Bucks’ exit interview: Eric Bledsoe must improve decision-making

Let’s take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of Milwaukee Bucks’ point guard Eric Bledsoe following the conclusion of the 2020 season.

With the Milwaukee Bucks‘ 2019-2020 season officially over, Dairyland Express will be reviewing every player on the roster and breaking down their strengths as well as what areas they need to work on over the offseason. An unofficial exit interview, if you will.

We begin with the controversial starting point guard Eric Bledsoe. Bledsoe experienced his lowest-scoring and least efficient season since landing in Milwaukee via a trade in 2017. Still, it was a quietly successful offensive year considering he scored 114.8 points per 100 shot attempts (78th percentile for his position) while racking up a 52.6 percent effective field goal percentage (73rd percentile) according to Cleaning the Glass.

Let’s take a look at his game following his second full season in Milwaukee.

Strength: Attacking the rim

Other than Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bledsoe was the only Buck who could get to the rim consistently off the bounce. He has a good blend of quickness and strength that allows him to shimmy and/or bulldoze his way to the rim depending on the defender in front of him. His 11.8 drives per game ranked first on the team, and his 55.6 percent field goal percentage ranked seventh out of the 37 players with at least 11 drives per game, ahead of the likes of LeBron James, Damian Lillard and Kawhi Leonard.

Below, he catches the swing pass from Donte DiVincenzo and immediately goes to work. He first fakes an attack toward the middle of the court before hitting his man with a left-to-right crossover, giving him all the space in the world and forcing his defender to helplessly swipe at the ball as he lays it in at point-blank range with no rim-resistance.

He not only excels at getting to the rim–42 percent of his shot attempts came within four feet of the basket–but he’s great at finishing as well. His 66 percent success rate at the basket ranks in the 88th percentile among all point guards. Say what you will about the rest of his game, but he’s been as good as advertised when it comes to penetrating defenses.

Weakness: Overall decision-making

The other side of the coin is his questionable decision-making. Sticking with the topics of drives, Bledsoe’s 8.2 percent turnover rate on such plays is the fourth-highest among players who average at least 11 per game. Not great, Bob.

He struggles with turnovers and questionable shots in all facets of his game. He turned the ball over on 14.2 percent of his possessions this season according to Cleaning the Glass, ranking in the 37th percentile for his position. Far too often he gets caught in the air with seemingly no plan for the ball, often resulting in a pass directly to the other team.

His shot-selection also leaves a lot to be desired. It was far too common to witness him taking a pull-up three early in the shot clock when the Bucks needed a bucket in the worst way. In the postseason, he shot just 19 percent on pull-up threes and 25 percent on threes with 22-18 seconds remaining on the shot clock; not exactly a reason for him to continue pulling the trigger.

This is the most frustrating aspect of his game. His potential indicates he has all the abilities in the world to become a much more consistent and dangerous player if only he could eliminate the mental mistakes. It’s also the reason he could be on his way out of Milwaukee this offseason.

Strength: On-ball defense

One area he did reach his potential in since coming to Milwaukee is on defense. Mike Budenholzer, specifically, has gotten everything out of Bledsoe at the point of attack, as he’s now earned two straight NBA All-Defensive team honors.

Bledsoe is the cream of the crop when it comes to defending ballhandlers in the pick-and-roll, he excels at making them work for every dribble and he’s tremendous at fighting over the top of ball screens and quickly recovering. There’s a reason the Bucks have finished with the best defensive rating in each of the last two seasons and Bledsoe is near the top of that list.

Weakness: Three-point shooting

Bledsoe’s outside shooting has been exploited in the postseason for three straight years, and it’s unclear how far the Bucks can advance when the games matter most if he’s playing alongside Antetokounmpo.

He’s not a great three-point shooter to begin with–knocking down just 34.4 percent this season–and defenses consistently ignore him on that end of the court, often using his man to deter Antetokounmpo and others from driving to the basket. Even worse, he can’t make them pay when left wide open behind the arc. This is a troubling combination that has partially led to the Bucks’ inability to solve the wall defenses have thrown at them in back to back postseasons.