NBA Trade Deadline: Pelton on Bledsoe -- surprise, advanced stats say he's good

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN's Kevin Pelton takes a deep dive into the advanced statistics concerning Eric Bledsoe to try to gauge his value.

Because he is one of the more important figures in the fast-approaching trade deadline, ESPN's advanced stats guru Kevin Pelton took a deep look at Los Angeles Clippers point guard Eric Bledsoe. Pelton didn't really say much about Bledsoe that we didn't already know around these parts, but he did provide some good statistical backing for the supposition that Bledsoe could well be on his way to NBA stardom.

The article itself is part of Insider, so unless you subscribe you won't be able to read the whole thing, but here is a summary of some of Pelton's main points:

Ranking either by PER or by his own WARP metric (a stat not unlike PER that measures wins above replacement player, hence WARP), Bledsoe is a top 10 point guard in the league this season, specifically eighth in PER and ninth in WARP. Pelton also points out that four of the players ranked higher than Bledsoe played in the All Star Game last weekend, so that gives you an indication of where he is.

I actually want to go a bit further with this point. Here's the point guard ranking by PER.

Player

ORB

TRB

AST

STL

BLK

TOV

PF

PTS

FG%

3P%

FT%

PER

Paul

0.6

3.7

10.5

2.8

0.0

2.3

2.2

18.3

.482

.353

.884

26.8

Parker

0.4

3.3

8.4

1.0

0.1

2.8

1.5

22.9

.535

.386

.830

24.5

Westbrook

1.4

5.2

8.1

2.0

0.3

3.6

2.4

22.8

.426

.328

.795

23.0

Irving

0.6

3.7

5.7

1.7

0.4

3.3

2.7

23.9

.466

.425

.848

22.3

Lowry

1.0

5.7

7.6

1.7

0.4

2.8

3.9

16.2

.418

.400

.837

20.0

Curry

0.7

3.9

6.3

1.5

0.2

2.7

2.4

20.3

.437

.447

.905

19.9

Calderon

0.4

3.0

9.2

0.9

0.2

2.1

1.7

14.4

.483

.449

.904

19.8

Bledsoe

1.8

5.2

5.5

2.7

1.4

3.2

2.7

15.9

.453

.429

.798

18.9

Walker

0.8

3.6

5.9

2.0

0.4

2.4

2.0

18.0

.428

.345

.791

18.9

Sessions

0.6

3.9

5.0

1.1

0.2

2.3

2.0

19.4

.409

.316

.849

18.4

Holiday

1.0

3.9

8.4

1.4

0.4

3.8

2.2

17.9

.452

.353

.775

18.2

Robinson

0.5

3.5

6.3

1.7

0.2

2.3

3.7

18.1

.435

.401

.833

18.2

Rondo

1.1

5.4

10.6

1.8

0.2

3.7

2.4

13.2

.484

.240

.645

18.2

All data from basketball-reference.com, and all data is per 36 minutes.

The top four, Chris Paul, Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook and Kyrie Irving all made the All Star team. Stephen Curry, sixth on the least, probably should have, and almost certainly would have been the 13th All Star if an injury had required a replacement. Moreover, two more All Stars, Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo, actually have WORSE PERs than Bledsoe this season. Bear in mind also that Bledsoe is a very good defender, something not always accounted for in PER (though Bled does pile up both steals and blocked shots, both of which help his ranking). Players like Curry and Jose Calderon with PERs better than Bledsoe's, are certainly overvalued at least some by the metric when you consider how bad they are on the defensive end. That's not true for Bledsoe, whose greatest contributions come on defense.

Pelton also examines comparable players who were produced similarly at equivalent stages of their careers using his SCHOENE projection system. He identified three players, Terrell Brandon, Devin Harris and Kyle Lowry, who were similarly productive in limited playing time early in their careers because they were stuck as back ups to established point guards. Brandon and Harris both became All Stars as starters, while Lowry is still quite young, and was a borderline All Star last year in Houston. So the idea that Bledsoe could thrive with more minutes is not without precedent.

The most interesting data comes from the 12 games where Bledsoe was the Clippers starting point guard. Given that the Clippers went 6-6 in those games, the first impression is that there was a significant drop off from Paul to Bledsoe, which let's face it, isn't exactly a major knock on Bledsoe given that Paul is a serious MVP candidate. However, Pelton looks deeper into the data and finds that the starting unit was more or less equally effective in Bledsoe's 12 starts as when Paul is starting -- but the productivity of the of the second unit fell off the table when Grant Hill replaced Bledsoe on that team. This more or less matches what we in Clips Nation know from observation during those games -- I think we would have concluded that the starters dropped off some, but the real issue was definitely the bench that went from best in the league to dreadful overnight. In this light, the relatively lackluster performance by the Clippers during Bledsoe's 12 starts isn't an indictment of his value, but rather an additional endorsement -- he did fine as a starter, but losing him totally devastated the second team.

Pelton goes on to point out the real shortcomings in EBled's game, again, nothing the citizens in Clips Nation didn't already know: he turns the ball over a lot, and he's not a great distributor, having one of the lowest assist percentages among point guards. This is not news: Bledsoe is special because of the myriad ways he impacts a game, especially with his defense -- he collects rebounds, and steals and blocked shots at a top three level among NBA point guards, and one assumes that he'll increase his assists and decrease his turnovers as he matures as a player.

The bottom line is: no wonder teams are interested in this guy, and the Clippers should certainly be asking a lot for him. Hopefully the Clippers are looking closely at that data concerning their second unit before dealing him. Losing Bledsoe could hurt their playoff chances more than any incoming player might help if the second unit suffers so greatly without him.

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