One of the ways analysts project a player’s production is through similarity scores; other players of comparable attributes and stats, then integrate that information into the player one is projecting. ClipperBlog has opened up the archives looking for historical comparables to key members of the 2012-13 Los Angeles Clippers team. Today is 2012-13 Eric Bledsoe and 2010-11 Russell Westbrook. This is the second in a series of four.
Some people look and see the Road Runner, someone who is faster than everyone else around him, whose legs move too quickly for the naked eye to pick up.
But others don’t see the Road Runner. They might be observing the same creature, but instead of controlled quickness, they see a car that was left in neutral and is plunging downhill. And those that see the car are just waiting for the wheels to come off.
Such is the oft-covered phenomenon of evaluating Eric Bledsoe.
Bledsoe’s style is unique and while he is probably the only one of his species in basketball’s animal kingdom, he may share his lineage with other similar types of NBA creatures, namely Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook.
There’s no question Bledsoe has vastly improved his game on both sides of the floor and like Westbrook, he is making “the leap” in his third NBA season. Both players are staggeringly athletic and relied fully on that athleticism to maintain quality play in their first two seasons in the league. But come year three, that trait went away – for both of them.
One could credit Westbrook and Bledsoe for becoming more skilled after a few years playing with the pros, but the improvement seems to go beyond that for Bledsoe and surely did for Westbrook. There’s a confidence there for E.B. that we haven’t seen before, a confidence we saw start to arise in Westbrook a couple of years ago.
Bledsoe is shooting more than he ever has before. His usage rate has gone up from 19.1 percent last season to 26.3 percent this season – similar to the 6.9-point boost Westbrook experienced in the 2010-11 season, his third year in the league.
That confidence has sparked an increased ability to finish at the rim, the place on the court where both Westbrook and Bledsoe love to take the most shots.
Bledsoe, who was shooting 61.6 percent at the rim in his career coming into this season, is now up to 66.7 percent on the year. Westbrook, meanwhile, had a similar improvement in his 2010-11 season.
Conceptually, it makes sense that it would take a couple of years for both of these players to develop. Look at the typical attributes you might have commonly heard to describe Young Eric Bledsoe or Young Russell Westbrook (who are both different players from Current Eric Bledsoe and Current Russell Westbrook). They’re all traits that scream, “WAIT FOR DEVELOPMENT!”:
Now factor in the fact that neither Westbrook nor Bledsoe started at point guard in college – you can thank Darren Collison and John Wall, respectively, for that.
Then consider that both players left school as underclassmen.
Even with the astonishing ability they bring to the court, those first couple of years were necessary for them to get their confidence. Without that, would Westbrook have been able to completely ruin Roy Hibbert’s December? Could Bledsoe have dethroned Dwyane Wade as the NBA’s best shot-blocking guard in a more appropriate fashion? Now that Bledsoe has the poise and seems to be improving everyday, watch for that Westbrook trajectory to continue.