Proof is in the pudding (or numbers) with Eric Bledsoe back

The numbers will support what your eyes already see. And that’s if you couldn’t figure out any correlation to go with the Phoenix Suns’ five-game winning streak or its seven wins in the last eight games.

Eric Bledsoe’s return from knee surgery and his re-assimilation into the starting lineup has produced these results. Not only does his presence in the starting lineup give back coach Jeff Hornacek one of the elite lineups in the NBA this season as SB Nation’s Drew Garrison finds, but the young point guard’s return has changed Phoenix’s entire complexion.

Defensive impact

From the time Bledsoe went down with his meniscus injury at the end of 2013, the Suns inserted Gerald Green into the starting lineup. While that didn’t lead to much drop-off offensively, if any, lacking a ball-hawking point guard to disrupt offenses at the beginning of shot clocks proved to be perhaps the biggest change for the Suns.

OFF Rating DEF Rating NET
Without Bledsoe 108.4 106.3 2.1
Since return 106.5 100.6 5.9

Phoenix’s defensive rating from Jan. 1 to March 11, just before Bledsoe’s return, was 106.3, which during that span ranked 18th in the league. In nine games since Bledsoe’s return, the Suns have allowed just 100.6 points per 100 possessions, a major improvement that during that time has them just behind, in order, Chicago, Indiana, Memphis, San Antonio and the Los Angeles Clippers.

When Bledsoe was out this calendar year, the Suns allowed opponents to shoot 47 percent, the sixth-worst mark over that period. Since he’s been back, the Suns are allowing just 44 percent.

So what’s Bledsoe’s individual defensive impact? When on the court this month, teams have scored at a rate of 95.7, which puts him in a pile of players from defensive teams mentioned above.

A different look on offense

While the offensive does show a tad bit of drop-off with Bledsoe in and Green out, it also brings about a completely different look. Phoenix continued streaking toward an over-.500 team for a good while after Bledsoe’s injury, and credit Hornacek with adjusting to keep his team ahead of opponents, who were learning how to defend a new-look offense.

Eventually, that all caught up with the Suns. They went 3-6 in the final nine games without Goran Dragic’s backcourt mate.

While the point per possession figures have fallen off, the Suns are getting better looks. Instead of jumpers, a lot more is happening in the paint.

Suns shooting from January 1-March 11

Suns shooting from January 1-March 11

Suns shooting from March 11-27

Suns shooting from March 11-27

Here’s a look at the shot chart with Green playing predominantly and then the shot chart with Bledsoe back.

During the past nine games, the Suns are third in attempts 5-feet and in while hitting a league-best 69.2 percent in that range, which ties the dunk-happy Clippers.

Phoenix’s true shooting percentage — it accounts for threes being worth more, as well as free throws — has jumped from 55.8 to 58 percent, and it’s obvious how much Bledsoe and Dragic have worked together in transition, as well as in the halfcourt.

The slashing threat on the weakside has not only opened up opportunities for one another, but has led to a resurgence of the corner three-pointers being key to the Suns’ success. A quick look at the chart shows how well Phoenix is hitting from the corners, though the wing threes and straightaway attempts have tailed off a tad (sorry, Gerald).

And it’d be careless to forget how much Bledsoe has helped in the clutch.

A deal-breaking three-point shot by Bledsoe against the Washington Wizards on Wednesday closed the door to secure a Suns victory. In 15 minutes of game time with less than five minutes to play and the score differential at five points or less, Bledsoe has gone 5-for-8 from the floor, 2-for-4 from three and 7-of-8 from the foul stripe.

So yeah, Eric Bledsoe is pretty important. I’m sure you knew that already.

  • JK

    All Phoenix needs is a DOMINANT presence inside and they will be title contenders. Alex Len’s development is slowly coming along but we must remind ourselves that he is only 20 years old and is going to need some time to add some muscle so that he can bang with the big boys. He already has the length and some pretty good footwork. I could see him having a long career in the valley if his development goes smoothly.

