ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe reported on Tuesday morning that the stalemate between the Phoenix Suns and Eric Bledsoe has come to a conclusion, with the Milwaukee Bucks expected to trade Greg Monroe plus a first- and second-round pick to acquire the dynamic point guard.
"Baby Bron" is the moniker that was given to Bledsoe during his early days off the bench for the LA Clippers, thanks to a rare blend of explosive athleticism and strength in a smaller package. The nickname also applies because Bledsoe, again in an approximation of LeBron James, offers a uniquely diverse production pattern. For fantasy managers, it could be fun to see Bledsoe back on the court, as only LeBron, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kyle Lowry, Stephen Curry and John Wall topped his stat line last season averaging 21 points, 6.3 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game. Such statistical variety saw Bledsoe rank as a top-10 point guard by averages last season.
The Bucks were clearly in need of a capable distributor and, more relevantly, a top defensive guard, as they rank 26th in defensive rating with 107.9 points allowed per 100 possessions this season. Bledsoe is again a peer of James, this time in the block department, as his block percentage of 1.2 percent trailed James (1.3) by only a scant margin last season.
I'm a huge fan of defensive production for fantasy purposes, especially when combined with an already special offensive package. Bledsoe can immediately help fantasy mangers in steals and blocks on what is a Jason Kidd scheme that prioritizes trapping and overall defensive prowess.
The potential downside to this move is that Bledsoe joins a team that ranks 22nd in pace (possessions per 100 minutes) while leaving a Phoenix team that is second in the league in this fantasy-friendly metric. That said, the Bucks are far more efficient on offense than the Suns, ranked 10th in the league in offensive rating, compared to the Suns' perch at 26th. I think we can consider this a wash, with the real concern being how quickly Bledsoe is integrated into a featured, ball-dominant role.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is 14th in the league in touches with 80.3 per game, just ahead of Kemba Walker and Curry, for some context as to his busy on-ball dynamic. Having enough usage with the ball in his hands could be a potential challenge for Bledsoe, though he capably produced when playing in some unique guard rotations with Isaiah Thomas and Brandon Knight.
As a counter to this issue, Bledsoe hit a solid 37.9 percent of catch-and-shoot 3-pointers last season and tied with, you guessed it, James with 2.6 pull-up 3-point attempts per game. Which is to say, the guy can work off the ball and also capably create his own shot. Antetokounmpo won't need to adjust to Bledsoe nearly as much as the inverse.
The main question for fantasy managers is whether Bledsoe can return to the dynamic production pattern that made him a top-30-ish value the past several seasons with the Suns. I think it's a little bold to expect him to match the scoring and rebounding rates from Phoenix, given increased competition in those categories with the Bucks, but I am confident his defensive skills and experience working off the ball will support top-50 value going forward, as I've ranked him 46th overall in a recent rest-of-season rankings update for points leagues. Congrats to those who proved patient or netted Bledsoe at a discount in drafts.
Now that we've dealt with Bledsoe's shifting stock, how does his departure in affect things in Phoenix? Well, we've already seen how the guard rotation has played out for the Suns with Bledsoe sidelined ever since the "beauty salon" tweet weeks ago: Devin Booker has had a robust 27.2 usage rate and is currently 27th in fantasy points per game in ESPN points formats and is sixth on the Player Rater (by averages) among shooting guards. Mike James was a fun story to start the season but is too inefficient from the field to trust over the long haul. I believe Booker and TJ Warren will be the prime beneficiaries of the offensive void Bledsoe leaves in Phoenix.
Another key bit of fantasy fallout from the move is how Bledsoe's arrival potentially deflates Malcolm Brogdon's stock on the Bucks, as he's 17th on the Player Rater among point guards at the moment, ahead of the likes of Goran Dragic, Lowry and Jrue Holiday. You have to assume Bledsoe vaults ahead of Brogdon in touches. The reigning NBA Rookie of the Year has averaged 63 touches per game this season, tied with DeMar DeRozan, for some context. Brogdon can still provide value as a 3-and-D asset for the Bucks, but it's somewhat clear his minutes, shots and touches will take a hit. Don't drop Brogdon or sell low at the moment, though, as I'd rather let this rotation play out with regard to his ability to carve out a meaningful role.
Finally, it's tough to get too excited about Monroe heading to the Suns and their busy frontcourt, as this reads like a salary match in order to net the first-round pick from the Bucks. Of note for his departure is the ancillary value it creates for John Henson in Milwaukee, as he's averaged 1.8 BPG and 9.0 RPG over the past four games with Monroe sidelined. If you are hurting in the block department in a deeper league (think 12 teams), Henson could be of interest.
The Bucks already had a formidable group of versatile playmakers and defenders, and Bledsoe appears well suited to join them.