SI.com Compares Bledsoe to KJ
Comparisons are dangerous, especially when one of the players involved is a former All-Star and fan favorite.
That didn’t stop SI.com’s Lee Jenkins from leading his piece, which featured Eric Bledsoe in the headline, with a paragraph about the Suns’ trade for Kevin Johnson over 25 years ago.
He follows with a point-by-point comparison that makes it harder and harder to argue the similarities, especially for Suns fans who remember Johnson well:
Eric Bledsoe was stuck on the bench in Los Angeles, behind Chris Paul. Like Johnson, Bledsoe is a 6-foot-1 roadrunner, with a chiseled upper body that makes him appear bigger. He too treats every possession like a 94-foot dash. He too has heard the questions about his shot. As a backup to Price in 1987-88, Johnson averaged 7.3 points with 3.7 assists in 20.1 minutes. As a backup to Paul in 2012-13, Bledsoe averaged 8.5 points with 3.1 assists in 20.4 minutes. After the Suns acquired Johnson in '88, they eased his learning curve by pairing him with Hornacek, another capable ball-handler. After the Suns landed Bledsoe last summer, Hornacek adopted the same approach and paired him with Goran Dragic, a second point guard. The results have been almost as striking. Johnson averaged 20.4 points in his first full season; Bledsoe is up to 18.4.
Nostaglia can be fiercely loyal at times. Older fans of any sport bristle at comparisons – individual, team or sport-wide – to the “good old days.”
There is something to be said, however, for finding the common silver lining. For now, the comaprisons justifiably stop with the start of Johnson’s days in Phoenix, since that amount of time constitutes Bledsoe’s entire tenure in Phoenix to this point.
Yet his positive impact in that short time-frame can’t be ignored, just as he can’t be ignored by opposing defenses on the court. And the longer he stays in a Suns uniform, the stronger those comparisons will become.
Especially if Head Coach Jeff Hornacek keeps up his comparison coaching.
At Hornacek's urging, Bledsoe has been watching Kevin Johnson, calling up clips on YouTube. "I tell Eric, 'Kevin would fly every time," Hornacek said. "Every time he got the ball he was gone. There was no slowing him down. Teams would lay off him because they had to stop his penetrating. So he worked on a pull-up jumper from 18 feet. He made that and then he was unstoppable." Bledsoe has an array of moves that come directly from Paul, from Billups, from Williams, from Pack. "KJ could shoot that mid-range with the best of them," Bledsoe said. "That's the next step for me, shooting the mid-range and dictating the game."