How Much Better Has Eric Bledsoe Made the Milwaukee Bucks?
It all started with a tweet:
I Dont wanna be here
â€” Eric Bledsoe (@EBled2) October 22, 2017
Whether or not you believe that he was actually talking about a hair salon is irrelevant at this point, since the differences between Bledsoe and the Suns proved irreconcilable without a shadow of doubt when he was benched post-tweet and subsequently traded to the Milwaukee Bucks.
Phoenix finalizing deal to send Eric Bledsoe to Milwaukee for Greg Monroe and a first-round draft pick, sources tell @ZachLowe_NBA and me.
â€” Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) November 7, 2017
When the trade went down, there were questions about whether a ball-dominant player like Bledsoe would fit with budding superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, and whether the trade would ultimately make the Bucks better.
Well, we've got 10 games pre-trade and 13 games post-trade to analyze, and so far the answer to both those questions would seem to be a resounding "heck yes."
In Bledsoe's 400 minutes played in a Bucks uniform, Milwaukee has an offensive rating of 107.7, defensive rating of 99.2, and net rating of 8.5 when he's on the court, as compared to ratings of 103.9, 111.7, and -7.8, respectively, in his 325 minutes not with the team or on the bench. That's a whopping 16.3 upswing in scoring margin per 100 possessions when the Bucks have Bledsoe on the floor this season.
His impact has been felt in the standings and team ratings as well:
|Record||Win-Loss %||Off Rtg (Rank)||Def Rtg (Rank)||Net Rtg (Rank)|
|Pre-Trade||4-6||0.400||105.2 (15th)||109.5 (29th)||-2.3 (22nd)|
|Post-Trade||9-4||0.692||104.3 (16th)||102.9 (11th)||2.2 (10th)|
Before the Bledsoe trade, the Bucks were a sub-.500 team with a middling offense, the second-worst defense in the NBA, and a bottom-third net rating. Since the trade, they've gone an impressive 9-4 and now rank in the top-third in net rating. The offense is still smack dab in the middle of the pack, but their defensive efficiency has skyrocketed, and now suddenly they're knocking on the door of having a top-10 defense.
And if you were worried that Bledsoe was going to take cookies out of Antetokounmpo's cookie jar, since both players need the one ball to be at their best, you can now rest assured that they can share the rock just fine. You could argue, in fact, that Antetokounmpo -- a bona fide MVP candidate this season -- has been even better with Bledsoe as his running mate.
At least that's what the numbers suggest:
|Giannis Antetokounmpo||Pts / 36||FG%||Reb / 36||Ast / 36||Stl / 36||Blk / 36||TO / 36|
Antetokounmpo shoots the ball 3.1% better with Bledsoe on the floor, and each of his counting stats (points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks) has gotten a bump on a per-36-minute basis as well. It turns out that Bledsoe hasn't stolen a thing from Giannis' cookie jar, and has instead arguably made life easier for him.
The Bucks are simply better when the two are playing off each other. This season, Milwaukee has a negative net rating with only one of Antetokounmpo or Bledsoe on the floor at a time, but a commanding 11.8 mark when both are playing together:
|Milwaukee Bucks||Minutes||Possessions||Off Rtg||Def Rtg||Net Rtg|
|Antetokounmpo & Bledsoe||321||627||116.0||104.2||11.8|
If the Milwaukee Bucks are winning more games and grading out better in advanced metrics, if Antetokounmpo is actually doing more with Bledsoe in the lineup than he is without, and if the Bucks are better with their two high-profile players on the floor together than they are with either individually, then it looks like we can call the Bledsoe trade a success.
There's still a lot more season to be played, but the Bucks are currently fifth in the Eastern Conference with a record of 13-10 and are trending in the right direction post-trade. They might not be a true contender just yet (we currently have them at an admittedly generous 0.6% to win the title), but they are poised to make things interesting if there's a changing of the guard this summer following LeBron James' heavily anticipated free agency.