Eric Bledsoe, Milwaukee Bucks should both reap benefits in deal

Trade for guard likely keeps Bucks in thick of Eastern Conference chase

Beyond the traded players passing their physicals, beyond the paperwork that must be filed at NBA headquarters, the Milwaukee Bucks’ acquisition of Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe won’t be official-official until Bledsoe offers up to the Twittersphere a resounding “I Do wanna be here” tweet.

It was, after all, Bledsoe’s social media mic-drop — the “I Don’t wanna be here” tweet as the Suns got off to their 0-3 start — that ultimately set this trade in motion. Phoenix almost immediately distanced itself from the 6-foot-1 guard — GM Ryan McDonough didn’t buy Bledsoe’s claim that he meant not the Suns but a hair salon he allegedly patronized — and went 4-4 without him until agreeing to the deal with the Bucks, reported by multiple outlets Tuesday morning.

The winner of this deal? Bledsoe, obviously. He was in limbo and about to begin lonely, less-than-optimal solo workouts at the Suns’ practice facility while awaiting a ticket out of Phoenix. He got that, at a cost of fewer than 140 characters and a $10,000 fine from the NBA, and will be joining a team with legitimate ambitions to contend in the Eastern Conference.

The Bucks are runner-up winners because Bledsoe, 28, is an athletic point guard who brings scoring and playmaking skills. He can lessen some of the workload for All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and shooter Khris Middleton, while relieving some pressure at the point position on Malcolm Brogdon, the reigning Kia Rookie of the Year.

Bledsoe, expected to meet the Bucks Wednesday in San Antonio, can slide nicely into a lineup and rotation without much disruption, with Brogdon and Matthew Dellavedova still around for significant minutes and Jabari Parker working his way back from another knee surgery (he’s slated to return in February). Bledsoe is under contract for this season and next for a total of $29.5 million.

In his three appearances for the Suns last month, Bledsoe averaged 15.7 points, 2.3 rebounds and three assists, while shooting 40 percent. But in 66 games last season, those numbers were 21.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg and 6.3 apg in 33.0 minutes.

Milwaukee — which gave up big man Greg Monroe and protected first- and second-round picks, according to reports — becomes Bledsoe’s third NBA team after he spent three seasons with the LA Clippers and the past four with the Suns. Many hailed the deal as a deft move for the Bucks:

Phoenix, for its part, rids itself of a disgruntled player to complete a sudden, early-season makeover that included coach Earl Watson’s firing and assistant Jay Triano moving up as interim coach. The picks, whether they convey in 2018, 2019 or beyond, will further the Suns’ long-term development with added youth. And Monroe, despite limited use this season, has per-36 minute averages of 15.5 points and 11.4 rebounds.

For Monroe, the deal is an unfortunate end to his time in Milwaukee. When he signed with the Bucks in the summer of 2015, Monroe was considered the most notable free agent to choose that small-revenue franchise. After an inconsistent initial season in his relocation from Detroit, “Moose” became a reliable reserve at both ends and finished sixth in balloting for 2017 Kia Sixth Man of the Year.

But he also served as an indicator of just how rapidly the league has changed, too, when he picked up his $17.8 million option for this season rather than take his chances in the open market. A below-the-rim banger, Monroe can score in his matchups against opponents’ Clydesdale reserves, but does not thrive in today’s breezier, 3-point-focused style of play.

Given Antetokounmpo’s romps to the rim, the last thing the Bucks want is someone clogging up the lane. Bledsoe and the newfound depth of the Bucks’ backcourt and wing positions should help Milwaukee play at the current fashionable pace, while creating the necessary amount of space.

Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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