Eric Bledsoe is an elite point guard. But Phoenix is suppressing his potential.
Bledsoe is elite. Or rather has the potential to be elite. The lack of a supporting cast has hindered his status among the upper-echelon of the NBA’s top point guards. To be an elite point guard in the NBA, one must contribute to a significant amount of the teams offensive production. When analyzing total points per game generated through assists and scoring among point guards, Bledsoe ranks 11th.
There are 5 tiers of point guards this season when looking at total points per game created through scoring and assists;
Tier 1 (>45) : James Harden 56.5, Russell Westbrook 53.9, John Wall 48.1, and Isaiah Thomas 45.3
Tier 2 (39-44.9): Chris Paul 39.9, Damian Lillard 39.9, Stephen Curry 39.7, Kyle Lowry 39.2, and Kyrie Irving 39
Tier 3 (30-38.9): Eric Bledsoe 36.3, Kemba Walker 35.7, Goran Dragic 35.5, Mike Conley 34.4, Jrue Holiday 34.4, and Dennis Schroder 34
Tier 4 (25-29.9): Deron Williams 29.7, Reggie Jackson 28.5, Derrick Rose 28.5, Ricky Rubio 28.2, DeAngelo Russell 26, and Elfrid Payton 25.9
Tier 5 (<25): Tony Parker 21.9, T.J. McConnell 21.3, Emmanuel Mudiay 21.2, and everyone else
11th is not elite status and if you looked at his assist per game compared to how many field goal
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attempts he takes, so the conclusion could be made that Bledsoe is an okay but not great floor general. In reality, Phoenix has done a horrible job giving him teammates that have any offensive skill-sets to help him put of the statistics of the league’s best.
Bledsoe is 5th in the league is passes made while 19th in assists per game for point guards. That is by far one of the biggest discrepancies in the NBA. There are two significant reasons for this.
First, the Suns are limited offensively. For roughly the first eight minutes of any given night the lineup consists of Bledsoe, Booker, Tucker, Chriss, and Chandler. Only Bledsoe and Booker are real threats on offense while the other three do not merit multiple plays called their way. Chriss and Chandler may receive the occasional ally-oop attempt or a kick out three in the corner for Tucker, but in large the majority of their scoring will come from hustle buckets, i.e. put-backs or fast breaks. Earl Watson is not going to call for a Chandler or Chriss post-up multiple times a game because that is not an effective use of an offensive possession. Although, It is not just the team’s scoring ability. Phoenix ranks last in assists but is also averages third most in turnovers. When Bledsoe gets a pass off to a teammate too often the result is either a poor shot attempt or a turnover.
Second, the team differs back to him. As mentioned, he is 5th in passes made but he is also 6th in passes received. This ties back into the first point where the rest of the offense outside of Bledsoe and Booker is incapable of creating scoring through Bledsoe’s ball movement, and instead the possessions often lead back to Bledsoe.
The burden is on Bledsoe’s shoulders to carry the offense. 20.5% of his field goals come from an assist, while only 11.6% on his own two-point field goals are assisted upon. Phoenix’s team average of assisted buckets is 47%. Bledsoe ranks among the best in a multitude of categories. Among qualifying point guards he ranks 4th in touches per game, 5th in field goal attempts and percentage on drives, and 2nd in field goal percentage in the paint.
The most recent indicator of Bledsoe’s impact on the team can be seen in their last game against Houston. Phoenix let Bledsoe rest and what occurred was a 31-point blow out loss to the Rockets.
Bledsoe is only 27 and point guards age like fine wine. Let us not forget, Steve Nash did not win his MVP’s until he was 30 and 31.
There is this mindset that some Phoenix Suns fans have that because Bledsoe’s stock is at an all-time high that the Suns should trade him or that he does not fit some imaginary timeline of our youth. Some even believe that he is actually a detriment to the team! This rational needs to be put to rest.
There is no trade in which Bledsoe could be realistically traded for equal value. Teams who are in need of a point guard and have the assets to trade for him are far from many. Franchises such as Brooklyn, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Orlando, Dallas, Sacramento, and possibly Denver, are the only teams in the league that do not have a clear answer for point guard. A majority of these organizations do not remotely have the assets to trade for a player of Bledsoe’s caliber.
