Eric Bledsoe - Fan Favorite, Media Darling
How can you not love this adorable face?
Eric still needs to work on this part of his image.
The protracted contract ordeal over the summer didn't win him any fans and his reticent, reserved personality hasn't broken down any barriers since. Bledsoe could use an image overhaul.
Like it or not, part of the job description of being a professional athlete is interacting with the fans and media. There are things about my job that I don't like doing, but I have to at least pretend to try like I'm working at them. I really don't have patience for players that snub the media. It just seems to be a spoiled attitude of entitlement.
It's part of his job and he's terrible at it.
I don't see why Bledsoe can't take a meager portion of his $70 million dollars and take a class or two on public speaking to become a little more engaging.
Dead serious. I don't see why he can't.
Some of his teammates could probably join him. The Suns' locker room isn't exactly a Toastmasters Convention.
This was supposed to be a watershed season for Bledsoe.
Starting the season healthy, he was prepared to play his first full NBA season as a starting point guard. At age 25, Eric was entering the prime of his career.
Bledsoe's new contract was as much, or moreso, about future potential as it was past production.
But the 2014-15 Bledsoe was startlingly similar to the 2013-14 Bledsoe.
The numbers certainly corroborate this narrative. While his assists, rebounds and blocks were slightly up (in slightly more playing time), his scoring efficiency took a hit.
A lot of this was due to Eric's abysmal .324 3P%, which ranked him 34th out of 43 qualified point guards. Getting this back up to at least .360 should be a priority this offseason. His poor shooting was symptomatic of a team wide deficiency in the second half of the season.
Bledsoe still turned the ball over at a prodigious rate. Eric finished 9th in the league in turnovers with 3.4 per game.
Taking the Reins
After Goran's little media puppet show and the theater of the absurd that was the Suns' post trade press conference took place Eric was ostensibly handed over the keys to the car. He had basically been given them earlier, having primary ball handling responsibilities (probably part of why that Dragon guy was so atrabilious), but now it was clearly the Bledsoe show.
But after Goran was traded Bledsoe led the Suns to an abysmal 10-18 record after the All-Star break.
That show kind of sucked.
In the 28 games post All-Star break Bledsoe averaged 16.6 points, 6.1 assists and 5.3 rebounds... basically his exact same production as before the break. Given the opportunity to take the team on his back and carry them down the stretch Eric wilted. Or at least completely squandered the opportunity.
Goran played like an All-Star and made the case for his third team All-NBA selection when Eric went down to injury the season before.
Eric wasn't up to the task.
Is it a fair comparison?
I guess that's for you to decide.
The Bright Side
Eric is still a very good player.
Bledoe joined James Harden, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook as the only four players in the league to average at least 17 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game.
Bledsoe was also 18th in the league in clutch points among players with at least 10 appearances. Eric has the ability to get to the basket almost at will, which makes him a legitimate threat late in games. He needs to force the issue more at times and reduce unforced errors to become a better leader late in games.
Eric played in 81 games for the Suns last season after injuries truncated his 2013-14 campaign. This resiliency helps allay some of the concern with giving a long term contract to a player with health issues in the past.
Ultimately, Eric's problems with decision making and consistent effort make it hard for me to visualize him becoming a point guard I feel safe letting lead a contending team. I just don't trust his judgment as a quarterback.
His lack of improvement in what I felt was a pivotal season for him didn't quell any of these doubts.
The good thing is Bledsoe is at least cognizant of his shortcomings and knows he needs to do some work this offseason.
Maybe this summer he'll be able to focus more on basketball instead of just getting healthy and spending time with his family.