When the Los Angeles Clippers traded Patrick Beverley, Rajon Rondo and Daniel Oturu to the Memphis Grizzlies for Eric Bledsoe, who was originally drafted by the Clippers in 2010, Clipper Nation didn’t exactly rejoice. Bledsoe spent his first three seasons with L.A. before he was traded to the Phoenix Suns, so fans were intrigued by the reunion, but off-put that it came at the expense of Beverley, whose staunch defense and warm personality made him a favorite.
“We are excited to add Eric, a strong, versatile guard and an established playmaker who can attack the paint and defend multiple positions,” Clippers president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank said in a statement on August 16, via the Miami Herald. “Eric started his career with the Clippers and we’re delighted to bring him back.”
While the Clips will unquestionably miss Beverley, one analyst is under the impression the addition of Bledsoe will give Ty Lue and company what they need to finally bring some hardware to the franchise.
Analyst Thinks Bledsoe Helps Clips’ ‘Title Aspirations’
Matthew Scammahorn of SB Nation believes the acquisition of Bledsoe for a second go-round “bodes well for the Clippers’ title aspirations.” According to Scammahorn, Bledsoe “could be the missing piece for his former team fighting for a championship.”
Bledsoe’s return to Los Angeles could have real, visible impacts on the court that will help the team. … He is a dynamic combo guard who can both run the offense and play off the ball. He also brings a two-way game that the Clippers prioritize, with defensive stats that don’t significantly differ from Beverley’s numbers. His athleticism may also give him a leg up on that side of the floor, being able to elevate for high-flying blocks that even the tallest players can’t reach. Most of all, he is a premier drive-and-slash kind of guard, getting a first step on his defender that opens up easy inside buckets or passing lanes for open 3-pointers, and the Clippers were missing that kind of rim pressure last year. Nearly 70 percent of his career field-goal attempts are two-pointers, and his conversion rate at the basket has hovered right around 70 percent for the past few seasons.
Indeed, Bledsoe will likely help the Clippers open up their offense both beyond the arc and in the paint, but is he going to fill the void left by Beverley? Scammahorn seems to think so.
How Much Will Bledsoe Open Up Clips Offense?
According to Scammahorn, “Bledsoe will not be relied upon to bail out players on failed drives to the hoop. Instead, he’ll have more freedom to drive to the hoop or cut to the basket, working to set up a good look when defenses are distracted by Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. … It’s also likely that the quality of his perimeter shots will increase, resulting in better outside shooting percentages.”
This is true, but one thing Scammahorn doesn’t mention in any detail is the fact that Leonard is out indefinitely while recovering from knee surgery, so defenses aren’t going to be distracted by him for a while — if at all — next season.
Bledsoe, who at 31 is two years younger than Beverley, played 29.7 minutes a game with the New Orleans Pelicans last year, averaging 12.2 points, 0.3 blocks, 0.8 steals, 3.4 rebounds and 3.8 assists per contest.
By contrast, Pat Bev played 22.5 minutes a game, scoring 7.5 points a game while also averaging 0.8 blocks, 0.8 steals, 3.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists.
Those numbers don’t suggest a huge drop-off, but they don’t guarantee a more efficient offensive team with Bledsoe running the offense, either. It will be interesting to see how well he works with George, particularly in Leonard’s absence, but his real effect won’t be gauged until Kawhi’s return, when the Clippers will truly be back at full force.