Does not even own their own 1st round pick until 2019 and their only player of any potential would be Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and his play has been inconsistent at best.
Verdict: Not a chance
Doug McDermott, Denzel Valentine, and Bobby Portis are the only young assets Chicago has and none of them are game changers by any stretch of the imagination. Unlike Brooklyn, Chicago does own their draft pick as well as Sacramento’s first-round pick, although that is top-ten protected. There is a fallacy of value that comes with the notion of a first-rounder. The mystique of the possibility of what a first-round pick could become seems makes everyone’s mouth water. In reality if Chicago would be willing to part with both picks in that exchange the picks would have little value to the Suns due to the chances that they would end up being very low in the first-round.
There has been a plethora of analysis done on the value of draft picks, some of the most referenced were conducted by Roland Beech and Aaron Barzilai of 82games.com, and currently what Chicago has to offer does not truly add up. Chicago’s own pick at 17 has roughly only an 20% chance of that player becoming a solid starter with a 65% the player develops into a role player or worse. If the Kings pick were to land at the 11th pick, history predicts that any player drafted there actually has a worse chance of developing into a good player. The 11th pick historically has a lower value than the 17th, with only a 15% chance that the player becomes an all-star but a 70% chance of him becoming a role player or worse.
Trading Bledsoe for what would most likely amount to four bench players is not attractive enough.
Verdict: Although, anything is better than Brooklyn, right?
The Knicks currently own the 9th pick in the draft and that is it. Do not let Willy Hernangomez’s last 10 games distract you from the fact the Knicks have no youth outside of Porzingod. Furthermore, any trade involving a draft pick will directly lower the value of the pick because the team will do better. So the Knicks 9th pick could potentially become the 13th or 14th.
Verdict: The Knicks have a better chance of a Charles Oakley and James Dolan candle lit dinner than getting Bledsoe.
If Phoenix truly wanted to start over with a complete youth movement and Philadelphia decided it was time to start winning, than there is a slim chance this could work. Philly owns the Lakers draft pick (top-three protected) as well as their own. A package deal of possibly Noel and their 1st for Bledsoe would be very interesting for both sides. Unfortunately, that pick would most likely be converted at around the 9th or 10th pick instead of the 6th where it sits currently. If McDonough wanted this to happen it could happen.
Verdict: If Philly desperately wants Bledsoe they have the assets to make it work.
The Magic’s 2017 draft pick currently sits as fourth overall, plus they have an entire team of misfit toys to offer. University of Arizona product Aaron Gordon is by far their best asset. He is a weirdly athletic, hybrid, silly putty, that Orlando has so far failed to mold into anything exceptional. Gordon coupled with the 4th pick would be enticing but would create a logjam with Bender and Chriss and essentially Phoenix’s roster would just become Orlando’s in make-up. Unless on draft night the pick is still top-five, the Suns should pass.
Verdict: Maybe on draft night.
Is Dallas tanking? Nobody can really tell but they have the 8th pick currently and that is about it.
Verdict: Hard pass.
They have nothing. Literally nothing of value. The Kings barely own their own draft pick.
Verdict: Just give us Boogie, you do not deserve him, Vlad.
Denver would be interesting. The question is how good do they project Emmanuel Mudiay to become. So far Mudiay, by most statistical analysis, is ranked dead last in point guards playing as many minutes as he does. However, the Nuggets seem to always have a plethora of assets and if they wanted Bledsoe they could begin to dangle them. But how much would the Nuggets be willing to give up? Denver can not afford to overpay for Bledsoe if they are eyeing the playoffs this season. Garry Harris, Jamal Murray, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, and Will Barton, are the most attractive players on the roster. It is doubtful Denver would want to give up more than one in any trade as to hopefully not disrupt any momentum. Regardless, their most enticing players, Harris and Murray, would become redundant on the Suns since Phoenix already have Booker.
Verdict: Ultimately there does not seem to be a real trade possibility.
In the end, there is no team that has a strong enough desire for Bledsoe that also has the assets to match his worth. It is important to note though, the Suns are not openly shopping Bledsoe. By all indications, Bledose may be untouchable, for now. Although in effect, this drives up his trade value even further.