to avoid losing him.

It’s difficult to peg Bledsoe’s market value since his so much of his worth is based on potential. He enjoyed a great season last year, but he did so in 20 minutes per game and struggled when running the team by himself for long stretches when CP3 was hurt. Bledsoe also is risking injury or ineffectiveness in a key role driving down his current market price.

Bledsoe likely could earn more when other teams have the opportunity to bid his price up, yet if the Suns make him a fat offer based on potential that could be tough to turn down as well. If the two sides do not reach an agreement, the Suns will just need to extend an qualifying offer next offseason to maintain his restricted rights.

The Suns will also face team option decisions on Markieff ($2.989 mil) and Marcus Morris ($2.943) as well as Kendall Marshall ($2.092) and Plumlee ($1.170). We will soon find out whether the Suns don’t see one or more of these four players in their future as well as how much they value their 2014-15 cap space.

Stockpiling for a star

Suns GM Ryan McDonough went on 620 KTAR this week and discussed a concept owner Robert Sarver first brought up three years ago at the press conference announcing Lon Babby and the Suns’ new front office structure when he said the Suns would likely find their next big star via trade.

“When teams have maybe a disgruntled superstar, what are they looking for in return? Well, they’re looking for picks, that’s what they want,” McDonough said. “I think we’re well positioned to strike if and when the next disgruntled superstar becomes available.”

The Suns have yet to even join such a conversation in part because their asset cupboard has been bare, but as the result of several trades the last two offseasons that is no longer the case.

And 1

Paul Coro broke down how the Suns’ two-tiered front office structure is finally working as it was designed when Babby was hired as president of basketball operations in 2010. All of the Suns’ basketball operations executives are playing to their strengths, which has helped the team pull off a pair of creative trades this offseason.

Statistical support provided by NBA.com.

Michael Schwartz founded ValleyoftheSuns in October 2008 and is the owner/editor emeritus of the site. He is currently working toward his MBA in sports business at San Diego State University.

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Tags: Eric Bledsoe · Gerald Green · Miles Plumlee · Phoenix Suns

19 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Brenton // Jul 31, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    The only real worry is that neither Bledsoe nor Dragic are great 3 pt shooters, so playing them both together might mean teams just collapse into the paint and dare the Suns to shoot.

    Of course, that might lead to Wiggins… so maybe its not so bad after all.

    Dragic/Bledsoe/Butler/Frye/Gortat is not a terrible starting five, but when they leave the game and Marshall/Brown/Green/Morris/Len take the court, that is going to be one hideous lineup.

  • 2 bruce // Jul 31, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    They aren’t great 3 point shooters but they are both capable enough, and they got Hornacek to help them improve. If they are driving the paint constantly they are going to get a lot of open looks too. Dragic had to force shots too many times last year, so his shooting % looks worse than it should be

  • 3 Ty-Sun // Jul 31, 2013 at 4:00 pm

    All I can say for sure is that it’s going to be a very interesting season.

  • 4 Scott // Jul 31, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    To me Bledsoe has always been a rental. I don’t see him sticking with the Suns. It’s just an intuitive read. Of the guys presently with the team, I think Goodwin will have the greatest longevity.

    Even if Bledsoe plays great with the Suns, I could see him out the door on a trade before midseason.

    And I’m not that enthused with the idea of getting a star. Young players with potential, sure. I wouldn’t mind having some of them on the team. And I don’t mind having quality veteran. The main thing is I’m not a fan of the max contract. That’s got to be used very judiciously.

    Bledsoe is likely to command top dollar, and I would just as soon have some other team pay that.

  • 5 ward // Jul 31, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    Scott you are stupid, the way you think, they would not have any players on this team

  • 6 ward // Jul 31, 2013 at 7:03 pm

    Are you mad because, you could NEVER play any sport as a child…

  • 7 hawki // Jul 31, 2013 at 7:20 pm

    Scott, I think Bledsoe is going to be with the Suns for quite awhile.
    McD has wanted him for some time now….and he finally got him.

  • 8 no scott haters here // Jul 31, 2013 at 7:51 pm

    I think Scott brings up valid points on Bledsoes future wit Suns. Too early to tell the player he will be, full-time. We need draft picks like Stoudemire, Marion and Joe Johnson to build it back up to Western Conference Finals level… Lets not overpay for veterans!!!

  • 9 Scott // Jul 31, 2013 at 11:26 pm

    Eh, it’s just my feeling about the situation. I may change my mind, but it feels to me like Bledsoe belongs on another team. Also, I don’t mind players receiving reasonable compensation, but often players want more than is justifiable.

    I guess I’m thinking a bit of how it was after Kidd was traded for Marbury. Right away Marbury was signed to a max contract, and the Suns dodged a bullet there by soon thereafter trading him away to the Thomas-led Knicks.

    Imagine what it would have been like if the Suns had been unable to deal Marbury and they had to keep him all those years.

    IMO, the Suns at that time needed to add more talent to their young base of Marion, Stoudemire, Johnson, and Barbosa. The Marbury signing seemed to me to be more of a desperation move and not so much of a smart move. They did not have to be afraid of Marbury walking.

    When Nash was signed the following summer, that was a smart move. Not just because Nash turned the Suns around, but because Nash was signed to a reasonable contract.

    Of course, after that the Suns signed Amare and Marion to max deals, and JJ wanted his max deal, and we all know how it went from there, as the Suns lacked fiscal restraint and good GMing.

