My guess is he wasn’t on the ground for too long here.
I think it’s about time we change the way we view what makes Kentucky a good program for future pros. It’s easy to point at number one picks as a measure of success and say, “Kentucky did a heck of a job, there.” With John Wall and Anthony Davis becoming rapid fire, rat-a-tat top picks, the professional success of John Calipari and the Wildcats is on full display for as long as he wants it to be.
But maybe, just maybe, the number of overall #1 picks isn’t the surest way to measure draft success. And maybe sheer quantity of players drafted isn’t accurate, either. Maybe the best way to measure draft success is to look at, well, success. Change in position from starting point to current point. A positive discrepancy in expectation and reality.
If that’s the case, then nobody’s done a better job than Eric Bledsoe.
Drafted outside the lottery at #18, Bledsoe was expected to be a roleplayer, a guy who could fill spot minutes as a backup to superstar Chris Paul. And he did that. But he didn’t stop there–Bledsoe turned into one of the most electrifying, acrobatic, defensively-gifted guards the league has seen in the last few years. But, in that understudy role, how could owners and fans determine what he was really worth?
Well, that can be done in a couple of ways. The first is obviously the contract. The more you’re paid, the more you’re worth. Eh, most of the time. Some vets are drastically overpaid based on a combination of their own physical decline and their team’s desperation to sign them. Near-invalids claw and cling to long-term deals because their livelihoods depend on it. Case in point: Gerald Wallace has four years left of an almost $10 million/year contract. Yikes. Plus, with longer-term contracts, value can change over the course of the deal. Rookies may be worth just a little bit to start their first contract, but wildly more in its last couple years. So contract is a good place to start, but it’s not always the most reliable.
Real value, as Mark Cuban or any business major will tell you, is determined by the marketplace. Outside the sterility of contract negotiations, what are teams willing to give up for a player? In Bledsoe’s case, a lot. The Clippers got two starters at need positions for what was supposedly a “backup” point guard. Despite what the somewhat meager numbers of his rookie contract would indicate, Bledsoe got dealt for a sizable amount, and while Clippers fans are mostly sad to see him go, they’re just now realizing how valuable he really was.
Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN summed up his playing style, and worth, pretty well:
Bledsoe was another thing entirely — a sinewy bundle of chaos whose whole game was predicated on the element of surprise. Already, Bledsoe is a top five on-ball perimeter defender, a one-man press who can slice a 24-second possession in half. He’s the most dangerous shot-blocking guard since Dwyane Wade, and with a few more reps could become one of the fastest end-to-end guards in the league with the ball. … His trajectory was too promising [to focus on his shortcomings], his game too infectious to be bothered all that much. Teammates named him “Mini LeBron,” and Chris Paul’s dad called him “Little Hercules.” He’s one of those head-and-heart players who appeals to both stat geeks and the aesthetes.
Even though he’ll be moving away from LA, this is a good move for Eric Bledsoe. His new team might not be as competitive, but it’ll be more his team. And he and Archie Goodwin could be one of the most athletic (if out of control) backcourts in the West next season. Should be a lot of fun for viewers, and Eric will get to spend more time doing what he does best: Getting **** right.
High school kids can look at Bledsoe and see a guy who came from Almost Nothing, Alabama, worked his tail off and played alongside talented players to become one of Kentucky’s biggest success stories. Lots of people were surprised when he declared for the Draft, but looking at it now, can you say he made a bad decision? The John Walls and Anthony Davises of the world are known quantities; almost anyone could turn those guys into successful pros. Some people are born on 3rd base and live their lives thinking they hit a triple, but that’s not the case here. The Eric Bledsoe story is more compelling, more rewarding, and more hopeful–it’s the real measure of the Kentucky Effect. Congratulations, Eric, and thanks for giving us something to be proud of.
Also here’s this again.