Milwaukee Bucks: Eric Bledsoe’s crucial playmaking improvement

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - JANUARY 20: (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - JANUARY 20: (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

Since the arrival of Mike Budenholzer as Milwaukee Bucks head coach, Eric  Bledsoe has made an important improvement in tidying up his playmaking efficiency.

With Eric Bledsoe‘s troubling habit of hitting catastrophic dips in form when the Milwaukee Bucks land in the postseason, so much of the conversation around the guard often gets accompanied by something of a negative spin.

That’s understandable given the pressure the Bucks are under for postseason success, particularly as they look to ensure Giannis Antetokounmpo stays long-term. Still, not only has Bledsoe done plenty of good to help elevate Milwaukee in recent years, but he’s also made some notable improvements too.

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When Bledsoe arrived in Milwaukee, one of the knocks against his abilities as a floor general was his tendency to get a little out of control and to be sloppy with the ball.

Given the Bucks’ recent history with point guards immediately predating Bledsoe, there was room for a little sloppiness still making for a major upgrade.

At least, that was, until Mike Budenholzer was brought in as Milwaukee’s new head coach. All of a sudden, there was a real emphasis being placed on limiting both fouls and turnovers for the Bucks, and Bledsoe would need to fall in line with that.

In his time as head coach of the Atlanta Hawks, Budenholzer, who had worked particularly closely with Tony Parker as an assistant in San Antonio, had success in helping Jeff Teague to adjust his game, allowing both Teague and the Hawks kick on to much greater success.

Largely, the same has happened with Bledsoe in Milwaukee. That may be best captured by looking at the 30-year-old’s assist-to-turnover ratio since Budenholzer has taken charge of the Bucks.

Bledsoe has enjoyed the two most efficient playmaking seasons of his career under Coach Bud, just as the Bucks have kicked on to enjoy their two best seasons of the 21st century so far.

Having never previously averaged a rate of two assists or greater for every one turnover he gave up, Bledsoe has now managed to do that for two consecutive seasons. Bledsoe’s mark of 2.61 in 2018-19 represents a comfortable career-high, but his 2.16 in 2019-20 is similarly impressive.

Putting that figure within context for the current campaign, of Bucks who’ve been with the team for the entire season, only George Hill and Wesley Matthews have been more efficient with their playmaking than Bledsoe has.

To Bledsoe’s credit, though, while Hill and Matthews can avoid turnovers with usage percentages in the mid-teens, the starting point guard boasts a 23.6 usage percentage. That highlights just how great of an onus is on Bledsoe to create efficiently, and to his credit he’s taken major strides forward in that regard over the past two years.

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It’s no secret that there remains plenty of flaws in Bledsoe’s game, some of which may ultimately prove incompatible with the Bucks’ larger goals. At the same time, though, if it wasn’t for the improvements that he’s made as a playmaker in the last two seasons, the Bucks likely wouldn’t be as good as they’ve been over that stretch in the first place.