Eric Bledsoe‘s first season with the Milwaukee Bucks was capped off by an incredibly underwhelming run in their first round series with the Boston Celtics. Where exactly do he and the Bucks go from here?
It’s now been two weeks since the Milwaukee Bucks’ 2017-18 season wrapped up following their 112-96 Game 7 loss to the Boston Celtics.
For a team that was mired by inconsistencies and suffered from an array of structural weaknesses and defective tactics under two different head coaches all throughout the regular season, it was a logical conclusion to see the Bucks fall to a shorthanded Celtics team that had fought through adversity dating back to the first game of the year.
While that same Celtics team has now advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals following their gentleman sweep over the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference semi-finals, the Bucks are plunging head first into a critical offseason for the franchise.
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The organization is currently progressing through a thorough and methodical search to find their next head coach and they have a consequential decision regarding what to do with the oft-injured Jabari Parker, who is set to be an impending restricted free agent on July 1.
As has been discussed at length and will continue to be dissected as the summer looms, those two pivotal decisions will have implications on what kind of ceiling the Bucks can reach with the window that’s currently open under superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Although he’s under contract for the 2018-19 season, one move that was designed to improve the immediate outlook for the Bucks was the acquisition of point guard Eric Bledsoe.
When we last saw the eight-year player on the court, Bledsoe had just wrapped up an absolutely befuddling series that was regrettably more memorable for what transpired around him off the court than on it.
I’m obviously referring to the strange thread that lingered throughout the Bucks’ playoff run, one where he pretended not to know point guard Terry Rozier, who had thoroughly outplayed the 28-year-old Bledsoe.
Of course, Rozier has further broken out as the Celtics have progressed through their own playoff run and Bledsoe’s bizarre way of strategic playoff warfare continues to be fodder and motivation for a Celtics squad that has outperformed expectations following their many injuries.
That’s not a way to dismiss Bledsoe’s play on the court, either, as he averaged just 13.6 points on shooting splits of .440/.318/.700, along with 3.7 assists and 3.6 rebounds through the Bucks’ seven playoff games.
In a way, Bledsoe’s behavior and overall struggles throughout their run stand as a microcosm of the Bucks’ entire season, all of which has cast a new light on his seven-month long stay in Milwaukee to this point.
Back when the Bucks acquired the Kentucky product from the Phoenix Suns at the beginning of last November, it was seen as a way to both alleviate the colossal workload of Antetokounmpo and to add a tenacious, plus defender to help boost their failing productivity on that end of the floor.
Along with that, Bledsoe fought back on the concerns over his efficiency and shooting prowess, considering he finished with his most efficient campaign of his career by both effective field goal percentage (53.6 percent) and true shooting percentage (58.5 percent) standards.
Now that the dust has settled on the Bucks’ season, those marks and the bright spots Bledsoe displayed upon his arrival feel have faded into the recesses of our collective memory.
It all has left us to ponder where exactly the Bucks go from here regarding Bledsoe’s fit and whether he can revitalize his standing and more importantly, the arc of his professional career heading into a free agent year.
Those questions, along with others, are certainly at the forefront of the front office’s mind and may be a discussion point in interviews with coaching candidates vying for the team’s head coaching job. Being able to earn the trust and subsequently fleshing out an engaged Bledsoe will be a key factor to make his partnership with the Bucks a workable one next season.
After all, we’ve seen what the opposite of that last point looks like as that was one of the many reasons that drove Bledsoe to force his way out of the desert by tweeting “I Dont wanna be here” three games into the Suns’ lowly season this year.
As we look to still wash and scrub out the sour taste from our mouths after seeing Bledsoe’s play in the playoffs (use plenty of listerine, folks), Bledsoe is back to having to prove he’s the player that many imagined on a playoff caliber team surrounded by a superstar/high quality players.
If he fails to do so, there’s much more at stake than trying to make the best of his fit in Milwaukee.