Milwaukee Bucks: Has the Eric Bledsoe trade lived up to expectations?

Eric Bledsoe‘s time with the Milwaukee Bucks has had its ups and downs, but has the trade to acquire him lived up to expectations?

Eric Bledsoe has played 227 games, regular season and playoffs combined, for the Milwaukee Bucks so far. In that time, it’s fair to say he’s built a somewhat complicated legacy for himself.

The former Kentucky Wildcat is a key cog in everything the Bucks do on both ends of the floor, and to date that has led to remarkable regular season success, but also more than its share of agonizing playoff performances.

Taking the whole Bledsoe experience into account, it’s worth thinking back to the trade that brought the Alabama native to Milwaukee in the first place.

Almost two-and-a-half years on from that deal, has bringing in Bledsoe lived up to expectations for the Bucks?

The first and probably the most striking thing about casting the mind back to where the Bucks were at prior to Bledsoe’s arrival is just how much has changed.

Bledsoe joined the Bucks in November 2017 when Jason Kidd was still at the helm, but the changes in the time since run much deeper than that.

In the final game before the Bledsoe trade with the Phoenix Suns, the Bucks slipped to 4-5 thanks to a nine-point loss to the Detroit Pistons. In that game, Jason Kidd used 11 players, of which only Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton remain with the franchise today.

In fact between the regular roster and two-way players at that point, six players (DeAndre Liggins, Jason Terry, Rashad Vaughn, Mirza Teletovic, Greg Monroe, and Joel Bolomboy) that were on the Milwaukee squad just before Bledsoe’s arrival are no longer in the NBA.

That speaks to just how a variety of strong moves have utterly transformed the Bucks in that relatively short span, and it’s safe to say that string of decisions essentially began with the Bledsoe trade.

To land Bledsoe, the Bucks sent Greg Monroe to Phoenix along with a highly protected first and a second round pick. In the first major deal of his career as a general manager, Jon Horst took advantage of the lack of leverage that Phoenix had due to the breakdown of their relationship with Bledsoe, and secured what was immediately hailed as a tremendous value deal for the best point guard the Bucks had seen for the best part of two decades.

Fast forward to 2020, and as my colleague Jordan Treske explored in recent days, Bledsoe’s play remains essential to the Bucks’ chances of winning it all. But that in its own right points to just how well the Bledsoe acquisition has worked out to this point.

Whether Bledsoe, playoff demons included, is good enough for the Bucks to win a championship remains unknowable. But it is fair to say that his acquisition was the first of a number of decisions made by management that made the Bucks a legitimate contender, and ensured that lingering concern is a valid question to begin with.

The fact that the Bucks rolled off a 60-win season and made the Conference Finals last season and were on course to go even better on both fronts before the current campaign’s suspension, highlights that not only has the Bledsoe deal met expectations, but roundly exceeded them.

Next: Should Giannis win Defensive Player of the Year?

For all of his flaws, Bledsoe gives the Bucks a talented playmaker, a complementary scoring option, and an All-Defensive guard to work at the head of their outstanding defensive scheme. The trade to pick him up was nothing short of a game-changer.

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