Bledsoe Traded to Bucks

Thoughts on Eric Bledsoe trade.

It was just reported that the Bucks traded Greg Monroe and a first round pick to the Suns for Eric Bledsoe (that is lottery protected). This article was a long time coming –  I had the Bucks pegged as the final destination for Bledsoe since the trade rumors began.

Ever since Bledsoe tweeted saying “I don’t want to be here anymore,” the Suns have been looking to move him – it would have been hysterical if he were traded to a team that was tanking, leading to another tweet saying “I don’t want to be here anymore, either.” After being benched the last 15 games of the 2016-17 season so Phoenix can tank better, I don’t blame Bledsoe wanting to move. Time for some initial thoughts.

From Bucks’ POV (stats used from the 16-17 season because sample size for 17-18 is too small)

  • Love this trade for the Bucks and fits their M.O. perfectly – long, strong, and athletic players with defensive versatility. Yes, they lose interior scoring and rebounding in trading Monroe, but they upgrade their perimeter defense and add another playmaker. The Bucks’ entire offense revolved around Giannis creating for others. He’s one of the league leaders in minutes, scoring, assists from the wing, and USG%. The Bucks ran their entire offense through Giannis’ ability to see the court, get into the paint, and score for himself and create shots for others. Sure, Middleton and Brogdon are both good playmakers as well, but they needed more players who can get into the teeth of the defense and create shots for others. Middleton does a phenomenal job scoring from three and in the post, but most of his looks come from those positions – he’s not one to blow by opposing defenses and get into the paint for drive and kicks. Brogdon gets his assists by using his height and physicality in getting to his spots, but he’s not someone who could get into the paint at will and create for others while sucking in the defense.
  • Bledsoe was 9th in the NBA in drives per game last year, which would have ranked 1st on the Bucks. He scored on 68% of those drives (either FT or FG) passing on 3.7 of his 10.3 drives per game (3.7 passes ranked 9th in the NBA) and assisting on 1 of those 3.7 drives per game.
    • Bucks are getting another guy who can suck the paint in and create shots for others OR someone who can score efficiently on those drives – ranked 7th in the NBA on FG% for point guards averaging more than 5 drives per game.
  • The Bucks add another player who can hit from three and play off ball. 33% from 3 over his career, but 34% from 3 on nearly 4 attempts per game since becoming the full time starter.
    • He shot 37.9% from 3 on catch and shoot opportunities on 1.9 attempts per game. Perfect fit next to Giannis with the amount of defensive attention he requires on a daily basis.
  • Bledsoe is also a plus defensive player, with the ability to pester players up and down the court and the size + strength + wingspan + quickness to guard both guard positions.
    • Stats have him at a +4 in terms of DFG% (48% allowed, vs 44% average on players he’s guarded), BUT some of that has to do with him being the only good wind defender on the Suns. Not only was he guarding the better perimeter player between both guard positions (due to Booker’s lack of defensive ability), but the Suns’ frontcourt players provided little help in PnR action, with their bigs dropping too far back allowing the guard to hit from mid-range.
    • Bledsoe gave up 40% on threes, which is bad. Maybe part of this was scheming (Phoenix was dead last in opponent 3 point%), but I believe this was just effort – he was lackluster in contesting 3 point attempts, leading to opposing players shooting above their averages against him.
    • 1.4 steals per game. Bledsoe has a knack for getting his hands in the passing lanes and pickpocketing players when they are careless with their handle
    • Allows more defensive versatility. Bledsoe and Brogdon are both good defenders with the ability to guard multiple positions. Playing them next to Middleton, another fantastic defender, and Giannis, who is arguably the best defensive player in basketball, will allow for them to really get after it defensively. They can switch easily on the perimeter, provide help and recover when needed, and hit the defensive glass (Bledsoe is a great rebounder for a guard).
  • Overall outlook
    • I think this improves their team tremendously. I understand they lose consistent scoring and rebounding from Monroe, but they can make up the rebounding with more minutes from Henson and add scoring (and spacing) with Teletovic. This also presumably opens up more minutes for Maker who has shown flashes over the last two seasons. In addition, once Jabari comes back, they will be able to play a lineup in Bledsoe, Brogdon, Middleton, Jabari, and Giannis that will be able to guard any team that tries to go small against them – meaning, this will create major problems for the Cavs (and could provide some interesting matchups against GSW, with GSW still having the upper hand).
      • Another lineup that will be awesome on defense will be Bledsoe, Brogdon, Snell, Middelton, and Giannis. Ability to switch, good spot up three point shooters from 1-4 (more space for Giannis), and multiple playmakers from different areas of court.
    • It provides another scoring threat for a team that needed one.
    • The first round pick is a decent loss, but it was likely to be in the bottom 1/3 of the first round anyway. For a team looking to make a playoff push, I think losing the pick is an acceptable move.
    • I can foresee the Bucks trying to shore up their frontline before the trade deadline adding some more depth and scoring.
    • Bledsoe is under contract past this season for 15 million next season, which is good value in today’s market.
    • Bucks have great defensive depth at the 1-3 in Giannis (can play 1-5, depending on matchup), Middleton (defend 1-4), Brogdon (defend 1-3), Snell (1-3), Bledsoe (1-2), and Dellavedova (1-2). If Henson stays more focused and Maker’s “flashes” become more consistent, they will be very scary defensively – currently ranked 25th in dRTG, but this will get better once Bledsoe gets acclimated to the team.
    • Given how open the east is this year, this was a win-now move with potential going forward as well (they can bring back Parker if they like, they’ll have Bledsoe’s bird rights, internal development from players like Maker, Wilson, etc).
  • Grade: A

Phoenix’s POV

  • This is pretty straight forward – they wanted value for a player that didn’t want to be there and picked up an expiring contract and a pick that will likely be conveyed, given the Bucks’ position in the east.
  • Given Phoenix’s glut of players at the 4/5, I can see them making another move trading one of them for another expiring or for a position of need (point guard).
    • They were unable to trade Chandler’s contract, who the Suns were rumored to have wanted to attach in a Bledsoe trade. No surprise here given the size of both contracts.
  • Monroe should be able to work with Chriss, Bender, and Len on their post games. Even though he is not the most fleet of foot, Monroe has great footwork in the post and has a nice touch around the rim (uses mostly his left hand).
  • Monroe won’t provide much in terms of defense, but he’s strong on the glass.
  • Phoenix, a team that is rebuilding, wanted to get value out of a player that wanted to leave. Even though the pick is in the late first, that is still acceptable value in a deal in which they were able to clear cap for next year. Phoenix has drafted well outside of the top few picks, including picking Devin Booker, Alan Williams, TJ Warren, and  Tyler Ulis in recent drafts, so adding a pick in the bottom 1/3 of the first round could yield some nice results.
    • Again, the pick will likely be conveyed as the Bucks are a playoff team in the east
    • The Suns had little leverage to work with because every team knew Bledsoe wanted out.
  • (I know there isn’t much analysis from the Phoenix side, but this was really a trade that got an expiring contract and a pick out of a player that wanted nothing to do with the franchise anymore. That was the point of it.)
  • Grade: B+

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