RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Eric BledsoePosted by jstevrtc on June 21st, 2010
Over the course of the next month until the NBA Draft on June 24, RTC will be rolling out comprehensive profiles of the 30-35 collegians we feel have the best chance to hear their names called by David Stern in the first round that night. There won’t be any particular order to the list, but you can scroll back through all the finished profiles by clicking here.
Player Name: Eric Bledsoe
NBA Position: Point Guard/Shooting Guard
Projected Draft Range: Late First Round
Overview: Even with high school phenoms like John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, and Daniel Orton headed to Lexington back in the fall of 2009, Eric Bledsoe was immediately liked by Kentucky fans. He was going to give their beloved team something they hadn’t had in a while — a designated shooter. Though Bledsoe was primarily a point guard in high school with reliable handle, he was also known as more than just a serviceable shooter from distance, a combination Wildcat fans craved at the time, especially considering the poor marksmanship and turnover-prone nature of Wildcat backcourts that preceded the Wall/Bledsoe duo. As if that wasn’t enough, even though Wall didn’t commit until later, Bledsoe won over many card-carrying Big Blue Nation members by expressing his desire to return Kentucky to hoops prominence, proclaiming on his signing day that he and his fellow recruits were coming to Lexington to “get shit right.” Playing out of position for almost every minute of his only college season, he gave the Wildcats what they expected — a good shooter who also provided a second point guard option, as well as a better-than-expected penetrator and creator. He shot 38% from beyond the arc, but his streaky nature meant defenses had to stay close to him, which enabled him to utilize his blistering first step to rocket past defenders.
Will Translate to the NBA: Bledsoe’s a rock. He has tremendous upper body strength and he’s great at using it to blaze a path to the hoop, absorb contact, and still score. He’s quick in every direction, including straight up off the floor, and doesn’t lose much of that pace even when he has the ball. He’s shown that he can play both point guard and shooting guard at the elite college level, so the team that drafts him will feel like they’re getting a skill set that spans the job descriptions of two different positions. He definitely possesses a shooter’s mentality, and shows no fear in firing away even if he misses his first few attempts.
Needs Work: Bledsoe is streaky from long range, and on off-nights he would occasionally sulk, resulting in less production, more turnovers, and extended bench minutes. Though he started the season as a capable defender, this is an aspect of his game that actually got worse as the year progressed. His quickness should translate quite easily to the defensive side, so the fact that he went backwards in this area points to the fact that it’s a matter of motivation, and that won’t do in the NBA. Despite his upper body strength, he’s still just 6’1, and that underscores the need for him to get his head right as far as defense is concerned and become a good close-up defender. Finally, even though he’s got great springs, he doesn’t get a lot of elevation off the ground on his jumper, and he could use that at his height.
Comparison Players: This isn’t easy, because his role on an NBA team will be more defined as either a point guard or shooting guard, and we won’t know which until after he’s drafted. Early in his career, he’d benefit more under a “system-based” coach, as he’d have an extremely specified role. Because of his age, Bledsoe will take a few seasons to find his niche, and his greatest success will come then, rather than immediately. In this way (plus their similar size), he reminds us of Keyon Dooling, a fellow who put up mediocre results for several seasons before thriving in Larry Frank’s system with the Nets (we’re flattered that the guys at NBADraft.net seem to think so, too). This may be a compliment to Bledsoe, but because he’s a point guard and a real threat from distance, and because he’ll take a few seasons to really get going, he reminds us a bit of the Cavaliers’ Mo Williams.
Best Case Scenario: If Bledsoe gets better on defense, allows himself time to grow as a player and as a person, and can resist some of the more sinister trappings inherent in being a new, young, NBA multi-millionaire, he’ll be fine. Assuming those things happen, after a few seasons he could easily find himself in a role similar to the aforementioned Mo Williams — a legit point guard who can score from the outside, get in the lane and dazzle you with a nice dish, or finish inside after taking contact.
2013 Projection: It’s our feeling that Bledsoe will still be looking for an identity over his first three seasons. He’ll provide a few off-the-bench minutes at PG and SG for the team that drafts him, and could step into either spot for a while in the event of an injury to a teammate, but he won’t fully shine until the defensive issues have been addressed, he’s paid his dues, and gotten used to the new lifestyle. It’ll be another season or two before Bledsoe contributes on a regular basis, though we think that will eventually happen.
Best NBA Fit: Bledsoe will go somewhere between 23rd and the end of the round. Atlanta would be an interesting place for him to land; they have a mix of young and “old” guards, yet nobody on the team averages more than 4.9 APG or shoots better than 38% from three. But they’ve actually got too many options at guard right now. Memphis has two late-round picks, but Mike Conley’s doing a good job at PG and, even though there are some SG minutes to be had, it’d be better for Bledsoe to enter the league playing his natural position at the point. If he’s looking for immediate minutes, New Jersey (27th pick) has Devin Harris playing PG with virtually no backup. But Bledsoe’s best chance for long-term improvement as a player might be with Oklahoma City (26th pick). Kevin Durant was an awful defender upon entering the league but has shown amazing improvement there, and Bledsoe could use whatever lessons Durant can teach. Assuming he stays, head coach Scott Brooks knows a little something about finding success in the league as an undersized guard. And as well as he’s playing, and as quickly as he’s adjusted to life in the NBA, Russell Westbrook would be an excellent mentor for Bledsoe.