Eric Bledsoe: 2014-15 Phoenix Suns Player Grades

April 2, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe (2) looks on during the third quarter against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Suns 107-106. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
April 2, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe (2) looks on during the third quarter against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Suns 107-106. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /
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Eric Bledsoe
Jan 6, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe (2) reacts after scoring a basket in the fourth quarter during the game against the Milwaukee Bucks at BMO Harris Bradley Center. The Suns beat the Bucks 102-96. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports /


Bledsoe may not be a vocal leader, but he was definitely the Suns’ best player in 2014-15. With well-rounded averages of 17.0 points, 6.1 assists, 5.2 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game, he gave Phoenix a little bit of everything.

In fact, only LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and James Harden averaged at least 17-6-5 this season, per Basketball-Reference.

More importantly, Bledsoe did it all while playing 34.6 minutes per game (career high) in 81 games (tying his career high). For a guy who had his fair share of knee injuries in the first four years of his career, this was a major step forward, especially since the only game he missed was for the birth of his son.

“The exciting thing for us about Eric is he’s just starting to scratch the surface of his potential,” said Suns general manager Ryan McDonough. “Last year he started for half a season and we saw glimpses of us but there were some questions externally about could he do it as a starter? Could he do it over the course of an 82-game season? I think he certainly proved that he could with the numbers he averaged.”

Bledsoe actually played the eighth most minutes in the NBA this season (2,800), which was even more impressive when you consider how much energy he was exerting on both ends of the floor by running the Suns’ offense and defending the other team’s best guard at the same time.

Even better, Bledsoe’s not ready to stop there, even after ranking 13th in the NBA in assists (493) and 13th in steals (127). He was also an elite rebounder for his position, with only Westbrook, Rajon Rondo and Michael Carter-Williams averaging more rebounds per game (among starting point guards who played at least 60 games).

“I feel great, it wasn’t good enough, there’s a lot I need to get better at,” he said. “As far as my leadership, minutes, defensively, my approach to the game. You know there’s definitely a lot of areas I need to get better at and I’m definitely going to put in a lot of work.”

An 80 percent foul shooter this season, Bledsoe did an excellent job getting into the lane. When he wasn’t turning it over, he used his strength and speed to blow by his man, draw fouls and finish through contact. Bledsoe attempted (354) and made (441) the 10th most free throws in the league this season.

If he can harness that aggression more consistently and cut back on the turnovers, he’ll become one of the most difficult players to stop in the NBA. After all, he didn’t get the nickname “mini-LeBron” for no good reason.

On the other end, Bledsoe led the Suns in defensive win shares with 2.9 (he also led the Suns in total win shares with 7.0, with the next closest being P.J. Tucker at 4.9). When he was engaged for high-octane matchups, he hounded star players like Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry and (relatively) held them in check.

“He’s one of the best perimeter defenders in the league,” McDonough said. “With his ability to neutralize other elite point guards, or I don’t about ‘neutralize,’ but slow them down a little bit, that’s valuable on a team.”

Bledsoe is stronger, quicker and more explosively athletic than most point guards in this league, and he used that to his advantage. This was particularly evident when Bledsoe would sprint from the weak side for one of his patented chase-down blocks, and these moments were impressive whether he was doing it to James Harden and Patrick Beverley,

or even giants like Anthony Davis (this was from last season, but work with me here):

Furthermore, as much as Markieff Morris built his reputation on being clutch, Bledsoe actually scored the sixth most “clutch” points in the league this season (118), per The reason? He was pretty darn effective attacking the basket, ranking eighth in the league in field goal percentage on shots from less than five feet (59.2 percent) among starting point guards.

When Bledsoe is assertive and attacking the basket at his best, he’s either going to blow by his man for an easy layup/dunk, get fouled, or both. After all, Bledsoe averaged 17 points per game despite the fact that he didn’t light it up from downtown…and that a staggering 71.8 percent of his field goals were unassisted.

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