Milwaukee Bucks: The All-Star case for Eric Bledsoe

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 6: (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 6: (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

With the NBA All-Star game just weeks away, does Milwaukee Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe deserve a spot in the showcase of the league’s best?

The NBA All-Star game is just a few short weeks away. The Milwaukee Bucks are a lock to see at least one of their players make the showcase of the league’s elite with Giannis Antetokounmpo among the leading vote-getters. But, do any other Bucks deserve to join Antetokounmpo in Charlotte?

There are certainly many candidates on the Eastern Conference’s best team to make it.

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Malcolm Brogdon is having an incredible season, and could join a select few who’ve had a 50-40-90 (field goal percentage, three point percentage, free throw percentage) season in league history.

Brook Lopez has made a major impact, providing the Bucks with the rim protection and the floor spacing they so sorely lacked in their front court last season.

Khris Middleton is in line with his per game averages of season’s past and has been a major contributor.

The candidate most deserving of making it, however, is point guard Eric Bledsoe.

After going through a roller coaster first season with the Bucks, Bledsoe has arguably been the team’s second most important player behind Antetokounmpo. In short, Bledsoe has been everything the Bucks were hoping he would be when they acquired him via trade last season.

His per game stats are just slightly below what they were last season, however, these stats don’t adequately show the positive impact Bledsoe’s having on both sides of the ball.

On offense, Bledsoe has significantly improved his efficiency and it’s having a meaningful impact on the overall production of the team. Bledsoe’s shooting percentage has jumped from 47.3 percent last season to 49.6 percent. Much of this jump has come from improved efficiency around the basket. Bledsoe has made 70.3 percent of his shots within five feet of the basket this season compared to 65.2 percent the year prior.

Bledsoe has been able to get inside with more consistency thanks, in part, to the active passing and floor spacing that Coach Mike Budenholzer’s offense provides. With better spacing and movement, Bledsoe has more opportunities to cut and drive, something he’s elite at doing thanks to his athleticism and touch around the rim.

The Bucks are also creating a lot of opportunities on the fastbreak. It’s no surprise then that Bledsoe’s fastbreak points per game has improved from 3.1 last season to 3.6 now. Few are as dangerous as Bledsoe in the open court.

Another part of Bledsoe’s game that has improved is his passing efficiency. Last season, Bledsoe’s assist-to-turnover ratio was 1.71 which was 75th out of 93 qualifying players. This year, Bledsoe’s assist-to-turnover ratio has improved to 2.66 which is 26th best out of 98 qualifying players.

When he’s on the floor, Bledsoe is often given the responsibility of being the primary or secondary play-maker for the Bucks’ offense. His improved passing efficiency has helped the Bucks move the ball and create quality shots, without the drawback of as many turnovers as he was providing last season.

Bledsoe’s improved efficiency has helped turn the Bucks into one of the league’s best offenses. With him on the floor, the Bucks sport an 114.6 offense rating, a 1.1 point improvement over the team’s overall rating. That 114.6 rating only trails the Golden State Warriors for the league’s most efficient offense.

Bledsoe is also making a substantial impact on the defensive end.

His tight one-on-one guarding, ability to rotate effectively, and tendency to cause havoc in the passing lanes has had the desired impact. The team has the league’s best defensive rating this season, and is even better when Bledsoe is on the floor, sporting a 103 defensive rating. The team’s defensive rating with him on the floor is nearly one point better than the team rating overall.

Advanced stats, not the traditional per game line, show the case for Bledsoe.

The overall net rating that the Bucks have with Bledsoe on the floor, 11.7, trails only Kyle Lowry among Eastern Conference starting point guards.

Bledsoe’s Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 19.4 puts him 20th among all Eastern Conference players and third among point guards behind Celtics guard Kyrie Irving and Hornets guard Kemba Walker.

In Estimated Wins Added, a stat comparable to Wins Above Replacement in baseball, Bledsoe sits at 5.5. That ranks 14th in the Eastern Conference and puts him behind just Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, and Bradley Beal among the conference’s guards.

Few have had the positive impact on their team that Bledsoe has. Still, Bledsoe’s odds of making the All-Star game remain long.

Kyrie Irving has carried the Celtics at times and has been their most valuable player. Victor Oladipo has led the Pacers to third in the Eastern Conference standings, a position few believed they would be in. Bradley Beal has had a major resurgence in the wake of John Wall‘s injury and has pulled the Wizards back into the playoff race. Kemba Walker has also been fantastic, and currently has the Hornets in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

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However, Bledsoe deserves to be in the conversation and should warrant serious consideration for the final spot on the Eastern Conference roster.