Keep an eye on Los Angeles Clippers rookie PG Eric Bledsoe down the homestretch. The one-and-done Kentucky Wildcat, last June’s 18th overall pick, has made steady progress under head coach Vinny Del Negro.
Bledsoe spent only one season at UK, primarily playing the shooting guard because the lead guard last year in Lexington was the 2010 number one overall pick John Wall. Although Bledsoe was an SEC-er in the amateur ranks under coach John Calipari only briefly, Bledsoe played on a 35-3 squad along with four other eventual 2010 first-round NBA picks. Competing day in and day out with such heralded ballers at Kentucky gave Bledsoe a pre-pro seasoning that most collegiate hardcourtsmen don’t acquire.
61 games into his professional career, Bledsoe is averaging 6.7 ppg, 4 dimes and 3 boards and more than a steal per contest. He has season highs of 18 points, 8 boards, 13 assists, 4 swipes and 46 minutes. He has a long wingspan, better than average NBA athleticism and tons of hops. Also, at 6’1” with a chiseled 200 pound frame, Bledsoe can body up to bigger guards and stay in front of the legions of lightning-quick perimeter players who populate the league.
With the departure of twelfth-year veteran Baron Davis via trade to the Cavaliers in exchange for eighth-year PG Mo Williams and Jamario Moon, the Clippers are a team in flux around the NBA’s soon-to-be Rookie of The Year, PF Blake Griffin. With only 21 games left in the 2010-11 regular season, the Clips are 12 games out of the final spot in the Western Conference’s playoff race. Perhaps as they approach the finish line, ‘the other Staples’ tenant’ will give Bledsoe and their young guys more minutes in hopes of building toward next season and beyond.