Milwaukee Bucks’ Eric Bledsoe Set To Bounce Back After Playoff Nightmare

As the final buzzer sounded in the Milwaukee Bucks Game 7 loss to the Boston Celtics, a golden opportunity went begging. Despite Giannis Antetokounmpo and the scorching hot Khris Middleton’s best efforts, the Bucks had once again failed to reach the second round – an accomplishment they have only achieved once since the 1980’s.

Milwaukee had been largely carried by their three best players through a topsy-turvy regular season that was broken up by the firing of head coach Jason Kidd in January. The third member of the Bucks ‘big three’ was Eric Bledsoe, who had put together a sneakily good few months of form leading into the Playoff series that many pundits fancied their chances in.

Unfortunately for the Bucks, the borderline All-Star point guard was a no-show in the Playoffs, heavily outplayed by the Celtics backup Terry Rozier, who was thrown into the starting lineup late in the season to replace the injured Kyrie Irving.

In seven postseason appearances, Bledsoe’s point production dropped from 17.8 per game to 13.6, his assists plummeted from 5.1 to 3.9, and his three-point percentage fell from 35 percent from 31. It was a frustrating stretch of games for Bledsoe, who had become a reliable source of offensive production from the turn of the New Year. Defensively, he was no better, a critical defensive breakdown at the end of Game 1 proving to be a bad omen for what was to come.

The catastrophic letdown sparked conversations as to whether the Bucks should look to trade Bledsoe ahead of the upcoming season and hand the reigns over to 2017 Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon moving forward. Chris Sheridan of Get More Sports, threw fuel on the fire with this apparent revelation in regards to Bledsoe’s relationship with franchise superstar Antetokounmpo.

“I expect the Bucks to move Eric Bledsoe and Jabari Parker, because Giannis Antetokounmpo does not enjoy playing alongside those two,” Sheridan said.

Whilst the Bucks have been rumored to float the point guards name in trade discussions since his arrival early last season, the notion that it would be due to a clash with Giannis certainly caught most off guard.

About to enter a contract year, Bledsoe’s $15 million dollar salary is set to come off the books after the 2018-19 season. With free agency pending, it’s quite possible the Bucks may want to move that expiring deal at some point through the season, but as it stands, it appears the explosive guard will start the season in the Cream City. While the Playoff disappearing act left a bad taste in many a Bucks fans mouth, it would be remiss to ignore how good Bledsoe was in the lead up to that point.

In 32 games from the start of February to the end of the regular season, Bledsoe averaged 19.0 points, 6.1 assists and 1.8 steals on a very nice 40.3 percent shooting from beyond the arc. Just for reference, not one player averaged those numbers across the entire regular season, and only one player reached those marks when you remove the steals from the equation – Steph Curry.

One lingering source of criticism from Bucks fans came with Bledsoe’s shot selection, which at times left a lot to be desired. In particular, his propensity to jack up ill-advised long-range bombs early in the shot clock. This is highlighted by Bledsoe shooting 32.7 percent from deep with the shot clock ranging from 15-24 seconds, as opposed to 42.8 percent when the clock is between 4-15 seconds. This is largely due to Bledsoe’s struggles shooting off the dribble, where his three-point percentage free falls to 19 percent after 7+ dribbles, compared to his 39 percent on catch-and-shoot treys.

With Mike Budenholzer on board, Bledsoe will get a new opportunity to form a relationship with a fresh coaching staff in what will be his first offseason with the Bucks. Hopefully, for Milwaukee, this translates into a more aggressive Bledsoe using his muscle to get to the rack rather than choosing to settle for jump shots. Bledsoe shot an excellent 65.2 percent on field goal attempts within five feet of the basket, his ability to penetrate the defense combined with the gravity of Antetokounmpo allowing him to score at a high rate.

As for his fit with fellow stars Giannis and Middleton?

Bledsoe assisted on 189 made field goals in 2017-18, with 65 percent of those coming from his high profile teammates. While working the other way, no other Buck assisted Giannis on more baskets than Bledsoe, with his 83 dishes just topping Middleton’s 77 before a large drop off to John Henson at 36. Bledsoe continuing to display legitimate catch-and-shoot ability from the outside will remain crucial, with Antetokounmpo still developing as an outside shooter.

Defensively, Bledsoe has always been pesky, his two steals per game in the regular season only falling second to Indiana’s Victor Oladipo. With Jason Kidd and his heavy trapping defense now on the outer, Milwaukee will finally get a chance to utilize their jaw-dropping length and individual defensive talents in a scheme that will hopefully be tailored to meet those strengths. Bledsoe figures to be key to this, his quick feet and ability to body up his opposing point guards should prove disruptive with Giannis, Thon Maker, and John Henson providing able rim protection in support.

Another underrated aspect of Bledsoe’s first season in Milwaukee was his ability to come up with big-time plays in clutch situations. Per basketball-reference, Bledsoe connected on 52 percent of his 26 field goal attempts in the final five minutes of regulation and overtime with the margin less than five points. That field goal percentage ranked Bledsoe ninth league-wide in those situations, and when combined with Giannis (2nd), and Middleton (12th), armed the Bucks with a lethal three-headed offensive monster late in close contests.

The Bucks will head into the 2018-19 season with the expectation of reaching the second round their absolute floor. Eric Bledsoe figures to be a key component of that expectation coming to fruition in the brand new state of the art, Fiserv Forum.

All in all, Bledsoe had an impressive first regular season in Milwaukee, and will now benefit from having a full offseason to plan and prepare to attack what has become a wide open Eastern Conference race. While it can be hard to look past the disappointment of his Playoff performance, a lengthy sample size of strong play beside the other Bucks prime movers should give you confidence that he will return to form this season.

*All stats sourced from and

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