In all the adulation Russell Westbrook has been getting for his play of late and his MVP candidacy picking up steam based on his ability to rack up triple-doubles, there has been a player who has somewhat flown under the radar recently in the shadow cast by Westbrook.
Enter the Phoenix Suns’ electrifying guard Eric Bledsoe.
In a recent game against the Thunder, where Westbrook achieved a triple-double, it was Bledsoe who actually stole the show last Thursday night. While Westbrook went for 39 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists he did shoot 12-38 from the floor in his team’s 117-113 overtime loss to the Suns. Meanwhile, Bledsoe almost came close to his own triple-double and being more efficient in the process by amassing 28 points (on 11-16 shooting), 13 rebounds and nine assists while willing his team past the finish line.
But Bledsoe hardly got any love. So, what gives?
Ever since being traded from the Los Angeles Clippers prior to the start of the 2013-14 season, Bledsoe has started to break through and is shining bright in The Valley of the Sun. This year he is averaging 17.2 points, 6.0 assists and 1.7 steals per game— all of which lead the team. He also contributes 5.4 rebounds per game, which is pretty damn good for a point guard. This comes after a year where he averaged 17.7 points, 5.5 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game.
For a 6’1”, 195 pound point guard, Bledsoe plays a lot bigger than his size. He is as athletic a player in the NBA that you will see and his versatile skill set is simply breathtaking.
It seems it’s all coming together for Bledsoe now, as this Suns’ squad is slowly turning into ‘his’ team. You see, after the Suns traded both Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas at the trade deadline, that made Bledsoe the man in charge of things at point and the leader of a very young team. Sure, the team did acquire the services of another point guard in Brandon Knight from the Milwaukee Bucks at the deadline, but make no mistake, this is Bledsoe’s team. And it will be for years to come.
Quietly or not, Bledsoe is starting to emerge as a legitimate stud in the NBA. Ever since the trade deadline Bledsoe is averaging 17.7 points, 6.0 assists and 7.4 rebounds per game. It may take a while for the Suns to adjust to the new makeup of the team, as they are just 2-5 since the trade deadline.
However, the Suns are still in the thick of things out in the west. Phoenix is now 31-30 and two and a half games out of the final spot in the Western Conference race. If Bledsoe can get this young and exciting Suns’ team into the playoffs, that will only enhance his reputation as of the burgeoning stars of the game.
Add in another budding star in Markieff Morris along the frontcourt, and the Suns have a nice foundation to build on for years to come. While they could come up short this season, this is a team that is growing and maturing into very competitive team under head coach Jeff Hornacek.
Also helping propel Bledsoe into a new level this season is his propensity to come up clutch in the waning moments of games.
From Jim Coughenour of Brightsideofthesun.com:
While Bledsoe dazzles all four quarters, he coruscates even more when the going gets tough. Eric’s clutch stats (courtesy NBA.com) attest to his impact. Clutch moments are defined as five minutes or less remaining with a five point or less differential.
In only his fifth year in the league, expect Bledsoe to get only better and carry on the tradition of great Suns points guards from Kevin Johnson to Steve Nash. His ability to get up and down the court, while flaunting his athleticism to the max is something to truly behold. Bledsoe is not just some freak athlete any more. He is athleticism has met his skills in one dazzling tornado of basketball wizardry.
So get to know Bledsoe’s name well, because he’s about to be known in more households in the years to come.