    Since the rebuilding process in Phoenix is way ahead of schedule, the Suns really need to go after a star Center or a star Power Forward in either this offseason or the next offseason in free agency (or perhaps trough the trading of picks which I am not too fond of) if they are going to make a title push while the Slash Brothers are still together here in Phoenix. Kevin Love would be a perfect fit for the Suns, and I hope he sees that when he hits free agency in 2015.

    I’m not sure if we’d be able to have all these players under contract if Kevin Love were to sign here, but imagine how dominant this squad would be… (assuming McDonough does not bring back Miles Plumlee or Ish Smith)

    1 Dragic (Or Bledsoe)
    2 Bledsoe (Or Dragic)
    3 PJ Tucker (Or Future Draft Pick)
    4 Kevin Love
    5 Alex Len

    1 Goodwin
    2 Green
    3 Marcus Morris
    4 Markieff Morris
    5 Channing Frye

    Phoenix would have basically 3 stars in the starting lineup and a solid bench unit. I think this team would be dominant and would take the West by storm, but maybe I’m overly optimistic. Would like to hear what others think about this.

  • vtsunrise

    You’re overly optimistic. Take the west by storm? Spurs? Thunder? What planet or Sun… oh forget. Keep dreaming!

  • john

    Without LeBron or KD, no one is taking anybody by storm. Those two ARE the league.

  • bill_thomas

    Once we bring Shavlik Randolph in, its not fair to the rest of the league. We blow the Clippers, Blazers, Spurs and Thunder right out.

    Let’s make it a fair match. Let’s waive Shavlik and bring in Vander Blue. A man after Mcdounut’s heart.

  • bill_thomas

    Forgot to say we clearly blow LeBron right out. I mean can you imagine Shavlik on Lebron? Oh boy, Nike must be quaking in its boots.

  • bill_thomas

    @John: No. no one’s taking anyone by storm. But we’ve got Shavlik right now and we just have to bring Vander Blue on. We will win it all !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Luka

    Suns should deal for Kevin Love. Trade Frye to Houston for Asik, and sign another back-up PG.

  • bill_thomas

    WE JUST LACK VANDER BLUE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • bill_thomas

    @Luka: I would trade the whole team for Kevin Love. And add 12 Vander Blues. Yeah, right.

  • bill_thomas

    Our starting lineup should feature Shavlik and Vander Blue. Remaining 3 spots TBD.

  • bill_thomas

    Shavlik and Vander Blue as a double team on LeBron would cave him and the rest of the entire League. Listen up, Hokies !!!!!!!

  • bill_thomas

    @JK: You are forgetting the enormous importance of Shavlik and of Vander Blue (who we’re about to pick up to help Bled as if its a miracle). Clearly Bled cannot handle it on his own.

  • bill_thomas

    Clearly we need Vander Blue and we’ll pick him up. With Jeannie Buss playing off guard clearly we need a strong utility infielder like the man from WISCONSON !!!!!!!!!!!!

  • bill_thomas

    If Shavlik can just play anywhere close to his potential, the rest of the League should just PACK IT IN !!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • bill_thomas


  • bill_thomas

    Drop Plumlee and Len. Shavlik as our center. YEAH !111

  • Dave:f32

    The numbers will support what your eyes already see. And that’s if you couldn’t figure out any correlation to go with the Phoenix Suns’ five-game winning streak or its seven wins in the last eight games.”

    While i think Bled has a positive effect with his presence in the lineup, to write this article which includes the title is all Hocus Pocus (or Poke-Us, which ever u like to call it)!

    The fact is Bledsoe is a difference of 4 points, is not a significant difference at all. Get off Bleds dizz because u failed to mention that not only can the Suns score in bunches, but they allow teams to score on them in bunches, and sometimes ur heart falls into ur stomach when they cant buy a jumpshot… But i digress. Truth is stranger than fiction. The truth to this article’s fiction is that the Suns are strong against weak teams, and weak against strong teams.

    But I guess the media that hypes the Suns is the same media that gains from promoting them. There will definitely be more fans in the stands for the end of the season, and the playoffs, if we are so lucky.
    These type of stories are sensational for a reason as Sarver thanks you for your service in promoting this Suns team.

