When Eric Bledsoe first suited up for the Phoenix Suns this season, it was apparent they had found the type of athletic guard that dominates the NBA today.
And since Bledsoe suffered a knee injury on Dec. 30, underwent surgery and is out for the foreseeable future, it’s become clear how important he is to the Suns. Phoenix has lost five of seven without the 24-year-old, including a pair of two-point losses.
“Realistically, I’m not sure,” McDonough told Burns and Gambo Tuesday. “My guess is sometime between the All-Star break and end of the season. We’re going to take it slow and make sure he’s 100 percent. Five days after surgery, it’s tough. It’s weeks from now.
“You never know how it’ll go with rehab, but I think it’s more likely than not that he plays for us at some point this year.”
While the Suns obviously miss Bledsoe scoring (18 points per game) and ability to create offense (5.8 assists per game), they recently acquired guard Leandro Barbosa, and McDonough said he hopes Barbosa can help fill the void left offensively.
But Bledsoe’s athleticism will be missed defensively, and the Suns won’t be able to employ the dual-point guard system they’d envisioned with Bledsoe on the floor at the same time as Goran Dragic.
“It’s easier for defenses to load up on Goran,” McDonough said. “He’s done a great job despite the increased attention. He’s playing at an All-Star level and hopefully he’ll get some consideration. But he’s carrying a heavier load. It’s hard to rest him. There’s a drop-off when he’s off the floor.”
McDonough said that Barbosa was brought to Phoenix with the intention of giving the Suns an offensive boost, and he’ll likely remain with the team through the end of the season.
But while Barbosa was brought in to be a somewhat-similar player to Bledsoe, the Suns know it’s going to take a team effort to replace his production.
“You don’t replace [Bledsoe] with one guy,” McDonough said. “It’s been a bit of a struggle since he’s been out, and we’ll have to continue to tweak it and find answers. Hopefully Leandro will bring a spark.”