Remember last summer? The saga of Eric Bledsoe's re-signing; when half of Brightside wanted to torch his agent (who I'm not gonna name because the fact that I know his name is still ridiculous) and the other more mature half wanted the Suns and Eric to just get in a room together and work it out without extending the drama over the whole summer. Well, neither of those things happened, but both parties managed to meet in the middle and come to an agreement just prior to the due date. That deal was a 70 million contract based on a 43 games played season and lots of potential. It's too soon to say whether this is an overpay or a bargain especially considering the coming cap boom but as it stands, for this season at least I'm leaning towards the former. Let me explain.
Eric is the 6th highest paid point guard in the NBA this season, in front of guys like Rajon Rondo, Tony Parker, Kyle Lowry.. And all those guys have proved themselves and have their teams in the playoffs. As do the 5 others in front of him. Not that this is a completely fair standard of player evaluation but it adds some weight to my expectations.
The season is not over and there will probably be a separate article that grades players but in light of Paul Coro's article this week in which Eric himself admitted to not having a better year than last year I have to wonder whether the summer of worrying was somewhat wasted.
According to The man of not many words he spent his summer in the gym working on his game, getting ready for the season, dressing as a ninja turtle and hanging out with LeBron - remember that time LeBron James took the time to call out the Suns to "break bread" (lol). After an endorsement like that isn't it fair to assume and expect at least a little improvement?
The goal of top NBA players is to improve year to year and clearly that has not been the case for EB.The numbers are almost the same across the board; slightly higher or a tad lower but nowhere do we see a clear proof of improvement even though he's played more games, more minutes, has had more solo point guard responsibilities and thus more opportunities.
Of course we could blame some of this on the 3 guard system, but surprisingly since Isaiah Thomas and Goran Dragic got traded his numbers have been just about the same as his season average. All while playing even more minutes and being the primary point guard of the team.
In that time the Suns have gone 10-13 and are expected to miss the post season again. They haven't been mathematically eliminated yet, but at this point it's safe to say we're not making it. I'm not blaming it all on Eric but if ever there was a time to step up his game and take charge it was in these last 23 games.
And it's not all in the numbers. There seem to have been chunks of time throughout the season where he has looked like he's strolling in a park tapping the ball rather than at an NBA game trying to outplay the opponent. There have been oh so many occasions where he has found himself in the air with no thought-out plan of passing which mostly resulted in turnovers. It worries me that he spent the whole summer training, some of it with ESPN's best player in the world and nothing has changed from last season. Maybe my expectations were just too high.
To be fair to EB, he has acknowledged most of this and is still determined to reach higher goals in his basketball career and says as much in the same Coro article I mentioned above: "I like what I did but I'm going to pick it up some more because there's a bunch of goals I want to accomplish next year for sure".
There have been stints during games this season where Eric played like a max kind of player and the current contract seemed like a huge bargain, but those have not been very consistent. The Suns paid Eric based on his potential and that has not yet been fully tapped.