    Never mind that they gave up a 25 point lead that went to 3. If they were truly a great team, they wouldnt be allowing so many instances of defensive lapses in the last couple of games they WON. Watch out for those teams they lose to… You are liable to find me right!

  • JK

    Yes, LeBron and KD are the best players in the NBA… but does that mean the Suns should just lay down and die? To hell with that. I want my Phoenix Suns to be a team that nobody wants to face in the playoffs. The Suns are the fourth winningest franchise in the entire NBA and have ZERO trophies to show for it! I want a damn championship, it’s been way too long!

  • Luka


    I’ll agree about the Wizards game. There’s really no way the Suns should have let it get as close as it did. I stood up and started yelling at my TV when they let Andre Miller score on an alley-oop completely uncontested. The Suns have to address the defensive black hole in the paint this summer first and foremost.

    If the Suns could just get a defensive anchor this summer at C like say… Omer Asik I think that’d be a start to solving that problem.

    The Suns also badly need a low post go to scorer when the game slows down. Suns fans quickly realized that while Amare wasn’t a great rebounder, and a mediocre defender at best, he’d get to the foul line at least 5-8 times per game. Those extra points inside are sorely missed. The Suns do really live and die by jumpers for the most part. Although, I will give Kieff some credit for attempting to attack the paint and not settle for 3s all game.

    But despite the Suns’ shortcomings they compete every night, and are in a good position now. I disagree about them not being able to beat good teams. They’ve had wins against the: Spurs, Clippers, Rockets, Pacers x 2, Thunder, Portland x 2, Warriors x 2.

  • Serek

    Dave – I would say the reality is opposite to what you suggest – the Suns come out focused against strong teams, but they coast against weaker teams. That’s why they sometimes come out of the gates late or just fall asleep vs inferior teams. And against stronger teams, they sometimes cannot execute, but that’s okay – if they at least try.

  • john


    A 4-pt swing in differential is MASSIVE. That’s about the difference of being a fringe playoff team and being the Spurs.

    I tend to think that the jump in differential has as much to do with the weak schedule as it does with the return of Bledsoe (or at least *something* to do with the weak schedule), but the difference is huge nonetheless. Teams with a net of 2.1 are first round fodder. Teams with a net of 5.9 win championships.

  • Dave:f32

    @john next ur gonna tell me that Blesoe is worth a max contract as if Ish Smith wasnt providing the necessary utility.

    And i hope ur not suggesting the Suns can win a championship with the current roster the way it is. Otherwise, you will surely be disappointed!

    We will soon find out just what they are made of in the month of April. No easy wins for them any longer, and i dont think the Suns can afford to spot teams 20 points from here on out.

  • Kevin Zimmerman

    @Dave: This article isn’t about how good the Suns are or if Bledsoe is a max guy. It’s not about the lack of an inside presence, either. It’s about how Bledsoe makes a big impact to a team that is overachieving. And I for one have been one of Bledsoe’s harsher critics … I think he has lapses and still doesn’t have a great handle on the PG position.

    If you don’t think having Bledsoe on the court helps, then that is your opinion that I think most would disagree with. But this is the furthest from sipping Kool-Aid as I can get … there are mounds of statistical evidence to say Eric Bledsoe makes the Suns better.

  • Brenton

    “The truth to this article’s fiction is that the Suns are strong against weak teams, and weak against strong teams.”

    This is mostly nonsense considering the Suns have lost to the Wizards, Cavs, Pistons, Kings, Timberwolves, etc… while beating the Thunder, Blazers, Clippers, Pacers, Warriors, etc…

  • sunsn7

    Whether or not Eric Bledsoe gets a max deal or not makes no difference. If Bledsoe wants to be here in Phoenix, the Suns are going to sign him. I too have been one of many fans who began to question him in wake of his injury and his willingness to get back on the court. He has since put that concern to rest. He is young, explosive, and has exhibited unselfishness.

    Bledsoe and Dragic will be our KJ/ Hornacek going forward..with Bledsoe being a less reliable jump shooter (so far) but same explosiveness. I even thought I saw the trademark KJ hesitation dribble drive from Bled in the last game. And he’s a more of a dog defensively than KJ was. Dragic not quite the sharp shooter Hornacek was but is every bit as crafty, faster, quicker, more athletic, and a better defender.

