Sunday, August 17, 2014

Corey Rockafeler NBA RAW: Eric Bledsoe is NOT a max player -yet.

In theory, unfettered capitalism's free market tenets allow for the highest price the market will bear. In essence, $10 for a cup of coffee will sustain itself only  if there are enough folks willing to pay $ 10  for it. In professional sports the doctrines are the same. Last year, the New York Yankees did not think second baseman , Robinson Cano was worth a 10 year $240 million contract. The Seattle Mariners did and signed Cano. So why has one of the NBA's rising stars, Phoenix Suns point guard, Eric Bledsoe come up empty in his request for five-year contract north of $ 80 million ?

For one, he is a only a restricted free agent-not unrestricted where he can go to the highest bidder. Hence, his  Phoenix Suns team has all the leverage. Moreover, like too many professional athletes, Bledsoe has also misjudged his value- and is probably getting bad advice from his coterie of advisers

In his abbreviated tenure (4 years) in the NBA the 24-year old Bledsoe had just become a starting player last year on the high octane Phoenix Suns team. Here he was paired with another point guard Goran Dragic. The dual lead guard pairing has become de riguer in the NBA. In a point guard dominant, pick-and roll- league, having 2 lead guards allows teams to have multiple scoring options to initiate offense  This is particularly critical when defenses overload the floor on the strong side A second  lead guard allows you to create and attack from the weak side. Last year Bledsoe put up career numbers on a Suns team that outperformed expectations and nearly made the playoffs. Bledsoe averaged nearly 18 points, shot 47.7 % from the field, 35.2% from downtown, averaged 4.7 boards, and dished out 5.5 dimes. Very impressive numbers.

 In addition, the supremely athletic, long-armed Bledsoe is a defensive demon. Point of attack defense is vital to NBA teams with deep post season aspirations, Bledsoe was the ONLY point guard in the top fifty in defensive plus minus numbers(DRPM: Player's estimated on-court impact on team defensive performance, measured in points allowed per 100 defensive possessions). Bledsoe was number 13 in the entire NBA at 3.97 and number one  for all point guards. With that said, the Sun have offered Bledsoe a four-year, $ 48 million contract. That would rank in the "good but not great category" with fellow up-and-coming point guards such as Ty Lawson at $ 12 million and Jrue Holiday a $ 11 million.

 Furthermore, can you pay Bledsoe number one option money, when he may not truly be a number one option? You can argue Bledsoe's numbers are inflated because he plays within a two lead guard system. There he plays on and off the ball with equal frequency. But he clearly excels when he shares the court with Dragic. Goran Dragic often initiates the offense and excels in the pick-and-roll, drive-and dish game. Bledsoe does not excel  in the pick-and-roll. Phoenix's offense often stalls when Bledsoe plays without Dragic. When Bledsoe operates solo the Suns score just 100.7 points per 100 possessions. When Bledsoe shares the court with Dragic, the Suns score nearly 8 points more.

Bledsoe is also turnover prone. When he acts as the lead ball handler, the Suns turnover rate jumps nearly 15%. In  transition situations, Bledose is turning the ball over nearly 19% of the time-not a great sign for  a player who excels in the open court. In the post season, when games slow down and become more half court oriented,  Bledsoe will not have he transition opportunities he has during the regular season.  As defenses tighten , he will have to shoot more from the perimeter. Bledsoe shoots only 32% in catch-and-shoot situations. Another searing indictment of his offensive woes, Bledsoe ranks 55th out of all NBA point guards in offensive plus minus numbers( ORPM: Player's estimated on-court impact on team offensive performance, measure in points scored per 100 offensive possessions).This is not what you want to see in a player positioning for  a max contract

I am a huge Eric Bledsoe fan and feel he is one his way. With that said, his on the court performance is not worthy of a max contract. His stint as a lead guard is much too short. If he is insistent on securing a max contract-earn it. Do what Greg Monroe is doing. Take Phoenix’s qualifying offer worth a little more than $3.7 million this year and then become an unrestricted free agent. Yes, there is a risk. But “scared money don’t make money.” Your call EB.

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