For much of the season, even when the Clippers have had success, it’s been rough sledding for Eric Bledsoe. Tasked with replacing the output of Patrick Beverley (and Rajon Rondo, I suppose), Bledsoe instead had turned into an offensive liability whose defensive production wasn’t nearly enough to outweigh those limitations.
Fans had been clamoring for weeks for Bledsoe to get bumped from the starting lineup, and after 22 games, Ty Lue finally bit the bullet — he separated his two point guards against the Lakers by keeping Reggie Jackson with the starters and moving Bledsoe to the bench.
The verdict is still out on how long Jackson can handle being the sole lead guard in the first unit, as he has been visibly worn out in recent games. But for Bledsoe, the move has been an unqualified success, culminating in his 21 point, eight assist outing against the Jazz Wednesday, albeit in a loss.
The veteran guard injects pace into the second unit, but in a controlled manner. He has a nice two-man partnership with Isaiah Hartenstein, and his assists are up from 3.4 to 4.7 per game despite playing fewer minutes overall as he is able to be a more natural point guard. Bledsoe’s even canning 47.1 percent of his threes in the process.
“I love it, being in the pick and roll, he finds me almost every time so it couldn’t be better for me,” Hartenstein said about playing with Bledsoe more. “I think in general just playing, I think we play faster especially with the second unit, move the ball more. I think that helps a lot.”
The Clippers are still better with Bledsoe off the court, but the splits have dramatically improved. When he was a starter, the Clippers were outscored by 5.9 points per 100 possessions when Bledsoe played. Now, they’re only losing those minutes by 0.9 points per 100 possessions, and some of that falls on the players Bledsoe shares the court with — Brandon Boston Jr. is still figuring things out, as is Justise Winslow, and Bledsoe is doing an adequate job of propping them up. The Clippers are now somewhat keeping pace instead of hemorrhaging points when Bledsoe is on the floor.
It makes sense that Bledsoe would be better in this role. He gets to have the ball in his hands and play to his strengths as a passer rather than functioning as a spacer next to Jackson and Paul George. He is playing with a unit that prefers to run, unlike the starters. It’s also worth mentioning that Bledsoe’s improved play has come against opposing second units, which are naturally worse lineups.
Regardless of how it’s happened, it’s good to see a positive trend from Bledsoe. The Clippers need him to hold the fort, especially so with George out, and he’s finally showing the ability to do that.
“[Bled’s] like myself, in the sense of we’re going to take whatever role is given and we’re going to maximize it,” Marcus Morris Sr. said. “And you know that’s what Bled do. Bled is a low maintenance guy, come to work every day. We expect nothing different from him.”
More news for Thursday:
- Mirjam Swanson tells the story of Gary Chivichyan, the “Armenian Sniper” and the newest Agua Caliente Clipper.
- Trade season is upon us. Bobby Marks outlines what each team is working with.
- Michael Pina identifies five trade candidates to keep an eye on.
- Yaron Weitzman explains how Stephen Curry has transformed the NBA.
- Retired NBA players were surveyed for their thoughts on the modern state of play and current players. Their opinions were surprising!