Eric Bledsoe Trade In Fantasy And Reality
Eric Bledsoe to Milwaukee for Greg Monroe and Draft Picks
Our long national nightmare is over. Eric Bledsoe is freed from the Suns.
Bledsoe received his Christmas wish seven weeks early on Tuesday as the Suns finalized a deal that would send Eric the Grumpy to the Bucks for center Greg Monroe and a pair of draft picks, reportedly a first and a second. The deal moves Bledsoe to a Milwaukee team that at least on paper, begins to look pretty damn scary when you consider their projected lineup will have three legit point guards who can score at will.
Bledsoe won’t equal his career-best 21.1 points per game that he established last season, yet Fantasy players should strongly keep in mind that his career-high 6.3 assists (also set last year) could see an uptick once he’s engrained in the Milwaukee offense. Reality tells us it that stat has rise to in a lineup that features All-Star Giannis Antetokoumnpo, three-point specialist Khris Middleton and reigning Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon, who goes from running the offense to his more natural (and potentially) lethal home as the shooting guard.
The addition of Bledsoe is needed in Milwaukee, as the Bucks entered Tuesday night’s game against the Cavaliers ranked 21st in scoring at 103.9 points per game, while their offensive pace of 96.8 is 22nd. Having Bledsoe takes pressure off Antetokounmpo and Brogdon to dictate the offense. Bledsoe can come in and use his slashing, attack-the-basket style to set up the rest of the lineup with open looks. While I don’t suspect Bledsoe to maintain the 27 percent usage rate he had averaged in his last two-plus seasons in Phoenix, it’s not as if he’s going to tail off, so expect him to stay in the 23-25 percent range.
Having averaged 20.5 PER in his final two full seasons with the Suns, Bledsoe will dip to around 17-19 PER, yet should be capable of dialing it up when need be. The trade also makes second-year center Thon Maker the starter in Milwaukee now that Monroe is now shipped to a Phoenix roster that is now center-heavy with Tyson Chandler and Alex Len already on the roster and Marquese Chriss capable of playing the middle as well. Maker hasn’t done anything extraordinary (9.2 PER) to suggest a Fantasy rush on him, but the athletic 7’1 youngster will see a rise from the 17 minutes per night he was averaging prior to Tuesday.
At the very least, Maker is a Clip ‘N Save for Fantasy players, but he’ll likely be more valuable in the reality side of basketball, as his shot swatting ability and presence on the glass will offset the fact he couldn’t hit snow in Milwaukee in the middle of a blizzard. That said, however, Maker is a 39 percent 3-point shooter and if the increased minutes translates into better shooting, well, I’ll be happy to admit I was wrong.
As for the Suns side of things, Mike James remains the point guard for now. James came out of the gate strong, but his 37 percent shooting isn’t going to hold off Tyler Ulis over the long haul. Ulis is shooting just 35 percent and sports a “do we really have to play him?” 9.8 PER, yet he’s also a solid stretch of play away from seriously pushing James for the job. Both are averaging just over 20 minutes per night, so Fantasy players should sit back and watch this develop unless you have either have a roster spot to stash Ulis or the need to play either one of them.
Monroe, who has played in only five games this season, goes to a Suns team that is deep in bigs, and it’s hard to see how he fits a rebuilding team that insists they want to give Chriss, Len and Dragan Bender increased minutes. However, when you’re due $17.84 million in the last year of your contract, I somehow sense it won’t take long for Monroe to realize there are worst places to be tall, young and rich than Phoenix. At the very least, he’s greatly reduced his need for winter clothing.
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