Clippers Award Series - Eric Bledsoe

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While the Clippers 2012-13 season did not end how many anticipated, there were still a number of standout individual performers from what is widely considered the most historic season in franchise history. Over the course of the next 10 days, Clippers.com will pass out awards in line with the NBA’s annual end-of-season hardware, including a couple of special editions.

Consider Eric Bledsoe’s season for a moment.

The Dwyane Wade block. The alley-oop from Chris Paul against the Kings where the 6-foot-1 Bledsoe caught the ball with his right hand and violently threw it down on the break. The Jarrett Jack block. The put-back dunk in Atlanta where rose over everyone off a full sprint. The Thomas Robinson block. The time in Houston when he leapt to make a steal, bobbled the ball, landed and in one motion threw an alley-oop to DeAndre Jordan. The Jimmer Fredette block. The countless defensive rebounds he would grab between big guys before scooting up the court for a spectacular finish or dish.

Even without the highlights, which at times teetered on remarkable, Bledsoe put together one of the more solid all-around seasons of any reserve. He was only the eighth player in NBA history to play fewer than 22 minutes per game and still average at least three rebounds, three assists and one steal.

 

 

He upped his per-game point total to 8.5, nearly two points higher than his rookie year. That season he started 25 games in place of an injured Baron Davis and displayed his limitless athletic potential. He essentially lost a regular season after the lockout as he recovered from surgery to repair a torn meniscus, but had a promising postseason, locking down Mike Conley in round one and bursting out with a 23-point opening game against the Spurs in round two.

The arc of improvement from year one to two to three was stunted by the injury. However, Bledsoe’s last offseason prompted Paul to use words like “beast” and “unguardable” to describe him. Bledsoe lived up to his superstar teammate’s praise immediately.

He had 25 double-digit scoring games before February 1, matching his previous two seasons combined. His time in the Vegas Summer League, spending hours after practice watching film on an iPad with assistant coach Robert Pack and soaking in what Paul and Chauncey Billups would tell him about running a team helped him become more point guard and less wrecking ball. During the 2012-13 season, in the shadow of superstar Paul, Bledsoe played 2.3 minutes fewer and put up better numbers.

He had a run of 14 points, five assists, five rebounds and two and a half steals in 12 games as a starter. He shot better (44.5 percent from the field and 39.7 percent from 3-point range). He committed 1.8 turnovers per game, down from 2.4 his rookie year. He finished in the NBA’s top 10 in steals per 36 minutes and was one of the league’s best shot-blocking guards.

Fellow youngster Kyrie Irving recognized Bledsoe’s improvement during All-Star weekend, saying Bledsoe’s “doing a great job of backing up CP (Paul) and he’s continuing to get better.” And former Phoenix Suns coach Alvin Gentry called Bledsoe’s jump from year two to year three “phenomenal.”

And that jump was not just in a grandiose, outwardly noticeable way. Bledsoe’s improvement came in the little things. The way he studied, the way he reacted to adversity, his recognition, his shot selection and his voice on the court.

COMPARISON OF BLEDSOE’S 2012-13 STATS TO 2010-11

YEAR

G

GS

MPG

RPG

APG

SPG

BPG

FG%

3P%

FT%

PPG

2012-13

76

12

20.4

3.0

3.1

1.4

0.7

.445

.397

.791

8.5

2010-11

81

25

22.7

2.8

3.6

1.1

0.3

.424

.276

.744

6.7

THE FAN VOICE

 

Clippers fans were asked to name their Most Improved Player for the 2012-13 season via Twitter. Here are some of their responses:

 

Eric Bledsoe

Matt Barnes


Blake Griffin

DeAndre Jordan