Milwaukee Bucks: Eric Bledsoe remains key to potential title success

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - NOVEMBER 04: (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - NOVEMBER 04: (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

With the NBA title aspirations the Milwaukee Bucks hold in this current window, it’s veteran point guard Eric Bledsoe who remains a key contributor and will have a major impact on that quest.

For better or for worse, the Milwaukee Bucks’ 2019-20 season was going to be ultimately judged by how their playoff run would go.

We were hurdling toward seeing that as the Bucks looked to avenge their Conference Finals collapse from nearly a year ago before the coronavrius outbreak disrupted the NBA season and life as we know it. Hope still remains that the season will eventually continue, but for now, the Bucks’ quest for a second NBA title has been put on pause and is in danger of being neutralized altogether.

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With all that said, the Bucks proved to be better than the standard they set for themselves following their league-leading 60-win campaign last year.

Even still, questions linger about the Bucks’ supporting cast around superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, the biggest being veteran guard Eric Bledsoe.

For the three seasons he has been in Milwaukee, Bledsoe has largely delivered what the team expected out of him upon acquiring him from the Phoenix Suns back in early November 2017.

The Bucks subsequently invested in Bledsoe when the two parties agreed on a four-year, $70 million extension in March of last season and he capped off his renaissance season by taking home All-Defensive First Team honors for the first time in his career.

But the one thing no one could have accounted for was his back-to-back rollercoaster playoff runs, even as the Bucks reached the Conference Finals for the first time since 2001. And for all of the strides he made in crafting one of his best individual seasons of his NBA career, Bledsoe was relegated to the bench as the Bucks shifted into overdrive in an unsuccessful attempt to save their season up against the eventual NBA champions, the Toronto Raptors.

For his well-publicized struggles during the postseason, there’s no question Bledsoe stands as the Bucks’ biggest wild card when the lights are the brightest and their season is on the line. And it’s a reason why any underlying skepticism regarding the Bucks’ title prospects exists, even during this dead period.

While that will always hang over him until he proves otherwise, Bledsoe has unquestionably become a better player over his stay in Milwaukee and especially since the arrival of head coach Mike Budenholzer and his staff back in the summer of 2018.

He’s been able to maximize his fit within the Bucks’ system and improve his game in areas that were once considered concerns, such as his long range shooting, specifically off the dribble.

And when he’s on point with his relentless attacking of the basket, it makes Bledsoe an integral cog to maintain the Bucks’ diverse offensive attack. The same goes for his ability to make the Bucks’ defensive scheme function by applying plenty of pressure on opposing ball handlers and deftly maneuvering around screens.

Sure, that hasn’t helped Bledsoe realize his All-Star aspirations over the last couple of seasons, but the 30-year-old has maintained his status as a high-level starting point guard in the NBA.

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For a variety of factors, those improvements haven’t translated into the playoffs and it all reinforces where any positive performances from Bledsoe will help the Bucks in the long run. Hopefully, he’ll have a chance to do what he hasn’t done in the postseason, should this season eventually get back underway.