Despite constant rumors in the lead up to the mid-season player transaction frenzy, the Milwaukee Bucks remained silent on NBA trade deadline day. A minor (but important) move to acquire Tyler Zeller from Brooklyn, in exchange for Rashad Vaughn and a protected second rounder was all the involvement the Bucks would have. Hassan Whiteside and DeAndre Jordan were the big name centers that Milwaukee were said to have coveted, but eventually passed on dealing for.
But should we really be surprised they didn’t pull the trigger on a trade?
Afterall, a blockbuster trade was already in the books for Milwaukee this season after they traded Greg Monroe and a protected first round pick to Phoenix for Eric Bledsoe. The trade was completed on November 7th, just three weeks into the 2017/18 regular season. In adding Bledsoe, the Bucks gained a proven borderline All-Star talent, explosive offensive finisher and top defensive player at his position.
Three months on, Bledsoe has now suited up for Milwaukee 45 times. The Bucks have an impressive 26-19 record in those games and currently hold down the Eastern Conference’s 4th seed. In sharing the offensive load with MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, Bledsoe has been able to maintain traditional box score numbers at career levels. Averaging 17.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists, he has been a constant offensive contributor on a team that often has suffered from lack of help outside of it’s stars.
If there was one area you could criticize his game, it would be shot selection. For an explosive off the dribble player and powerful finisher, far too often he settles for a long jump shot early in the shot clock. A career 33 percent shooter from beyond the arc, he is not the guy you want to be letting fly from deep at a high volume. As a Buck, Bledsoe is attempting 4.9 threes per game, whilst only hitting 32 percent. Not ideal. Yet, somehow he has proven time and time again to be clutch in big moments from all distances.
From the start of the game though to the final three minutes of the 4th quarter, Bledsoe is shooting 33 percent from 16 feet and beyond. For an indication of how poor this number is, he ranks below 10 other Bucks under that criteria, including John Henson, Thon Maker, Rashad Vaughn, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Matthew Dellavedova.
In an illustration of his ability to make high pressure baskets, in the final three minutes of regulation and overtime, this percentage rises significantly by 10 percent to 43. Bledsoe has continually made shots that make you cringe as it leaves his fingertips. Though his big shots have come often in the most timely of circumstances, it’s a constant source of frustration amongst Bucks fans as to why he is allowed to fire away from long range with seemingly no repercussions.
As I mentioned earlier, a powerful finisher at the rim, Bledsoe’s shooting numbers in close proximity to the rim are excellent. From different ranges within 16 feet, his percentages are as follows:
- 0-16 Feet – 56%
- 0-8 Feet- 59%
- 0-5 Feet- 61%
The numbers don’t lie, he is an elite finisher at the basket for his position, and this is without mentioning his ability to get to the free throw line. Averaging 4.3 free throw attempts per game, he is only trailing ‘freight train Giannis’ in that category. A 6’1″, 205 pound, human ball of muscle, Bledsoe is able to draw and absorb contact on his way to the basket with relative ease. Although the percentages jump by an astonishing 22 percent from within 16 feet of the basket, Bledsoe is still only taking 53 percent of his total field goal attempts from this range. A puzzling number to say the least.
Over his career, Bledsoe averages 4.6 assists per game, he’s never been an elite distributor, his score first mentality often at the forefront. He ranks 17th in the league for assists per game from starting point guards. This is far from an issue for a Milwaukee team that has five players averaging over three dimes per game, coupled with the fact they possess one of the leagues most fearful players in isolation, the 7 foot Greak Freak. Given the break neck speed that Bledsoe is often playing at, he is sometimes caught turning the ball over more then you’d like. Averaging 2.9 turnovers per game, he is essentially committing one give away for every one and a half assists.
On the other end of the floor, he is absolutely living up to his billing as an excellent defensive player at the point guard position. Of all the Bucks that have played at least 35 games, Bledsoe ranks second in defensive rating (103.7), only trailing the elite Antetokounmpo (103.1). Averaging 2.1 steals per game, he leads the Bucks and ranks second in the entire NBA behind Paul George by only 0.1 a contest.
It was a major roster move, rarely seen so early into the regular season. The Bucks have gone from 42 win pace before the trade, to 50+ win pace after. They merely traded an expiring contract and a protected pick for a genuine starter on a reasonable contract through next season. The deal has undoubtedly been a big win to this point, as Bledsoe and the Bucks set their sights on gaining home court advantage in round one of the Playoffs. There is a way however, that a great trade could become a home run.
Follow Kane Pitman on twitter: @mkebucksaus