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Eric Bledsoe is Fueling Milwaukee’s Fire

The consistent play of point guard Eric Bledsoe this season has translated into a ton of early success.

NBA: New York Knicks at Milwaukee Bucks Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Milwaukee Bucks are 3-0 to start this 2018-2019 season, and a big part of their success has been the revitalization of point guard Eric Bledsoe’s play. Head coach Mike Budenholzer has helped rediscover Bledsoe’s box of talent and athleticism.

To start the season, he’s averaging 15.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, 7.7 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.3 blocks in 30.3 minutes per game. One of the bigger takeaways from Bledsoe’s stat line this season is that he’s taking care of the basketball, only surrendering 1.3 turnovers per game. Last year he averaged nearly 3 turnovers with only 5.1 assists per game. There’s no doubt he’s been reaping the benefit of coach Budenholzer’s emphasis on (carefully) sharing the rock.

Bledsoe is 29 years old, but still has a ton of spring in his step. His abilities to drive past the defender going left and being able to convert a pinpoint wraparound pass to the open three-point shooter are reminiscent of his days as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers. This clutch dime to Giannis (release the doves!) helped keep Milwaukee’s head above water and defeat the Knicks.

Rather than having the pressure of bringing the ball up for every offensive possession, and dribbling precious seconds off the shot clock to get a possession going, the Bucks now have four players who are capable of running the offense. This takes a lot of pressure off of Eric, and gives him more opportunity to create of off opponents missed shots.

Not only has his passing been on point, but Bledsoe has toned down the aggressiveness offensively and is focusing on taking better shots. At times last season, Bledsoe was too ball-dominant and would often dribble the air out of the ball before forcing up a midrange jumper. However, this season he appears to have bought into Budenholzer’s offensive system and is using his speed to his advantage.

Look at this play for example. It may seem like a simple blow-by, but look at how quick Bledsoe gets to the rack from directly off of an inbounds pass after the Knicks made a basket.

Plays like the one above may seem like nothing, but the impact they have on the flow of the game is crucial. Quick buckets are part of Mike Budenholzer’s offensive mantra, and Bledsoe’s profile fits that style of play to a T. It definitely looks like Bledsoe has his swagger back. I love the prospect of a PNR between Bledsoe and Giannis, and look how patient Bledsoe is to wait for something to develop offensively.

He lulls the Pacers to sleep before slashing to the hoop and losing Thaddeus Young with a killer crossover to finish with his left hand. This is prime Bledsoe right here.

What has Bucks fans most giddy about Bledsoe’s start to the season his how well he’s shooting the ball from the floor and from deep. His percentages are through the roof so far; his overall shooting up to 54.5% and his three-point percentage sitting pretty at 41.2% (his previous best was 39.7% back in 2011-2012). Most of his attempts from three have been in rhythm, and not forced.

Look at this possession versus the Knicks on Monday night. With the Bucks ahead 116-112 with 1:49 left in the 4th quarter, Malcolm Brogdon drove to the hoop and dished it out to a wide-open Eric Bledsoe in the corner to put the final nail in New York’s coffin.

Yes, it was a terrific pass from Brogdon, but notice how active Bledsoe was off the ball. Instead of camping on the wing expecting to be bailed out, he ran behind the defense of the Knicks to find the soft spot in the corner. Splash. We didn’t really see him active off the ball last season, but that has not been the case for him this year. It seems like a simple play, but it was fantastic awareness by the Bucks starting point guard.

With the blazing hot start from the Bucks, specifically Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo, Eric Bledsoe seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle. However, Bledsoe’s elevated play on both sides of the ball has quietly made him the most improved member of the Milwaukee Bucks this season. In a contract season, he is certainly making the Bucks think twice about retaining him. It’s early, but the Milwaukee Bucks are absolutely loving what they’ve seen from Eric Bledsoe this season.