Oct 22, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Eric Bledsoe (12) shoots the ball against the Golden State Warriors at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

No. 8 in the Countdown to the 2012-13 NBA Season: Eric Bledsoe

Most basketball fans began the countdown to the tip-off of the 2012-13 NBA season as soon as the Miami Heat won the 2012 NBA Championship.

Good, you should have.

When it comes to making lists or tacking information with a set number of days–June to October can be a problem. In this case, Fully Clips and I have waited until the season was 10 days away to provide 10 aspects of the game of basketball, story lines or roster management moves the Los Angeles Clippers will showcase in the new season.

The Los Angeles Clippers signed three big name free agents in Lamar Odom, Grant Hill and Jamal Crawford to solidify the bench. However, one of the biggest pieces to the bench was already on the roster.

No. 8: Eric Bledsoe

Two seasons ago, Bledsoe showed tons of promise in his rookie year by averaging 6.7 points on 42% shooting from the field, 3.6 assists, three rebounds and 1.1 steal in 22 minutes per game. Bledsoe started in 25 games of the 81 he played in as he shared minutes with Baron Davis and Mo Williams.

Heading into last season, it looked like he could only go up in the favor of coach Vinny Del Negro because he played both sides of the ball rather well for a backup point guard. Then Bledsoe got injured and missed a large chunk of the first half of the season. After he came back, he fell out of the Clippers’ good graces and finished the season averaging 11.6 minutes per the 41 games (started once) he played in.

All of his averages fell, including his scoring as 6.7 became 3.3.

October 17, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) and guard Eric Bledsoe (12) discuss a play in the first half of the game against the Utah Jazz at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

Of course the Clippers did obtain Chris Paul in a block buster trade–which obviously puts Bledsoe’s minutes on the chopping block. When Chauncey Billups tore his Achilles tendon in February, Mo Williams and Randy Foye owned the minutes. Bledsoe was shown very little love.

How is a budding point guard going to bloom if he doesn’t get any light? He isn’t.

I strongly believe Bledsoe should have received more playing time than he did last season because he would have made the perimeter defense better and probably would have helped out the team’s field goal percentage because Williams was a gun-slinger who rarely looked for the open teammate.

When Chris Paul wasn’t on the floor, the once free-flowing offense–stopped. There is no doubt in my mind Bledsoe would have made a difference. With Williams and Foye being dealt to the Utah Jazz, maybe this season will be the chance Bledsoe should have gotten last year. Also, I can’t think of many players in the NBA who don’t play better than they did before after being under the watchful eye of one of top 10 players in the NBA (Paul).

In the Oct. 6 106-104 losing effort to the Denver Nuggets, Bledsoe showed exactly what he could do as he scored 25 points, had six assists, grabbed eight rebounds and stole the ball five times. He ran the show on both sides of the court and gave the Clips a chance to win at the end of the game.

He did make a few bad decisions and tried to force passes, but he made up for it on the other side of the court or made a better decision the next time around.

Paul can’t play 48-minutes a game. Bledsoe has to be given the opportunity to change games or at least make a presence for the second team to hold their own. I’m not talking about garbage time. I’m talking about the end of the first half or the beginning of the fourth quarter of a close game.

If he is given the opportunity, he will thrive. In turn, Paul will be given a rest and will then be able to thrive at clutch time because he can breathe and his legs don’t feel like they just ran a 5K marathon. Del Negro doesn’t always make the best of decisions, but if he doesn’t give Bledsoe more than 11 minutes a game, that could arguably be his worst.

The Clippers need a quick guard to push the tempo and lead the team through productive offensive possessions on the second team. They have him in Bledsoe.

The only question is: can the Clippers use Bledsoe to the best of his ability and receive his full-potential? LA isn’t going to see the backup point guard at his best if he is only playing 11 minutes a game.

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Tags: Countdown To The 2012-13 NBA Season Eric Bledsoe Los Angeles Clippers

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