Los Angeles Clippers vs. Phoenix Suns
7:30 p.m. PST
December 30, 2013
FOX Prime Ticket
1. Looking at the deal in hindsight, would you do the Eric Bledsoe trade again if you were the Clippers?
Andrew Lynch, Hardwood Paroxysm, (@AndrewLynch): Definitely. Bledsoe’s been the most productive player of those who switched teams, but J.J. Redick was playing really, really well for the Clippers before he went down with his hand injury. Jared Dudley has underwhelmed, sure, but I’m still of the mind that he can be an important piece, as long as the tendinitis in his right knee isn’t a lingering issue that ends up dragging him down. And Bledsoe likely never would have gotten the kind of minutes in Los Angeles to make the most of his value. Would Doc Rivers have used a two point guard lineup like Jeff Hornacek is doing in Phoenix? I doubt it.
Andrew Han, (@andrewthehan): I would not do this specific iteration of the Bledsoe deal again simply because I don’t believe Phoenix gave up enough, something I’ve maintained from the beginning. Redick and Dudley are perfectly reasonable returns–and without the aid of hindsight, both fit perfectly with the offensive and defensive structure of the Clippers. But the Clippers should have held out for more from the Suns; a high second-round pick, the right to swap first-round picks, something. Does that mean the Clippers shouldn’t have traded Bledsoe? Not at all. Talent is not the only factor in roster composition and trades. But again, to reiterate: the Clippers should have gotten more.
Jovan Buha, (@jovanbuha): Yes, I would. To be clear, Bledsoe was clearly the best player in the deal, which means the Clippers technically lost the trade. That said, the Clippers were never serious about making him and Paul their starting backcourt, and I think J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley were near perfect fits for L.A.’s offensive scheme and significant defensive upgrades over the former starting wings.
2. Has Bledsoe gotten much better this year or is his numbers increase just due to playing more minutes?
Lynch: Bledsoe was always a lot of fun, but he’s been even better in Phoenix. Hornacek is using him in a way that highlights his strengths while covering some of his weaknesses as an offensive initiator and playmaker; playing with Goran Dragic is a perfect fit. He’s shooting better, taking more threes, getting to the line at a higher rate, and turning the ball over at a career-low rate on a per possession basis. Some of his improvement is undoubtedly a matter of context and situation, but in his new surroundings, Bledsoe has flourished.
Han: Despite the increase in per 36 minutes numbers from last season to this (ClipperBlog readers will fondly remember the Eric Bledsoe per 36 Stat o’ the Night), Bledsoe is really only marginally better this season, finishing a little better in the paint and stroking the mid-range at a higher clip. This is partially attributed to playing a 4-out offense (the Dwight-era Magic and basic D’Antoni scheme that uses a stretch power forward) and pairing Bledsoe with another playmaking guard. Play Bledsoe with another lead guard? Such revolution so amaze. But if we’re being honest, Bledsoe’s vaunted defensive skills have dipped slightly his first year in the desert. His gambling tendency is slowly climbing towards addiction pamphlet levels.
Buha: Bledsoe has definitely gotten better. He’s bumped his two-point shooting from 45.3 percent last season to 54.1 percent this season, increased his assist percentage considerably, and somehow maintained his previous turnover percentage despite a significant uptick in his usage rate. His per-game averages are about what I expected (18-4-6), but I didn’t see him being this efficient.
3. Where does Bledsoe rank among the best point guards in the NBA?
Lynch: Either toward the back end of or on the cusp of the top 10. Whether or not he’s even the best point guard on his team is an open question, and those aforementioned weaknesses keep me from saying he’s definitively a top-10 point guard. On the other hand, he’s too talented for me to dock him harshly for the things he doesn’t yet do well. And he’s young enough to be optimistic that he’ll shore up some of the holes in his game, though, even if he’s no longer an electric bundle of limitless potential at 24 years old.
Han: Top 10. I’m a fan of the tier system. So if Chris Paul is Tier 1, Tier 2 would include Westbrook, Parker, (healthy) Rose, Curry. Which means Tier 3, and this is murky because a lot of these guys could creep into Tier 2, would include Lawson, Lillard, Irving, Wall, Conley, Lowry, Holiday, Teague. And that’s still not knowing what to do with Deron Williams. Bledsoe fits pretty comfortably into that third tier and could be one of those guys who is pushing the door open into Tier 2. Here’s a more lament-filled question: Where does Bledsoe rank if he was played as an off guard? Top seven?
Buha: No higher than ninth, but no lower than 14th. I can’t bring myself to say Bledsoe is a league-average starting point guard, so I’ll rank him a step above at the very least. He’s behind Paul, Curry, Westbrook, Parker, Rose (when healthy), Rondo (when healthy), Irving and Wall in my book, and in the same range as Lillard, Conley, Holiday, Lawson and Williams.