  • sunsn7

    Yeah Brenton, seems just the opposite to me. Suns get up for the games against upper echelon competition but often don’t bring the fire against weaker teams.

    Perhaps he was having a drink or three with bill_thomas? :D

  • Dave:f32

    @Kev i here ya. I interpreted the wording of the title and the content of the article that you were suggesting that Phoenix is somehow invincible with Bledsoe in the lineup vs. when he isn’t. At least, thats what it sounded like to me. Go figure, the first article i actually yake time and read is the one that i didnt really get. Numbers can be skewed to reflect whatever convenient argument one is trying to make.

    With such a microcosm of data u are drawing and concluding from, i simply wanted to point out the Suns have been QUITE fortunate, because the outcomes could have been very different with a bounce here, and a missed layup there.

  • Dave:f32

    @sunsn7 sounds like you’re getting jealous again about ur perceived notion that Bull_Thomas and i have some sort of connection. By all means Sunsn7, he can be your friend all by yourselves. Not my cup a tea, but if thats what ur into… Less power to ya!

  • Dave:f32

    Of course its a no-brainer for true Suns fans to recognize that having Bledsoe certainly helps…

  • Dave:f32

    @john with the way this team scores points and allows defenses to score points, is it really a MASSIVE difference that 4 points really means in averages. Not quite. Maybe u could interject that argument as having some basis IF they were winning and losing by that margin of points but theyre not. The competition they have been going up against has been weak! Thats all.

    Dont read so much into it as it is how they play the games and what they do in the games that has all the bearing for their performance in the playoffs, should they be so lucky.

    Allowing teams to put you down 25 points, or having to comeback from being down 25 speaks volumes as to their inconsistencies!

  • sunsn7

    HaHa’ing @ Dave32

  • sunsn7

    Whaddaya say Kev, early game thread?

  • Kevin Zimmerman

    Right, stats don’t tell the whole story. But between stats, eye test and what his teammates are saying, I tend to believe Bledsoe is better than worse for the team. And right on about the Suns toeing the line, but hey, this team has to deal with that stuff to understand how tough the league is.

    Anyway, I know that data can be skewed, but across the board it backs up the eye test. Too many different pieces to be coincidence, I think.

  • HushPuppy

    Guess what Dave, every team in the West plays an almost identical schedle. This may come as a surprise, but just because we have won 7/8 against “weak competition” doesn’t discount Bledsoe’s play. At the end of the season the West has stacked up against pretty much the same schedule give or take a few divisional games, and we are in a 5 team dogfight for 4 playoff spots. We are certainly inconsistant, but what was your expectation of this team in October? Like we all say, this team is overachieving and that in itself is fun to watch…certainly more entertaining than winning 15-20 games. Stay optimistic buddy :)

  • DZ

    Lol. Yeah I think that most people -myself included – were thinking back in October that about now everyone on this site would be arguing about who the Suns should take in the draft and hoping that they would lose even more games to improve their chances in the lottery.

    The West is stacked this year which makes what this team has accomplished even more impressive. Yes, they have been inconsistent but we have a team full of young players that never played together before. But what they’ve done this season is almost a miracle, especially with a rookie head coach.

    Just making the playoffs this year should deserve a “victory” parade in downtown Phoenix. And maybe the team deserves one even if they don’t make it.

  • sunsn7

    Take it easy there DZ. One parade for a non-title season was enough!

  • john

    I think you have a little bit of a problem with reading comprehension. Either that or you enjoy hyperbole more than me.

  • EBJM

    Suns are better with Bledsoe AND Green still scoring 15 off the bench.

    Sun are better with more Markieff and less Frye.

    44-29 and in 7th place is 44-29 and in 7th place. ALL teams go though funks. Look at the Pacer and previously the Heat. The Blazers lack of depth have brought them down to earth.

    Neither Popovich or Scott Brooks are going to be thrilled drawing the short straw with the Suns name on it. Then it simply becomes one game at a time.