Oh Captain, My Captain: Bledsoe’s All-Star Argument
The Suns need a Star. The presumption is that Devin Booker will be one in a couple of years. However, Eric Bledsoe is playing like one right now.
The Phoenix Suns have not had an All-Star game representative since Steve Nash was selected for the 2012 game in Orlando. A streak of three years thus far (the longest streak in franchise history) is a stretch of non-participation that also unfortunately couples with the team’s lack of playoff success.
While there is little chance of Eric Bledsoe matching the insane individual statistical output of Russell Westbrook and James Harden this season, he is having a good year in his own right (very consistent with his statistics of the past three seasons) and a recent stretch of five games that should get him league-wide notice, and at least consideration to play with the Western Conference All-Stars on February 19, if continued on.
Bledsoe is a model of consistency on this Suns team. Throughout his Phoenix Suns career he has been able to keep up a level of expectation where the Suns brass, coaching staff, and fans alike know what he will produce week-in and week-out. In his four seasons with the Suns, his points average has only wavered within 3.1pts, rebounds with 1.2, assists within .6, steals within .5, and blocks within .3. His FG% too has only moved within 3.4% over that stretch.
This season, Bledsoe is averaging 20.1 points, 5.8 assists, and 5.0 rebounds. In the NBA today, he is one of only five players with a line of at least 19/5/5, a list that includes LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Giannis Antetokounmpo – four players that are certain to be All-Stars next month.
His numbers are so good, he is putting up this stat line with the Suns for the first time in 24 years.
With Whom do these Stats Compare in Suns History?
Throughout Phoenix Suns history very few players have recorded that level of statistical success. In fact, only four Suns players have ever carried that particular stat line throughout an entire season. Most recently was 24 years ago with Charles Barkley in 1992-93, his MVP year:
(I threw in steals and blocks just for good measure.)
A few other players have come close in Suns history to the 19/5/5 plateau, as displayed below. These players met or exceeded the qualification in at least one category, and then were at most within 1 integer in the category(s) they fell short in:
|1968-69||Dick Van Arsdale||21.0||6.9||4.8||N/A||N/A||Yes|
As illustrated, not only is Eric Bledsoe having a season that is reminiscent of some of the best players in franchise history, but he is having the type of season that no other Sun has had and not been an All-Star.
Veritably, of those players that have come close to the 19/5/5 season, only four have not been All-Stars – 2015-16 Eric Bledsoe being one of them.
Furthermore, in every season except for 2015-16 when one of the close to 19/5/5 players did not make the All-Star team, at least one other player on the roster did:
1969-70 – Connie Hawkins and Dick Van Arsdale; 1976-77 – Paul Westpaul; 1988-89 – Tom Chambers.
And Then He is Hot Right Now
Bledsoe is also on a recent tear that is beginning to stand out. Over the past five games, Bledsoe has turned his assists average way up, but so too is nearly everything else across the board.
It is hard to figure out exactly why Bledsoe hasn’t been averaging more assists all season, as statistically he does make the players around him better. Most of them shoot a better percentage coming off of a pass from Bledsoe as compared to their overall shooting percentage.
|Name||Minutes per Game||Total passes from Bledsoe||FG% off pass from Bledsoe||General FG%||Better or worse from Bledsoe/%|
|Leandro Barbosa||13.4||50||33.3%||46.5||– 13.2|
|Dragan Bender||12.3||31||44.4%||38.7||+ 5.7|
|Devin Booker||33.3||699||42.4%||40.6||+ 1.8|
|Tyson Chandler||27.3||243||70.0%||68.5||+ 1.5|
|Marquese Chriss||17.4||234||47.2%||42.9||+ 4.3|
|Jared Dudley||22.7||252||41.7%||49.1||– 7.4|
|Brandon Knight||22.7||163||41.7%||40.0||+ 1.7|
|Alex Len||21.9||137||45.7%||49.8||– 4.1|
|PJ Tucker||27.3||253||53.6%||39.7||+ 13.9|
|Tyler Ulis||9.2||25||40.0%||40.5||– .5|
Of his eight teammates who average the most minutes on the roster, every one of them except for Alex Len and Jared Dudley (the latter who seems to have completely fallen out of the team’s rotation) has a better FG% on passes from Eric Bledsoe than their overall FG%.
Whatever has changed over the last five games, an uptick in assists for the next month could really put him on the All-Star map. Even if his scoring and rebounding stays the same as compared to his current seasonal average, but his assists average ticks back up to at least 6.1 where it had been the last two years, or into the mid-6’s or up to 7 over the next month, that would make any argument against an All-Star selection nearly inert.
In the end, it is also too bad for Bledsoe’s sake that he is not on a winning team. That alone very well might be the only catalyst he would need to be in the broader conversation as an All-Star every season.