SLAM Top 50: Eric Bledsoe, no. 40

The definitive ranking of the NBA's best players for 2015-16.
by September 21, 2015
216

It’s been a busy summer for Eric Bledsoe. Aside from spending countless in the gym getting his J right, he’s been showing the nation how good he really is.

He scored 85 points in a charity game in Alabama, then killed it in both the LudaDay Game and the UK/UNC Alumni Game over the last two weekends. If his play there was in any way an indication of what the season has in store, things could be scary in Phoenix.

Fresh off of getting a max contract last summer, Bledsoe walked into an interesting experiment. The Suns had three incredibly talented lead guards on their roster in Isaiah Thomas, Goran Dragic and himself. By mid-season, it was clear that the experiment had gone wrong.

The team dealt Thomas and Dragic, and while they did bring in another lead guard in Brandon Knight, it was clear that it was Bledsoe’s team moving forward.

Finishing off the year with averages of 17 points, 5 boards and 6 dimes per night, it was a solid start for Bledsoe’s first full season in Phoenix. The simply overpowering point guard established himself as one of the best finishers through contact at the rim for his position.

He is able to get to the rim via his remarkable explosiveness and shifty change of pace, throwing defenders off big time in the process. Not necessarily known for his J, the 25-year-old shoots it quite well from three with his feet set, making him at least a threat to defend from the arc.

Given all of the natural talent that he possesses, Bledsoe has consistently added a thing or two to his offensive repertoire throughout his career.

On the defensive end, his immense physical gifts give him the potential to be one of the League’s shutdown defenders. Built like an NFL running back, his massive strength allows him to hold his own, even against bigger guards. The lateral quickness that he brings to the table keeps him in front of even the NBA’s speed demons.

His 6-8 wingspan allows him to get a ton of deflections and contest shots against anyone. Simply put, all of the tools are there for EB to be one an All-Defensive Team player for a number of years down the road.

While Bledsoe has all of the talent and physical gifts that you could dream of, it hasn’t always translated on the court. There are times in which he needed to take over games and has nowhere to be found due to him being unselfish to a fault.

Since he struggles to shoot off of the dribble, opposing point guards often go under most ball screens in attempts to bait him into a deep three. And while all of the makings are there for him to be a lockdown defender, there are clearly mental lapses at times.

Moving forward to the 2015-16 campaign, Bledsoe has the potential to be one of the League’s breakout players. He’s got all of the talent to take over games, but it’s a matter of whether or not he can consistently do so.

The Suns have added the NBA Draft’s best shooter in Devin Booker and brought in Tyson Chandler to help groom intriguing (yet injury plagued) center Alex Len. Jeff Hornacek has given Eric Bledsoe the keys, and the franchise will be following right behind him.

40_bledsoe_chart

SLAM Top 50 Players 2015
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Rajon Rondo Kings PG 14
49 Giannis Antetokounmpo Bucks SF 9
48 Rudy Gobert Jazz C 9
47 Al Jefferson Hornets C 8
46 DeMar DeRozan Raptors SG 7
45 Goran Dragic Heat PG 13
44 Zach Randolph Grizzlies PF 11
43 Jeff Teague Hawks PG 12
42 Bradley Beal Wizards SG 6
41 Joakim Noah Bulls C 7
40 Eric Bledsoe Suns PG 11



Rankings are based on expected contribution in 2015-16—to players’ team, the NBA and the game.