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Stats: 11.3 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.9 apg, 3.0 t/o's, 46.2% FG, 38.3% 3PT, 66.7% FT
- Listed: 6'1", 190 lb, 19 yrs old
- Combine: 6'1 1/2" (with shoes), 192 lb, 6'7 1/2" (wingspan)
About Him: Eric Bledsoe is a unique prospect in that he is one of the rare point guards that is drafted based almost solely on potential. Bledsoe joined the Wildcats with relatively little fanfare, which is what tends to happen when you are the fourth-most highly regarded member of a freshman class. A point guard in high school, Bledsoe was forced to slide over to the two this season to team up with John Wall in the Wildcat back court. This meant that Bledsoe, a surefire point guard in the NBA due to his height (6'1 1/2"), would play basically every minute of his collegiate basketball career out of position.
Bledsoe didn't play like someone worthy of being a first round pick this season, but a large part of that is playing on a team that also had four other first rounders -- including the No. 1 over all pick at his position -- on the roster. Bledsoe just simply didn't get enough touches to have the opportunity to show all he can do as a potential NBA point guard.
Offensively, there are two things that Bledsoe does very well -- getting into the lane, and shooting. Bledsoe has a lightening quick first step and is more than capable of beating his defender off the dribble, although we mostly saw this coming from a spot-up situation. He had fewer opportunites to make a play from the top -- especially out of the pick-and-roll -- with the ball in his hands due to Wall's presence.
Bledsoe's issue wasn't getting past the first defender, it was what he did with the ball after that. He had a bad habit of over-dribbling and getting to deep into the paint with out an outlet. The result of this over-penetration by Bledsoe was a very high turnover rate; he had more turnovers than assists on the season, and according to Synergy Sports, Bledsoe turned the ball over on an astonishing 27% of his possessions. While Bledsoe is an excellent athlete, quite explosive (more on this in a minute), and is capable of absorbing contact and finishing with either hand on a variety of shots in the paint and around the rim, Bledsoe was only a so-so finisher. He also only got to the line 3.3 times per game.
Some of the turnovers and poor shot selection can be explained by a desire to 'get his' -- with Wall, Cousins, Patterson, and company on the floor, there were only so many shots to go around -- but for a kid that projects as a role player at the next level, that is not necessarily a desirable trait.
As a shooter, Bledsoe proved to be a streaky threat from deep. Take away the 8/9 he shot from three in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, and Bledsoe finished the year as just a 34% three point shooter. When he is hot, Bledsoe might hit three or four in a row, but overall he is just an average shooter. Part of the reason for that is that Bledsoe shoots a set shot with a very slow release and almost no elevation. As a result, his shooting ability off the dribble is even more inconsistent than his ability to hit set shots from three. He does have solid form, and with some work he should pan out into a good shooter down the road.
Why, you ask, is a point guard that averaged more turnovers than assists and was an inconsistent scorer and shooter being considered as a potential lottery pick? Because of the potential he has given his athleticism. Bledsoe has an ideal physical profile for a point guard. He's almost 6'2" with a wingspan that is over 6'7", he is built like a brick wall, and he has quickness and explosiveness for days. He is an exceptional athlete, which is why he is expected to be able to contribute at the defensive end immediately. On the ball, Bledsoe is a very good defender thanks to his strength, quickness, and length. Off the ball, he has all the potential in the world to be excellent, but at times he seemed not to be giving his best effort -- not getting around screens, not jumping to help side, etc.
- Best Case Scenario: Mo Williams is one comparison I have seen a couple times, although I think that is a bit generous based on what we have seen from Bledsoe offensively. (To be fair, Williams did take some time to develop.) Another comparison I've seen that I like a little more is Keyon Dooling, who maxed out at 10 ppg and 3.5 apg. For a couple of younger guys, I think that Bledsoe is a shorter/poor-man's Russell Westbrook (again, that may be generous). The best comparison, at least in my opinion, is that Bledsoe will end up being another Rodrigue Beaubois.
- Worst Case Scenario: I could see Bledsoe having a career similar to that of a Marcus Banks, bouncing around as a career back-up. As a player, maybe a poor man's Mario Chalmers.
One x-factor in all of this is Bledsoe's attitude on the court. I'm sure I'm not the only one that thought by the end of the season Bledsoe, and not Cousins, was the most immature player on the Wildcats. If he can put his ego in check and accept the fact that he is not yet ready to be a focal point in the NBA, I see no reason why Bledsoe can't develop into a starter and an all-defensive team member. As far as where he will be picked, it looks like he is destined to go somewhere in the mid-to-late first round.