Saturday, November 11, 2017

Bledsoe's Bucks debut, Big Win in San Antonio

The Milwaukee Bucks made a blockbuster trade this week acquiring dynamo point guard Eric Bledsoe from Phoenix in exchange for Greg Monroe along with conditional 1st & 2nd round picks. 

It didn't take long for Bledsoe to show why the Bucks acquired him. Kidd started the newest Buck at point guard and he chipped in 13 points/7 assists (5 to Giannis) to help lead Milwaukee to a big 94-87 road win over the Spurs. 

The Bucks started the season well with a 4-2 record, but then skidded into a 3 game losing streak before an unusual 3 day break. The Bucks used that time to evaluate the roster and close a deal for "disgruntled" point guard Eric Bledsoe, who had been sent away from the Suns team after posting a tweet declaring "I don't wanna be here". A tweet in which he denies attributing to the ugly situation in Phoenix. But, you can likely thank that tweet for this deal going down the way it did.

Completing this deal offers a few harbingers of hope for Bucks success ahead. New GM Jon Horst completed his first trade and did so in efficient fashion, keeping the core talent together and not overpaying. Ownership has signified to the fan base, the city, but more importantly Giannis, they are for real ready to take the next step as a franchise. Top 4 seed and a playoff series win are finally within their sights. 

Taking on Bledsoe's 2 year deal for Monroe's expiring contract creates additional complications for Bucks future salary structure. Ownership said they would hit the gas when the time was right and this deal would signify they felt the time was right.

Milwaukee won the trade on talent alone because of the ugly situation that Phoenix always seems to find themselves in. Bledsoe just sped up the process publicly declaring his desire to leave that situation. Phoenix has also had ugly divorces recently from Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas. Both players went on to new situations in Miami and Boston and flourished. 

The Bucks have been searching for an answer at point guard since Sam Cassell was traded in 2003. TJ Ford. Mo Williams. Brandon Jennings. Brandon Knight. Michael Carter Williams. Nothing has stuck.

The Eric Bledsoe acquisition just might be this teams Sam Cassell move. They are very different players, but adding a veteran point guard to a talented young core is something the Bucks have done before.

The Bucks core of Ray Allen and Glenn Robinson were 24 and 26 while Sam was 30 when he was acquired in 1999. Eric Bledsoe has more of his prime left at 27, while Giannis and Jabari are 22 (next month Bledsoe turns 28, Giannis 23). While Bledsoe is a veteran, he's still got plenty of tread left to grow with this team if they are able to keep him beyond the 2018-2019 season. Judging by the ever present smile since donning Milwaukee gear, it's safe to say it's off to a good start.

Early games this year exposed the same problem the Bucks faced in the Toronto playoff series. When Giannis and Khris are not creating shots or offense, the Bucks offense gets stale quickly. Brogdon can be a playmaker, but does so from a much more stationary position. Defenses were heavily collapsing on Giannis and Khris often times causing their buckets to become much more difficult to get. Khris has struggled, and while Giannis has flourished, ideally he needs to get buckets without expending so much energy. 

It was easy to see how much easier Bledsoe is going to make it on Giannis. The Bucks transition game is set to flourish as Bledsoe adds a "Lob City" element to the Bucks point guard core that wasn't present before. Bledsoe displayed his athleticism and speed with coast to coast attacks, a steal he took full court before dunking and numerous drives/dishes into the paint that only Giannis was creating previously. 

Bledsoe won't just be making an impacting on offense though. His speed, strength and wingspan will make his addition a boon to the Bucks defensive scheme. Last night the Bucks held the Spurs to a season low tying 87 points, the lowest total for a Bucks opponent so far this year. Having a premier defender at the point of attack makes the job on defense infinitely easier for the rest of the guys to contain their man.  

What was most impressive though, was the Bucks blowing the 14 point lead to only 3 points late in the 4th quarter. No, blowing the lead wasn't impressive. What was impressive, is the Bucks hit back with buckets from Bledsoe and Middleton. Typically when Bucks have blown a big lead, they blow the game. Not this time. They hit back, held the lead and closed out the game. That's a big step forward.

The loss of Greg Monroe is not going to go unnoticed though as the Bucks bigs battled with Spurs frontcourt of Pau Gasol and Lamarcus Aldridge last night. Henson stepped up, held his ground while on the floor and had an oddly productive line of 10pts/7rebs/6asts/2stl/2blks. But Thon was repeatedly taken to school by Lamarcus as his post defense is just not there yet. Bucks called up Herd two-way big man Joel Bolomboy, a 6'9 F/C rebounding specialist from Congo/Ukraine, but he failed to see any floor time. 

I'm not sure how much of a help Bolomboy is going to be, but on a two day deal he's only available 45 days to the Bucks, so a longer term answer is going to be needed before the season is completed. 

The deal I'd be looking to make is to get Dewayne Dedmon out of Atlanta. He just signed a 2yr/$12M deal (with player option) so he wouldn't be available to be traded until December 15th. But, he's an excellent post defender, rebounder (9pts/8rebs) and can even stretch the defense with some 3 point shooting. The Hawks also have former Buck favorite Ersan Ilyasova who is playing sparingly. 

An offer of Teletovic/DJ Wilson for Dedmon/Ersan could get the Hawks listening. The Hawks are in rebuild mode and could use additional young talent. This deal would shore up the Bucks frontcourt and perhaps Ersan could fill the role the Bucks signed Teletovic for. 

But tonight, Eric Bledsoe makes his Bradley Center debut as the Lakers come to town with Luke Walton, Lonzo Ball, and former #1 pick Andrew Bogut (boy he looks weird in a Lakers uniform). The back to back game coming back from the road is a tough combination usually, but the Bucks have had a number of off days this week and Bledsoe has fresh legs. 

Bucks finally have the future in front of them right now. 

Time for them to seize the moment and put the future, into the now.

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