Eric Bledsoe is already looking like the breakout player NBA prognosticators expected him to be when he joined the Phoenix Suns, and his team is off to a better-than-expected 5-3 start.
The four-year combo guard is averaging 21.1 points, 7.1 assists, 1.8 steals and is shooting 51.4 percent in eight games with the Suns.
Although Bledsoe is looking like he’ll become a surefire star in the league, Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby hesitated to call him a franchise player Thursday while on Arizona Sports 620’s The Dan Bickley Show with Vince Marotta.
“Well, he’s 23 years old and he’s certainly talented enough. I think we look at him more as he’s an important part of our core going forward,” Babby said. “Where he is in the precise pecking order remains to be seen, and it depends on who else we have here. He’s certainly a valuable, important piece of our team going forward.
“In the short amount of time he’s been here, he’s ingratiated himself — not only to the community, but to everybody within the organization. And he’s been everything we would have hoped for at this point.”
Bledsoe is one of the players who Babby said has bought into head coach’s Jeff Hornacek’s system, and the results of that chemistry is already showing on the court.
“We’ve got a group of players that are individually first-rate, in terms of quality of their character,” Babby said. “And as a group, they’ve embraced each other.”
For a season that was supposed to be chalked up to getting a good draft pick, the Suns have looked quite competent on the court, and Babby, who joined the organization in 2010, said fans shouldn’t be upset with the team’s early success.
“We’ve made a number of moves to get younger, get more athletic, gain more assets — and this is going back a couple of years and accelerated this summer,” he said. “And now you put that group together, and if the coaching staff does a terrific job and the players develop more quickly than maybe people expected, I can’t fathom how that’s a negative. And if it effects our draft status, it just simply means our team has progressed a little bit more quickly than might otherwise have been the case.”
Babby said the franchise is trying to develop a culture of winning and hard work, and that he’s not overly surprised by the early season success. The team was looking competitive going back to Summer League and preseason, he said.
“(They’re) proving to themselves that if you work hard every night, you can win a lot of games in this league just really on effort,” he said. “I don’t spend a lot of time trying to defend it, because you get criticized for losing, and now you’re going to get criticized for winning?”
Babby encouraged fans to embrace the Suns as they stand now, not just after when they draft or sign a star player.
“The next great Suns team is beginning now,” he proclaimed. “We’re in our embryonic stages, but it’s beginning now, and I think it’s just that much more gratifying if you watch that growth over this year and the years to come.”