The Boston Celtics entered the All-Star break as one of basketball’s hottest teams. Winners of nine of their last 10 contests, the Cs have shot up the Eastern Conference rankings, sitting just 4.5 games out of first place. Fresh off a highly active trade deadline, Boston looks well-suited to make a legitimate postseason run. Yet, with a handful of open roster spots at their disposal, Brad Stevens and company have the flexibility to position themselves as real players in the buyout market should they see fit.
One player in particular who may garner Stevens’ attention is veteran point guard Eric Bledsoe. Acquired in the Norman Powell trade, the 32-year-old guard doesn’t look to be part of Portland’s long-term or even immediate plans at this juncture.
As highlighted by The Athletic’s John Hollinger, while Bledsoe is no guarantee to be bought out — namely due to partial guarantees in his contract for next season ($3.9 million in 2022-23, per Spotrac) — the former first-team All-Defensive selection has yet to suit up for the Blazers due to a “sore Achilles” despite never showing up on the Clippers injury report prior to the trade and playing each of Los Angeles’ first 54 games. “This might be a negotiation where Bledsoe’s freedom depends in part on his willingness to give up more than just a minimum salary,” Hollinger points out. If this proves to be the case and Bledsoe willingly budges on contract stipulations, Celtics Blog’s Tim Sheils believes the veteran guard could factor into the C’s buyout plans.
“Eric Bledsoe is another potential option if he manages to hit the buyout market. Bledsoe, 32, was part of the package deal from the Clippers that netted Norman Powell and Robert Covington from the Portland Trail Blazers. Now in Portland, it’s unclear if Bledsoe could (or should) be part of the Blazers’ long term plans,” wrote Sheils.
Bledsoe’s Potential Fit in Boston
While Bledsoe’s career 33.6% 3-point shooting percentage goes against the grain of what Boston has publically cited as a desire on the buyout market, his defensive skillset would serve as an intriguing addition to an already feisty backcourt in Boston — especially with Marcus Smart dealing with an ankle sprain.
“In terms of fit, Bledsoe wouldn’t do much in terms of addressing the team’s shooting needs; per Basketball-Reference, he’s shot 33.6% from deep on his career and is shooting 31.3% this year on 3 attempts a game,” noted Sheils. “However, in terms of defense, Bledsoe would be a solid addition on low money for Boston’s guard depth. Out of guards playing 25 minutes or more, Bledsoe was 5th in steal percentage (31.5%); for a frame of reference, Marcus Smart is 3rd (35.4%). If Boston wants to shore up their defense a bit more and Bledsoe becomes available, it could be worth a dice roll to add another defensive-minded guard to their rotation.”
Smart & Time Lord Expected to Return Soon
Smart sustained his sprained ankle against the Philadelphia 76ers on February 15. Initially, the injury looked to potentially be serious, as he was helped by teammates off the court and eventually ushered to the locker room. He went on to miss the team’s final game before the All-Star break, as did center Robert Williams, who has been dealing with calf tightness. However, both players look to be trending upwards towards a timely return to the hardwood.
“They had to get assessed in the building today coming off the back-to-back, but the timing is probably the best with the break coming up. I don’t think it’s anything long-term so obviously tonight they will be out,” head coach Ime Udoka told reporters on February 16, via Mass Live.
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