A revamped roster at the trade deadline hasn’t come without its growing pains in a season seemingly full of awkward transitions and ongoing development.
Ever since inking a five-year, $70 million deal with the Phoenix Suns last September, Eric Bledsoe assumed a role as one of the Suns’ team leaders alongside fellow guard Goran Dragic. With Dragic now in Miami following a trade deadline deal, Bledsoe has seen his role as team leader expand even more, as the 25-year-old fifth year veteran is now the headline act in the Valley of the Sun.
Like the season though, that metamorphosis hasn’t come easy for Bledsoe. Sure, he’s currently averaging career-highs in rebounds, assists, and steals per game, but Bledsoe is also among the league’s worst in turnovers committed per contest — esteemed company that includes MVP candidates LeBron James, James Harden and Russell Westbrook.
Can Bledsoe ever be the kind of point guard that limits his turnovers? Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby joined Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM to discuss that very question Thursday.
“I don’t think that’s necessarily his game,” Babby said. “Some of them are unforced. Some of them are where he’ll leap into the air and have no place to pass it.
“One of the things [head coach] Jeff (Hornacek) has been working with him on recently, and I think it’s finally taking hold, is that he’s deadly from the elbow and the foul line. A lot of times he would push it past that point to try to get to the basket and find himself with no place to go and either turn it over or put up a weak shot. Now he’s stopping and taking that shot and making it and that opens up the floor for him.
Though Bledsoe is actually exceeding his season turnover average since being handed the full-time keys to the Suns offense following Dragic’s departure, averaging about 4.8 turnovers per contest, Babby is correct in his assertion that Bledsoe has been lethal from inside the three-point line. Through 67 games, Bledsoe has made nearly half of his two-point attempts (.496).
Perhaps more concern than the turnovers, however, is the perceived lack of intensity that Bledsoe plays with night in and night out. According to Randy Hill of FOX Sports Arizona, one Western Conference front office executive has called in to question Bledsoe’s ferocity on the floor, saying that his “sustained competitive fire isn’t where the great ones live.”
Though Babby didn’t go to great lengths to dismiss the comments, he did say that the growing pains are part of a greater transformation.
“I think it’s a somewhat fair point, but I also think it’s part of the evolution of a great player,” said Babby of Bledsoe.
“I think that his intensity can wane at times, but I think, as I said, that’s part of the maturation of a great player. I don’t question his work ethic and I don’t question his desire. I think this is the first year he’s had this kind of season long responsibility and it’s even enhanced since the trade deadline. I think he has to learn how to manage that. I think it’s less physical fatigue than it is mental fatigue, and I think that actually contributes to some of those turnovers.”
For Babby, the Suns and fans in the Valley, respite for the rigors of Bledsoe’s coming of age can’t come soon enough, as the Suns currently sit three games out from the Thunder for the 8th and final seed out West.