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Eric Bledsoe's historic numbers prove Phoenix Suns faith in him

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Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

When the Phoenix Suns traded away Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas last week, it was clear they'd put all their eggs into the basket of young PG Eric Bledsoe.

Gone was the three-headed monster. No matter how well the three played together this year, none of them liked the arrangement of getting the ball just one-third (or less) of the time.

While Dragic and Thomas went public with their displeasure, Eric Bledsoe stayed quiet and just powered on. Some of that is because he'd sacrificed the least of the three this season. His usage rate dipped only slightly this year from 24.9 to 23.7 (% of team plays used by a player while he was on the floor) while his minutes per game actually increased to 34.2 from 32.9. And after all the fireworks, he's the only one left standing.

Why would the Suns give the reins to Bledsoe when they had the other two just as ready to handle the ball?

Thursday night's game answers that question. Against the Oklahoma City Thunder, in a highly contested matchup of two of the game's best and most physically gifted point guards, Eric Bledsoe had the game of his life.

No guard in NBA history had ever had a stat line like Bledsoe's 28 points, 13 rebounds, 9 assists and 4 blocks.

The rebounds and blocks separate him from every other PG in the game. But what's more astounding is that only seven other players in NBA history, including big men, have EVER topped that kind of stat line and not one player in the league had done it in five plus years.

bledsoe-stats-OKC

All of those players are current or future Hall of Famers.

While that was Bledsoe's best game of his career, statistically, he has been pretty incredible all season long. Only 14 NBA players have produced a triple-double (10+ of any three categories) this year, and just six of them have done it more than once.

Eric Bledsoe is one of those six who have already posted more than one triple double, and those were posted while sharing the back court duties with two other starting-quality point guards!

Bledsoe put up 16/11/10 in a big win over Dallas on December 23 and a whopping 27/16/11 against his old team the Clippers on December 8.

Notice the opponents in each of these historic games. A sure sign of a star is that Bledsoe has only increased his production against the league's best teams.

Already, he's one of only four players this year to average at least 17.3 points, 6.1 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game (Russell Westbrook, James Harden, LeBron James). Against the Western Conference's top 8 teams, Bledsoe gets even better: 19.5 points, 6.7 assists and 5.6 rebounds. The Suns have not won many of those games, but it's not Bledsoe's fault.

Sure, Bledsoe has flaws. This is only his second year as a full-time starter and he missed half of last year with a knee injury. So, he's learning on the fly how to run point guard against the league's best players.

The Suns brought in Brandon Knight from Milwaukee to still share the point guard load with Bledsoe. Knight is expected to split the playmaking and ball handling duties with Bledsoe, and has already put up 16.8 points and 4.5 assists per game since arriving last week while showing potential as a team leader on defense.

He's prone to turnovers (3.3 per game), sometimes in the most aggravating fashion such as losing his dribble in the back court. He's not a great shooter - just 33% outside the restricted area this season. He hasn't done well in final-possession situations of a tie or close game to get his shot off. And he's not a great passer - 32nd among guards who have started 20+ games this year in assist rate.

But Eric Bledsoe is one of the league's best overall players.

And at just 25 years old and armed with another four guaranteed years on this contract, we get to watch him improve by the game.