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5-on-5: Grading Eric Bledsoe in his 1st year as a starter

Part 4 of our 5-on-5 season recap focuses on Eric Bledsoe’s 2013-14 season. In his first season as a starter, he teamed with Goran Dragic and at times was part of one of the best starting lineups in the league. Injuries aside, here’s how the Valley of the Suns staff saw his season.

Eric Bledsoe was the guy with the most question marks coming into the year. Do you think he under-achieved or overachieved? Why?

Michael Schwartz: He definitely overachieved so long as you don’t ding him for getting hurt. The Suns’ defense was about 5 points per 100 better with Bledsoe, with a 100.5 defensive rating that’s comparable to a top-5 defense. He’s also the only guard to rank in the top 34 of defensive RPM all the way up at 16th, and that’s to say nothing of the way he blossomed as an all-around offensive threat. Finally, the Suns were 28-15 in games Bledsoe played and 20-19 in games he missed, meaning they played like a 4-5 seed in the West with Bledsoe in the lineup.

Dave Dulberg: Unquestionably, he overachieved. And in spite of his prolonged absence for the first two-and-a-half months of the calendar year, Bledsoe still was one of only six point guards to average at least 17.0 points, 5.0 assists and 4.0 rebounds this season, joining the likes of Chris Paul, Kemba Walker, Kyle Lowry, Kyrie Irving and Stephen Curry. Additionally, he gave the Suns another plus defender on the perimeter along with P.J. Tucker, something that had been missing over the previous handful of seasons. Bledsoe was a major reason why opponents shot just 34.1 percent from three-point range — the second lowest total in the league.

Ryan Weisert: Eric Bledsoe fully realized his potential. Last offseason, he was the most coveted asset on the market – an impressive distinction considering he had been a backup in LA for three seasons. Bledsoe came to Phoenix never having been THE guy, but he readily took on that role and delivered for the Suns from Day 1. Eric gave this team credibility from the moment he arrived, and his willingness to play alongside Goran Dragic was one of the biggest reasons the Suns were playoff contenders this year. Considering the leap Dragic took between his first and second year as a full-time starter in Phoenix, the Suns should expect to see even more from Bledsoe next season.

Jeff Sanders: Eric Bledsoe did neither — he played how I expected him to play. His season averages of 18 points, five rebounds and six assists were very similar to what he averaged during the 12 games he started for the Los Angeles Clippers in 2012-13. The word around the league was that he was a star in the making who needed a chance to play out of Chris Paul’s shadow. He lived up to my expectations and will be fun to see what he can do if he stays healthy for 82 games.

Kevin Zimmerman: Bledsoe met my own expectations as a do-it-all guard who was finding himself in the first year of playing a significant role. He’s a unique and dynamic defender at the guard position, and that more than anything makes him a potential max player. Offensively, Bledsoe is still raw and his high turnover rate in the final month of the year — including two seven-turnover games against Dallas and San Antonio — was emblematic of how much room he has to grow if he wants to be worth what we expect him to be valued at this summer.

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