So This Is What Prime Eric Bledsoe Looks Like
Eric Bledsoe has the strength to back down Bryn Forbes in the post a bit, and he knows it. He also, increasingly, knows what else is available and good on the court at any given time.
Coming into the game against the Spurs, Sterling Brown was 1–14 on threes (7.1 percent) this season, and he missed his first look on the night against San Antonio, to go down to 6.6 percent. But he was a competent outside shooter as a rookie (35.2 percent), and just when it looked like Bledsoe had made his mind up to bully Forbes in the post late in the second quarter with the Bucks down a point, he flicked a cross-court pass while in the air to where Brown had been spotting up in the corner the whole possession.
In his age-29 season, in what should be the thick of his prime, Bledsoe is playing like it. And while he still differentiates himself from most starting point guards by way of strength and quickness and a proficiency to get to the rim and finish once there, his tendency to make prudent decisions is what stands out early on this year.
After 19 games, he is at a career-high in assists per minute and yet at the same time his turnovers are significantly down, resulting in a career-best assist-to-turnover ratio, ranking seventh-best in the league among starting point guards. And it is not like he is a caretaking, low-risk, low-reward kind of hooper either. It ain’t Ryan Arcidiacono or D.J Augustin or Darren Collison (each of those three are ahead of him in assist-to-turnover ratio) out there.
He is taking fewer shots per game than any time since he came off the bench for the Clippers back in 2012–13, but he is making them count, with a career-high 50.7 field goal percentage, and he is is still the third-leading scorer on the team. Mostly gone are the long, low-efficient twos, and he is finishing everything at the basket, including an absurd 83.3 percent on shots from within three feet. Think back to the video at the top — if it is not there, he will find something else.
To wit: A couple minutes after that dish to Brown for a three, Bledsoe drove and kicked to Thon Maker for a three in the same spot.
On the very next offensive possession, Bledsoe had what looked to be a run-out off a steal — Bledsoe’s plus defense this season absolutely deserves its own story, by the way — where he would finish in transition, like he does so well. But he bobbled his dribble, and when he did, he faked the shot and used that hesitation to find and open up Maker via a no-look for a trailing layup.
Not a highlight play, but that is the picture of awareness, of cool.
After the Spurs pulled within two at 131–129 with just seconds remaining, Bledsoe drove, spun, and kicked to Malcolm Brogdon for the game-sealing three. It was not a perfect pass, but it did not have to be, because his drive had opened up a three for any of a few teammates to have time to gather and shoot.
In his first game with the Bucks, last November, Bledsoe made the Bucks click in a win against, yes, the Spurs. They won their first four games after trading for Bledsoe, but as we know, his season ended in a humbling first-round series loss during which he seemed to press, taking turns either trying to stay out of the way or trying do too much.
He looks pretty well over it. He appears to be finding some balance. Who knows where it goes from here. Bledsoe gives the impression he knows where and what he is though.