Eric Bledsoe: Lottery Pick (?)

In case you missed it, ESPN’s NBA Draft guru, Chad Ford, wrote that Eric Bledsoe, should he decide to turn pro, could be a lottery pick in this year’s draft.  Ford’s reasoning is two-pronged: He cites an unnamed NBA GM who told him that if Bledsoe weren’t playing alongside (read: in the shadow of) John Wall, everyone would be talking about him as the lottery pick, and (in the fashion typical of the NBA’s overreaction to games and/or moments instead of entire bodies of work) says Bledsoe was clearly the best player on the floor in the game against Florida (a game which included Wall, Cousins, and Patterson–three virtual locks to go in the first round of this summer’s draft), which apparently means he’ll be better pros than all of them.

Let’s get a couple of things clear here:

For one, just because Eric Bledsoe scored more points versus Florida than Wall, Cousins, and Patterson, it doesn’t mean he’s suddenly leapfrogged them in terms of talent and/or NBA-readiness.

For two, I don’t see how anyone can say that Bledsoe is ready to be an NBA point guard (let alone the 2nd best point guard in all of college basketball, which Ford infers), seeing how he’s spent his entire college career playing two-guard.

Ford does make a few good points, however.  Bledsoe is super-athletic and terminator-tough, no doubt.  His athleticism is something that tends to get overlooked–thanks in no small part to his playing with Wall, one of the most overtly athletic players to ever step on a college floor–and the way he punked out Tony Delk’s traitor nephew proves he has the nasty streak needed to keep bigger players from walking all over him at the next level.  However, Bledsoe is undersized (he’s 6′, tops) and still very raw.  His handle could use some improvement, as could his decision-making skills with the ball.  If you want to see the biggest difference between a guy who’s legitimately NBA ready (Wall) and someone who still needs some work (Bledsoe), notice the way they pass the ball.  Wall’s passes are almost always right on the money.  I don’t know how many times this season he’s hit a player running full-stride right in the hands while he himself was blasting full-speed in the opposite direction.  Bledsoe doesn’t have that ability (at least not yet), and he throws lots of lazy passes.  I’m not a huge NBA guy, but when I do watch the occasional contest, the biggest thing that jumps out at me is how precise everyone is with their passes.  They’re all crisp.  They’re all timely.  And they’re all right where they need to be.  If the defender is on an offensive player’s right hip, the pass is put (with velocity) precisely where it needs to go–into the outstretched left hand of the offensive man. Wall does that better than anyone in college basketball.  That still doesn’t do a good job of explaining all those turnovers he has, but we’ll save that for another day.

Another thing Ford compliments Bledsoe on is his 3-point shot, saying he’s shown the ability to hit the open jumper, citing his 47 percent shooting from 3-point range.  Again, Bledsoe is raw in this department. He doesn’t even shoot a real jump shot (both he and Wall shoot set shots from behind the 3-point line), and I’d bet my life that 47 percent shooting percentage of his comes back down to earth before the end of the season. If he ends this year shooting better than even 40 percent, I’ll be very impressed.

My point with all this is that Eric Bledsoe needs (at least) one more year at Kentucky to fine-tune his skills.  He’s got several of the tools NBA scouts love, he just needs another season to fine-tune them.  Besides, a Bledsoe-Brandon Knight backcourt next season is something I really, really look forward to seeing.

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