Hot Take Marathon: Eric Bledsoe joins Middleton and Giannis as All-Stars in 2020
A little under two years ago, the Bucks made a trade with the Phoenix Suns to acquire a disgruntled point guard in return for a couple of draft picks and a washed up Greg Monroe. That guard was Eric Bledsoe, who wasn’t playing at the time because he didn’t want to be in Phoenix.
It took a bit to adjust, but Bledsoe showed early and often he would fit well alongside superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo. While decent under the Jason Kidd/Joe Prunty regime, Bledsoe along with many Bucks, began to flourish with Mike Budenholzer at the helm. Last season Bledsoe molded into a true point guard. Although the scoring numbers were down a bit at 16 points per game, he still averaged four and a half rebounds and five and a half assists, and was very durable during the season, starting in 78 games.
In early March, the Bucks rewarded Bledsoe for his stellar play with a four-year, $70 million contract extension. The “Bledshow” did slow down a bit after that point, and he did disappoint in the postseason for the second consecutive year. But overall, the point guard had a very solid season, and another year with the same guys around him and same coaching staff in tow can only help.
Which leads to this hot take: Eric Bledsoe will join the other two thirds of the Bucks’ big three (Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton) as a member of the Eastern Conference All-Star team in Chicago.
There is no doubt that as long as he stays healthy, Giannis will be an All-Star starter. Middleton will look for back to back appearances to the game, but with a similar healthy and productive season to the one he had in 2018-2019, Middleton should see himself back on the roster. Bledsoe however, has never had an All-Star season in his nine years in the league.
But season ten will be his year, as Bledsoe will finally have his time with the NBA’s best, just 90 miles south of the Brew City. After the way he ended the season, Bucks fans may see this as a complete longshot. But there are a few reasons why this could certainly become a reality.
The first would be the aforementioned second year with Coach Bud. Budenholzer’s style and system transformed the entire team last year en route to his second Coach of the Year Award over the last five seasons. He is able to transform and get every ounce of potential out of his players, and he did a good job of that with Bledsoe last year. Turning him into a more unselfish true point guard helped Bledsoe perform better for this team. Let’s not forget Coach Bud has produced an All-Star point guard before, helping guide Jeff Teague to an appearance in 2015.
The second reason Bled will be an All-Star is his fit with the roster. It will be his second year with Coach Bud, but it will now be his third alongside Middleton and Giannis. In today’s NBA, not a lot of cores stay together for multiple years, and there is something to be said about team chemistry. Each of these three elevate the others’ game, and Giannis certainly helps enhance Bledsoe’s play. As they keep playing together more and as Giannis continues to develop even further, Bledsoe’s All-Star case will only strengthen.
Outside of the stars, the Bucks have also put a roster in place that will not put pressure on Bledsoe to have to do it all. They re-signed George Hill, and brought in Kyle Korver and Wes Matthews to help fill in the backcourt. Combine that with Pat Connaughton and Sterling Brown returning, and the backcourt suddenly is very deep, allowing Bledsoe to hopefully play slightly less yet more effective minutes.
On the other hand, however, without Malcolm Brogdon, the Bucks are going to need bigger performances from Bledsoe on certain nights. The guards mentioned above will help replace the loss of the President more often than not this year, but there are still going to be games where the Bucks miss what he brought to the court, and Bledsoe will have every opportunity to step in and replace that.
Expect Bledsoe to average closer to 18 or 19 points per game this year to replace some of that scoring loss, and hopefully he can also remain efficient all around with similar assist and rebound averages compared to last season. There may be nights where they need him to go score 25, while other nights they need 10 assists from him. Bledsoe is the kind of talent who can turn his game on at any point, and expect to see him do it again this season.
He genuinely enjoys the city of Milwaukee, playing with Giannis and Middleton, and is hungry to win. Coming up two games short of a finals berth will only further that hunger, and with a new contract, Bledsoe is ready to prove his GM right and prove skeptical Bucks fans wrong. With Coach Bud, the players around him, and more opportunity in the backcourt, Bledsoe will have a career year and make his first ever All-Star appearance, giving the Bucks three players in the game for the first time since 1975.
Statistics Courtesy of Basketball Reference