The Bucks have shown trust in Eric Bledsoe at every turn.
They traded for him when he put himself on the block, supplanting reigning Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon at point guard, in 2017. Milwaukee gave Bledsoe a four-year, $70 million contract extension last year. Then, with the promising Brogdon looking to return to point guard, the Bucks signed-and-traded him to the Pacers, allowing Bledsoe to keep his role.
So, with Bledsoe trade rumors emerging, Milwaukee shot them down.
Bucks general manager Jon Horst, via Bleacher Report:
“We have no talked to any teams about trading [Bledsoe], since the day that we traded for him,” Bucks general manager Jon Horst told Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck. “And I think it’s evident, pretty strongly, in the fact that we extended Eric, what he means to us. The fact that we currently have the best record in the NBA, had the best record last year in the NBA, he’s an All-NBA First Team defender and a guy that we feel strongly should be an All-Star for the Milwaukee Bucks this year. We have not had those conversations, and we are not going to trade Eric Bledsoe.”
I believe Horst. He didn’t have to go such lengths to deny the rumors. But Horst knows how much he values Bledsoe and how the market looks. Horst is positioned to follow his own decree.
“We are not going to trade Eric Bledsoe” is unequivocal. I doubt Horst is callous enough to trade Bledsoe after that. If dealing Bledsoe after this upset him, that’d be another team’s problem. But reneging would be such a quick way to erode trust with the remaining Bucks.
Few point guards would be an upgrade over Bledsoe, though Milwaukee does have valuable backup George Hill and could theoretically move Bledsoe for help at another position. I wouldn’t be surprised if Horst canvassed the teams with better point guards and issued this statement only after determining there’s no workable trade. (My favorite target for the Bucks was Chris Paul.)
Bledsoe has excelled this season, and he fits well in Milwaukee. He shouldn’t be an All-Star, but he at least warrants real consideration. He’s a good starter on the NBA’s best team right now.
However, the Bucks are ready to aim higher than regular-season success.
Bledsoe has struggled the last two postseasons. He did more defensively last year to compensate for his lackluster shooting, but he was still a liability. Maybe that’s just a small, unrepresentative sample. Or maybe there’s something about playoff basketball that really hinders Bledsoe.
The Bucks – facing significant pressure this season – are taking a big risk sticking with Bledsoe. The 2020 NBA championship and Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s future in Milwaukee could swing on this decision.
As long as they’re going this direction, the Bucks are expressing their confidence in Bledsoe loud and clear.