    As I see it, it would have been fine to trade JJ away if the Suns had been doing their due diligence with the draft, as by then they would have had Iguodala on the team and in his 2nd year.

    Bottom line: teams have to show restraint in hiring their talent. They should avoid acting desperate, they must draft well, develop their players, and trade away the players who aren’t working out or who are expecting an outsized paycheck.

    Now if the Suns see good stuff in Bledsoe in pre-season and want to sign him to a reasonable contract – something maybe close to Dragic’s – then I’m okay with that. But my feeling is that Bledsoe might have outsized expectations, and in that case, I’m fine with trading him. There’s more talent out there, and McD could probably use Bledsoe to get it.

  • 10 Keith // Aug 1, 2013 at 12:34 am

    Brent, you’re forgetting 2 of our better players: Tucker and Goodwin. Both are likely to play around 15 minutes a game or more this year and will be playing much more than Brown and Green.

    Other than that, extend E-Bled now. Give him 4 years for 34 million, maybe 36 if you must. The price is only going to be higher later.

  • 11 no scott haters here // Aug 1, 2013 at 4:11 am

    Keith, i know 4 yr deal Bledsoe is too much commitment for him, too early… Give him a 2 yr, possible 3 yr deal as we farm the 5 1st rounders in next 2 drafts. I think the comparisons to KJ are absolutely redunkulous cuz Bledsoe comes with more questions than answers, at this point in time… Scott, too much to respond to. Book!!!

  • 12 no scott haters here // Aug 1, 2013 at 4:24 am

    And PJ Tucker is hardly in Suns FO rebuild plans. Hes a serviceable veteran at reasonable price for now but isnt long-term! Hes gonna get P T baby, but thats to build up his equity for a future move. Remember, peeps, its a business.

  • 13 no scott haters here // Aug 1, 2013 at 4:44 am

    Consider the Twins and Marsha gone from the team if they dont shape up sheeple… And, of course, Gortat mid-season, after logging much P T, and Bledsoe if hes asking for too much De Niro$ ! Looking good, salary-cap wise for next 2 seasons to sign quality vets, a superstar, and developing draft picks! Good moves, MickeyDs!!! Billions served and finally a good Babs and Swerver move in hiring McD. Finally! But please bring back the purple n orange, and ditch the black too hot to wear, just not in A Z. Ward, back to school pls. And eat your veggies!;)

  • 14 Foreveris2long // Aug 1, 2013 at 8:15 am

    While I am not going to try and predict what the Suns should pay or for how long but I guarantee that there is no way Bledooe signs a two year deal unless he has an option for a 3rd year. Unless he flops in pre-season, I also suspect the Suns are committed to him as Dragic is substantially older and Bledsoe fits McD’s goal of procuring young talent and draft picks. Bledsoe fits McD’s scheme mores0 than Dragic in my opinion.

  • 15 Brenton // Aug 1, 2013 at 9:02 am

    The good news is that Bledsoe is a restricted free agent, so if the suns want to wait on him, see what he does this season, and then make a decision they can. Brandon Jennings is a more accomplished player and he got only a 3 yr, $25M deal. Even if Bledsoe has a monster year, I doubt he gets more than a 4 yr, $40M deal from some desperate team. With Gortat, Butler, and Beasely(thank god) coming off the books, there will be ample room to resign Bledsoe and still go after whatever free agents we want.

  • 16 Scott // Aug 1, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    @no scott -

    IDK about the black unis. It might be appropriate to have a “black hole Suns” period while the organization rebuilds and gets its act together. Then the purple and orange can return when the Suns are a force in the playoffs again.

    As for Bledsoe, I’m less concerned about the number of years and more about the dollars per year. If he wants a lot of dollars, then sign him for fewer years. If he’s willing to go for fewer dollars in exchange for more years, then that’s a good deal.

    I suspect Bledsoe is a good player. But he didn’t expect to come to the Suns and I think a lot of us didn’t expect to see him here either. I think on some level there is a mismatch. Probably he fits another team better, and I’m fine with that, so long as McD gets assets back when a trade is made.

    @Brenton -

    As for Bledsoe’s current value – keeping in mind he has very little history – I suspect it lies between $3m and $6m a year, and if he really tears it up in pre-season, exceeding expectations, then $7.5m is an outside possibility. If he goes to RFA, somebody will offer him a deal that’s way too high, like the Suns did with Eric Gordon. If the Suns let Bledsoe go to RFA, they’ve lost all their leverage and it may be hard to make a good deal.

  • 17 Evan // Aug 4, 2013 at 8:44 am

    I understand showing restraint in signing veterans, but if you remember we could have signed Joe Johnson for half what the hawks gave him before the 2004-2005 season but did not pull the trigger.

    I would have no problem with the Suns signing Bledsoe to a 4 year 40 million dollar contract, with the last year a player option.

    What I have been thinking about is what disgruntled star do you realistically think could come to the Suns via a massive trade with picks as seams to be the plan?

    Maybe prokhorov decides to blow up the Nets…but I honestly dont want any of those Stars.

    Rose?

    Durant?

    Those are 2 possibilities if their teams unexpectedly do bad causing friction.

  • 18 Crazy // Aug 4, 2013 at 11:29 am

    No chance Rose or Durant are bringing their asses to phoenix. Sorry just saying. You all need to bring in Wiggins or Julius Randle next year both would be huge gets, plus next years draft is going to really strong.

  • 19 Scott // Aug 4, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    @Crazy -

    I hear Randle doesn’t play defense.

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