Zach Lowe recently wrote about the Phoenix Suns’ point guard Eric Bledsoe and the very fine season he is having — perhaps his best as a professional. Bledsoe is averaging career highs in points (21.6) assists (6.2), and rebounds (5.0), although he is still struggling behind the three-point line, shooting 32.3 percent this season (versus 33.1 percent for his career).
In fact while I’m at it, here are some impressive Bledsoe numbers pulled from Bright Side Of The Sun two weeks ago:
Bledsoe has perennially been one of the most well-rounded point guards in the league, regularly posting a line that only a few NBA players can match. Just look at the elite company he keeps.
2015-16 - one of seven players to post 20/6/4 each night
2014-15 - one of four players to post 17/6/5 each night
2013-14 - one of six players to post 17/5/4.5 each night
This year, Bledsoe has upped that mark and is one of only five NBA players who post 20 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds on average. And Bledsoe is doing it on the fewest minutes per game (32.4) of any of them.
The 27-year-old is a needle-moving (if oft-injured) player on a bad, mismatched team in Phoenix. This is his fourth season in Phoenix and it will most likely be the fourth straight postseason he won’t see action. unless he gets traded to a better team by the trade deadline (Feb. 23).
Despite his lack of postseason trips, Bledsoe has grown as a point guard:
He has flashed a new level of craft, exciting chemistry with Devin Booker, and a willingness to give up the ball in Phoenix's proto-Spursy offense.
He's also talking now, and teammates can make him out "maybe 95 percent of the time," Bledsoe said. (P.J. Tucker still gives him crap about his accent.) "He actually talks in huddles these days," said Jared Dudley.
Talking more is a real part of that journey. Earl Watson, the Suns' head coach, coaxed Bledsoe out of his shell by leaving it to him to call out plays during walkthroughs.
So what to do with the surging guard?
Bledsoe's ascension raises an obvious question: Should Phoenix, sporting a bundle of 20-and-under prospects, sell high on Bledsoe, now 27 -- and select his successor near the top of a draft loaded with point guards? Remember: Bledsoe has three knee surgeries in the rearview. His value is cresting, and the Suns could flip him for future assets that match the timelines of Booker, Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender, and whomever they pick in June.
The Suns are resisting after watching Bledsoe's growth over the last six weeks. "This is the best I've ever seen him play," said Ryan McDonough, the team's GM. "The learning curve for point guards is steep. We think Eric will play better in his late 20s and early 30s, right as Devin is entering his prime."
Important to note:
Add it all up, and Bledsoe ranks around the 90th percentile among all pick-and-roll ball-handlers this season, per Synergy Sports, with his turnovers at a career low. He's doing all of it amid cramped spacing, alongside a power forward, Chriss, who is plainly unready for major NBA minutes.
So that’s where the his fit in Stan Van Gundy’s system would come in: As a elite pick-and-roll producer. Here’s more on the trade possibility and such from the aforementioned Lowe piece (and you all knew that Reggie Jackson’s name would come up):
All of this would seem to make Bledsoe an intriguing trade candidate as the deadline approaches in three weeks. (Nobody wants Brandon Knight, by the way.) It's just hard to find a good fit....
There aren't that many teams with a need at the position, and not much reason to exchange Bledsoe for another established guy -- say, Reggie Jackson or Ricky Rubio -- unless the other team includes a pretty damned good pick to sweeten the pot.
Let’s take a peek at a few Bledsoe highlights
Here’s Bledsoe moving smartly without the ball and then dishing it perfectly to Devin Booker. From everything I’ve read, it seems that Bledsoe has become more and more unselfish (more ‘aware’ might be most accurate) throughout his career.
Bledsoe easily taking advantage of Derrick Favors’ weak knees (and his poor close out) by lulling him with normal speed up the floor and then in a blink turning on the jets.
Lots of people say that Bledsoe is a fearless attacker...
...and soft probably doesn’t describe Bledsoe.
Eric Bledsoe -- do you want him? Is he a better fit for the Pistons than Reggie Jackson? If Detroit dangled Stanley Johnson or Henry Ellenson or this year’s first rounder, then what would Phoenix also have to give up in order for you to feel that it’s a good swap? Let us know below.