New Orleans Pelicans: Grading how Eric Bledsoe did
Eric Bledsoe was one of the New Orleans Pelicans’ marquee acquisitions in the off-season after Jrue Holiday’s departure to the Milwaukee Bucks.
Bledsoe came over after a series of disappointing playoff displays in Milwaukee, albeit on the back of some strong regular seasons that even had him in all-star conversations at one point. On paper, this was a smart, if not unspectacular, signing.
I assume that the line of thought must have assumed that Bledsoe could bring over his defense, complementary playmaking, and leadership to a very young team. But in practice, Bledsoe took a long time to do this—and it could be argued that he never really lived up to any of the hype.
Bledsoe was largely woeful during most of the regular season. He was a shadow of his previous self on defense, wasn’t growing into the off-ball role that Stan Van Gundy preferred this year, and was barely producing offensively. There were plenty of games in which the former Kentucky guard did not even make it to a double-digit figure.
At one point, Bledsoe’s bad start to his Pelicans career was only being buoyed by his three-point percentage. That was his saving grace but it eventually went into a tailspin, as well. Bledsoe finished this season shooting 34 percent, slightly worse than in his last season for the Bucks.
But while I cringed watching Bledsoe a lot of the time this year, I must admit that he was really starting to turn things around by the end of the season. Everything started when Bledsoe stayed in New Orleans past the trade deadline—either the Pels didn’t find the correct deal or there were no legitimate suitors for Bledsoe after his poor season.
With Bledsoe having little choice but to dress in a Pelicans uniform, he could have mailed in the rest of the season. Instead, an uptick in performances followed. He locked in on defense more (not at the same levels as before, but a relative improvement over his start to the season), played with more confidence, and also started getting downhill a lot more.
Towards New Orleans’ final stretch of games, you could now count on Bledsoe to have a few bright moments attacking the rim and then either finding the right pass or slowing down into some sort of layup or short shot.
I still believe that it is in the Pelicans’ best interest to move Bledsoe on this off-season. The contract makes it tough, but he had a solid finish to a bad season and his combination of veteranship and post-season pedigree is still valuable somewhere.