Making trades in the NBA is about finding opportunity and value.
In a trade that was reminiscent, on a lower scale, of Rockets general manager Daryl Morey's acquisition of James Harden, Phoenix Suns GM Ryan McDonough was able to pick up Clippers guard Eric Bledsoe.
In a league with a complicated salary cap only allowing teams to pay three to four players large-scale contracts, decisions need to be made. Oklahoma City choose to build around Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and not use their amnesty on Kendrick Perkins.
Morey banked on Harden, who only averaged 31 minutes and played a secondary role to Westbrook and Durant, being able to translate success in a larger role. He nailed it as the former Arizona State star blossomed into one of the top three shooting guards in the NBA along with Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant (order them anyway you want -- there isn't a correct answer).
It's a similar situation to what McDonough is hoping for with Bledsoe, except instead of getting a franchise player, a more reasonable expectation is a game-changing guard on both ends of the floor. Give the Clippers some credit here, they weren't being cheap, L.A. just wanted to re-invest the money in three-point shooters to surround the Chris Paul and Blake Griffin pick-and-roll. Lucky for Phoenix, this ended up benefiting them.
First, let's establish that in this case, you can throw away any traditional or non-traditional ways you label a player. Bledsoe isn't a point guard, shooting guard, pass or shoot-first guard, and it doesn't matter one bit.
At the age of 23 and in his third NBA season, Bledsoe showed tremendous growth. He had his most efficient season, improved his three-point and free throw shooting and turned the ball over less despite handling it more. Currently Bledsoe is more suited to score as a finisher than a creator, but I believe he will grow into a more dynamic threat offensively in all facets.
Defensively, Bledsoe is a menace on the ball, but struggles off the ball.
This is demonstrated by the numbers when he defends point guards versus shooting guards.
Courtesy of 82games.com
When guarding point guards, Bledsoe holds the opponent to a lower PER, eFG% and forces more turnovers. His quickness, strength, length and lateral quickness are a pain to deal with. These same qualities should help him be better off the ball too, but he isn't there yet.
Bledsoe needs to be more attentive, get a better understanding of when and when not to help, along with improving at closing out on shooters. He has the potential to be one of the best defenders in the NBA.
Along with the skills he brings, I can't wait to watch Bledsoe and Goran Dragic play together.
With the Clippers last season, Chris Paul and Bledsoe played together for 185 minutes according to NBA.com. During that stretch, Los Angeles had a plus-11 net rating per 100 possessions with a 116 offensive rating and a 105 defensive rating.
Granted, Bledsoe was playing with CP3, the best point guard in the NBA, but these numbers still show two-point guard lineups can have success.
Despite having a reputation as a poor shooter, the versatile guard showed off an ability to hit three-pointers last season.
Small sample size alert: Bledsoe did hit 39.7 percent of this threes last year (31-of-78) and according to Synergy Sports, 22-of-50 in spot up situations (44 percent). The fact that he shot 10-of-20 from the corners is especially encouraging. There's not enough evidence to say this will continue, but it's a good sign, and even if this isn't the level Bledsoe is at yet, the room for growth is there.
Bledsoe isn't a franchise player and that's ok. He gives the Suns a piece with elite athleticism, a ton of upside and should take up a pretty reasonable percentage of their cap (I'm think he gets a contract in the neighborhood of four years for between $32 million and $40 million.)
The Suns are still far from a finished product, or even a good product. At least when watching a bad to mediocre team, you will be watching with hope and excitement.
With general manager Ryan McDonough leading the way Phoenix finally has a direction, and it's a positive one, no matter what their record is this season.