Since the Milwaukee Bucks acquired Eric Bledsoe from the Phoenix Suns earlier this season, they’ve gone 8-4.
Their new point guard has filled the stat sheet, averaging 17.0 points, 3.9 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 2.0 steals over 30.8 minutes per contest.
Although the Bucks already had reigning Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon and veterans Matthew Dellavedova and Jason Terry on their active roster at the point guard spot, they saw something special in Bledsoe. As a result, they traded away big man Greg Monroe, a 2018 first-round protected pick and a 2018 second-round protected pick.
Although Bledsoe has been mainly known for his elite athleticism and playmaking skills on offense, he has been especially valuable in a surprising regard throughout his short tenure with his new club.
As Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports pointed out on Tuesday, Bledsoe’s length and ability to defend have fit in perfectly in coach Jason Kidd’s system.
“The Bucks are impossibly long, and Bledsoe — with a wingspan a tick under 6-foot-8 — fits right in. Boston, nay, Kyrie Irving buried Milwaukee on Monday, but in the 11 games prior the defense has been effective. Opponents turned the ball over 18.5 times per game during that stretch, an NBA high, which the Bucks turned into nearly 21 points a game. Milwaukee is still getting gashed from beyond the 3-point line — opponents are shooting an NBA-best 40 percent from beyond the arc against the Bucks — but Bledsoe’s ability to defend on the ball and wrestle through screens has proved valuable,” Mannix wrote.
Although the Bucks rank in the middle of the pack when it comes to defensive rating (17th as of Tuesday night), they’ve allowed 15.6 points per game off turnovers (10th) and are the NBA’s best team in denying fast-break opportunities, giving up just 6.5 fast-break points per game.
They also rank eighth in the league in steals per game (8.2) and seventh in blocks per game (5.4). While their three-point defense has been atrocious, they've also excelled in certain areas.
While they may be one rim protector away from becoming a truly-elite defensive team, they have a number of long defenders that they can utilize. Bledsoe, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Tony Snell, Brogdon, Thon Maker and John Henson are some of the names at coach Kidd’s disposal.
Although the Bucks are not regarded as an upper-echelon team in the East quite yet, if they add another elite defender down low, they could wreak havoc and possibly contend with teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics as the season rolls on. Bledsoe's presence undoubtedly makes that a realistic possibility.