The Bucks thought Eric Bledsoe was something of a missing piece. He turned out to be a pretty good player, just not in ways ideal for what the rest of the roster brings. Milwaukee fell for it when they made the Bledsoe/Greg Monroe trade (which, all things considered, still doesn’t seem all that bad, for the record). The team might have fallen for it again leading up to the playoffs.
They might fall for it again and run it all back next season with virtually the same roster. And who knows, it might work. But the manner in which the team failed to meet expectations in the regular season and in the postseason might force them to take a harder look at the roster. The franchise revolves around Giannis – as it should. Middleton showed more big-game potential than anybody on the roster, Giannis included. If the front office decides something needs to change from a chemistry standpoint, Eric Bledsoe is the odd man out. But this should all be curbed with some qualifiers. It would hugely depend on what’s out there in a potential deal that sends Bledsoe elsewhere.
Highlights: The Idea of Having Eric Bledsoe on the Bucks
Eric Bledsoe seemingly filled Milwaukee’s biggest hole. With Bledsoe came a rise in expectations that the Bucks might (finally) have the ammunition around Giannis that could propel them into a position where they would challenge the top teams in the Eastern Conference for a Finals appearance. But Bledsoe’s performance throughout the season was perfectly symbolic of the season they had as a team: it was a roller coaster. A slow incline of to pretty decent games, followed by one or two great performances, followed by a quick decline and rash of what-happened-to-that-more-productive-player-we-just-watched contests. The third- and second-to-last games of the regular season, Bledsoe hit a reset button of sorts and turned in back-to-back games in which he had 20+ points and 10+ assists. Heading into the playoffs, that gave the Milwaukee faithful maybe things were peaking at the right time and pieces were falling into place.
Lowlights: The Reality of Having Eric Bledsoe on the Bucks
Those good games late in the regular season ended up being a repeat of the beginning. The idea of Eric Bledsoe, Bucks point guard, was far greater than the reality of Eric Bledsoe, Bucks point guard. Those two back-to-back games were he turned in double-digit assist totals? Yeah, he only did that once prior to that as a Buck and failed to have more than five dimes in Milwaukee’s lone playoff series. For someone who was brought in to provide Giannis and Khris Middleton a judicious distributor, that’s not great. He ranked 23rd in the league in assists per game – which isn’t terrible – but let’s put some context to it: Eric Bledsoe was brought to Milwaukee to bring the offense together. Right behind him in assists per game was Jimmy Butler, not exactly a player known for his passing and ability to get others involved in the offense. After that? Giannis Antetokounmpo. That says that Eric Bledsoe shared offensive sharing ability with Giannis, not what the Bucks envisioned. Throw in Khris Middleton (and even Jabari Parker, to a lesser extent) and you’ve got a team that’s made up of ball-dominating offensive players who are best in isolation situations. In that area, Bledsoe didn’t help, he made it worse. Sure, he added overall talent to a position of need, but the lack of chemistry sabotaged that to some degree.
Grade for the Season: C-
Despite the overlapping skill set with Antetokounmpo and Middleton, Bledsoe was clearly one of the five most skilled players on the team, especially as the team dealt with multiple injuries. That has value. But Bledsoe should’ve molded his game to what Milwaukee needed. Instead, by virtue of playing the position that handles the ball the most, it seemed like Bledsoe did everything he could to mold the rest of the Bucks to supplement his game. It’s probably an overused analogy, but point guard is basketball’s closest thing to a quarterback. The position’s goal – at least in theory – is to be the manager … making sure all runs smoothly. Bledsoe plays (or at least played) more like a running back, where once he has the ball it’s full steam ahead and everyone should just get out of the way.
Role Next Year: Starting Point Guard (but Maybe Not on the Bucks)
It could also depend on who the next head coach is and how much enthusiasm (or lack of) that new coach has in having Eric Bledsoe as starting point guard. It should also be noted that Bledsoe stands to make $15 million next season, the last year of his contract. There’s sort of a long-term vision at play here too: if Milwaukee decides they don’t have much interest in signing him to a new contract after next season, might as well get something for him while you can. Bledsoe is a productive player, just not on a team that he fits on well. Expiring contracts have a value in and of themselves in a league where everyone is searching for ways to create more cap room. Dangling Bledsoe could also (maybe) bring a situation where the Bucks can offload one of their less-desirable contracts to a non-contender in a two-for-one trade or something. There’s no shortage of possibilities with the Bucks and Eric Bledsoe going forward. One thing’s for sure though, the experiment hasn’t gone according to plan thus far.