This is the eleventh of our Clips Nation "exit interviews" of the 2012
Name: Eric Bledsoe
2011-2012 Key Stats: 3.3 ppg, 1.7 apg, 0.8 spg, 38.9% fg, 11.6 ,pg
Years in NBA: 2
Years with the Clippers: 2
2011-2012 salary: $1,707,730
Contract Status: Signed through 2012-2013, team option 2013-2014
In a Nutshell:
Eric Bledsoe began his sophmore campaign with the Clippers on the injured list, the result of an off-season knee surgery. Bledsoe returned shortly after the loss of Chauncey Billups, but there was still plenty of questions about how he would fit into the lineup/rotations. He started out slowly, showing only glimpses of his world class athleticism, and often struggling offensively. But as the season went on, Bledsoe became an integral part of the Clipper bench, getting minutes at the point and shooting guard spots, and at times playing in the Clippers 3 guard lineup.
On a team that boasts Deandre Jordan and Blake Griffin, Eric Bledsoe may actually be the best athlete. The guy is a freak. He is a small guard, listed as a generous 6-1, but more than makes up for it with his speed, strength, and jumping ability. Bledsoe has shown this season that he can be a tenacious defender, and generates offense from the turnovers he creates. He hasn't posted great shooting numbers and clearly needs improvement in that aspect of his game, but he has shown the ability to knock down the open jumper on occasion. His speed and explosiveness allows him to get to the rim, where he is a good finisher, even with contact. Bledsoe may be benefiting from playing with an elite point guard in Chris Paul, as he is beginning to make plays for his teammates, including some nifty passes in the lane. He is slowly improving his runner/floater in the lane, which, with his speed could be a terrific weapon.
His greatest contribution to the team is the energy he creates. Momentum is a very real phenomenon in the NBA. When Eric Bledsoe gets a steal at half-court and finishes the play with a dunk, or when he chases down a fast
break and makes a seemingly impossible block at the rim- those are potential game changing types of plays. They energize the home crowd and his teammates, and can demoralize the opposing team. This ability, combined with the fact that the he played his best basketball in the postseason (his playoff PER was 22.4, best on the team), bodes very well for the Clippers organization.
Bledsoe's greatest weakness is that he needs to progress as a point guard. His ball handling and decision making need to get better, and it would be very encouraging if he could improve his assist to turnover ratio (1.7 assists to 1.2 turnovers per contest this season). While his offense picked up in the postseason, there is significant room for improvement. Bledsoe may always be somewhat of a streak shooter, but he simply has to become more consistent. In two seasons with the Clippers, Bledsoe has shot 41.7% from the floor and just 26% from beyond the arc. His ball handling has left something to be desired as well, and is often the cause of his turnovers. His faults as a point guard stood out even greater playing with the offensively anemic second unit this season.
Future with the Clippers:
Eric Bledsoe gave the Clippers, and indeed the rest of the league, something to think about with his postseason performance. Bledsoe in under contract with the Clippers for a minimum of two more seasons, and there is no doubt that they would love to have him. At the same time, Eric Bledsoe may also have made himself the Clippers most valuable trade chip. For a roster that needs improvement in the starting lineup, Bledsoe may be the best chance the Clippers have at landing a starting caliber positional player. Bledsoe is young, athletic, and cheap, something every franchise values greatly. Do the Clippers see Bledsoe as a key piece of the championship team they are trying to build, or should they sell high and see what they can get for him? Most likely, his post-season performance and low price tag, combined with the salary cap and luxury tax regulations, ensure that Bledsoe will be on the Clippers roster to start the 2012-2013 season.