Saturday, August 21, 2010

Bledsoe Expectations

Eric Bledsoe - 6'1", 190 lb.
2009-2010 with Kentucky Wildcats
30.3 minutes, 11.3 points (46.2 FG%, 38.3% 3PT, 66.7 FT%), 3.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists, .3 blocks, 1.4 steals, 3.0 TOs

It's pretty hard to believe that NBA scouts were so head-over-heels for E after a single year in college even though the supposed experts at ESPN didn't even have him ranked as one of the top 100 incoming freshmen of '09. Idiots. But what level of expectation can you actually have from the service that, in the same year, ranks Avery Bradley number one and John Wall number five?

Eric is a real tough case in gauging his potential contribution at the NBA level. The guy is definitely not ready to play pro ball yet, but I honestly can't blame him for going for it while being slotted just outside of the lottery, especially when he may have permanently been stuck playing off-ball next to would've-been future UK teammates Brandon Knight and Marquis Teague. And make no mistake, Eric will be playing point guard in the Association. He simply doesn't have the size to get away with playing the 2 like he did in NCAA competition. He sure-fire would have been picked even higher had he not teamed with Wall. Bledsoe's much more comfortable as a pure point looking to get his teammates involved as opposed to spotting up for jumpers and only occasionally penetrating, something that would have resolved a number of the questions attached to his draft report.

My best case career scenario for Eric is him being in the mold of '90s point guard Robert Pack. Though constantly plagued by injuries, Pack had a solid 7 or so seasons in his 13 year career where he was a threat on the court. Known for his blinding speed and insane in-game dunking ability, Pack was a known commodity and a game changer at times. His finest production came during the first half of the '96-'97 season with the Nets (before he was traded) where he nearly averaged a double-double of 16 points and 10 assists. This was just a year after averaging over 18 points in 31 starts with the Wizards before suffering season-ending nerve damage to his right leg. Bledsoe already has a better jumper with considerably better range than Pack ever managed, but both have eerily similar body molds, exceptional jumping ability, play-making potential, and a nagging turnover problem.

Robert Pack - 6'2", 190 lb.
1996-1997 with New Jersey Nets
34.9 minutes, 15.9 points (40.7% FG, 29.7% 3PT, 78.8% FT), 2.5 rebounds, 9.6 assists, .1 blocks, 1.7 steals, 4.4 TOs

Eric's worst case scenario is that he can't make the distinctive shift to being a pure point guard. This would leave him in a year-by-year case of limbo where teams are hesitant on making him a key rotation player as he's looked over, being the undefined combo guard with no size and an inconsistent jump shot. This would put him on a Marcus Banks-like career path where never finds his comfort zone with an organization and is only signed on as a band-aid for uncompetitive teams in transition without a competent starting point. The similarity in this case is the fact that Banks was once discussed in his early career as possibly being the fastest end-to-end player in the game, a title Bledsoe may be in competition for. But Banks was never able to convert his speed into feasible, consistent production. In his only starting opportunity, a midseason trade to relieve Marco Jaric of his lead duties, Banks made the most of it; but he's never been able to put the pieces of his game together to replicate that temporary glimpse of success and he hasn't had job security since.

Marcus Banks - 6'2", 205 lb.
2005-2006 with Minnesota Timberwolves
30.7 minutes, 12.0 points (47.9% FG, 36.4% 3PT, 77.8% FT), 2.9 rebounds, 4.7 assists, .3 blocks, 1.2 steals, 2.4 TOs

The good news for Eric is the fact that, at this time, the only other players capable of logging minutes at the point on the Clippers are Baron Davis and Randy Foye; and Foye is even more naturally a shooting guard. That means he's definitely seeing the floor this season. Regardless of the results, any extended amount of legitimate floor time is invaluable for a developing lead guard. Practices don't simulate the intensity and experience that Eric will need to adapt to and understand at this level. He has to find out where to pick his spots with his jumper and how to optimize his playmaking capabilities without over-penetrating, which was an often occurrence while at UK. Expect turnovers galore in the early going. Shoot, TOs may be a defining issues that drags on his whole career. But I believe Eric is capable of capturing a starting guard slot in the league in time. He's a freak athlete with good form on his jump shot (that has already improved immeasurably since high school) and a highly willing passer with quality court vision. Hopefully he can perfect a change-of-pace aspect to his game and tighten up his handles in both the open court and half court sets. His speed has to be used with a purpose or else it's not really that much of an advantage at all. When the decision-making catches up with his natural ability, there's no reason he can't be a good NBA player. He's probably not an All-Star kind of guy, but definitely a notable contributor. Here's wishing him good luck with the cursed Clips. Hopefully he can sneak in Staples and watch a few Laker games. The perfect scenario for him is to wait in the wings as Davis' eventual successor while patenting a deadly two-man game with Blake Griffin. That could be a sick combo 5 years from now if the players and the organization play their cards right.

... and do the John Wall.

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