The Phoenix Suns announced that an MRI revealed a torn meniscus in Eric Bledsoe‘s left knee. The injury took place during the December 26th contest against the Philadelphia 76ers that the Suns wound up losing.
Bledsoe suffered a previous meniscus tear in his opposite knee in 2011 which kept him sidelined for over three months. There’s no official timetable for his return, but many experts believe Bledsoe will be out until after the All-Star break, something that Suns fans don’t want to hear. It could take longer for him to overcome any mental barriers as he’s a great athlete and his athleticism is an integral part of his game and helps compensate for a lack of size.
Bledsoe, for the season, is averaging 20.4 points, 6.1 assists, four rebounds and two steals for the Suns.
Quick Stat: Eric Bledsoe had four steals and four blocks against the Timberwolves on December 13th, 2015. Listed at 6’1″, Bledsoe is the shortest player to have such numbers.
In his third year in Phoenix, Bledsoe has emerged as the best player for the Suns & Coach Hornacek, but Phoenix has experienced a slew of problems to start this season. A potential playoff team two years ago, they have slowly regressed over the last two seasons and currently sit at 12-21 this year despite having some talent on the roster.
Coach Hornacek has always had great guard play during his tenure with Phoenix. Guys like Isaiah Thomas, Goran Dragic, Gerald Green, Brandon Knight, and Eric Bledsoe have flourished in his uptempo system. Since Dragic, Thomas, and Green have all been traded, and Bledsoe now injured, Devin Booker, T.J. Warren, Bryce Cotton are going to see an increase in playing time; Bradon Knight will see an increase in time at point guard since Bledsoe was the primary ball handler. While none of the three young guys are show stoppers offensively, they do serve as a threat for Phoenix.
Devin Booker, a rookie deadeye from Kentucky, got the start Monday night against the Cavaliers and played decent, scoring ten points and grabbing three boards and three assists. He’s showed flashes of being a good player and has five games with 14+ points, but where he shines is from the three-point line. Booker’s shooting an astounding 57% from the line despite limited minutes. His three-point FGM per 36 minutes currently sits at 1.8, with an offensive rating of 115 per 100 possessions and he can walk into a bunch of transition threes if the Suns can get out and run. Something they love to do and currently sit at third in the NBA in possessions per game.
Both Warren and Cotton are guys who can easily go out and contribute 10+ points apiece and alleviate some pressure from Brandon Knight. As a sophomore with NC State, Warren was the best scorer in the ACC and trailed only Doug McDermott and Antoine Mason as the country’s best scorer. Seeing over 20 minutes per game before the Bledsoe injury, Warren can emerge as the dominant shooting guard and get upwards of 30 minutes per game. His per 36 minutes average of 18.1 points is third best on the team, and his offensive rating (113) is second to Booker.
As mentioned earlier, Brandon Knight will be the primary PG with Bledsoe sidelined. There’re no worries about Knight’s ability to run a show because he was the main point guard both in Milwaukee & Detroit. Despite his shooting guard role this year, Knight has four games with 10+ assists and averages greater than five for the season.
Backing up Brandon Knight, there’s Bryce Cotton, who was signed on as an insurance piece because both Bledsoe and Knight have a history of injuries. He had very limited playing time last year with Utah but had four solid games to close out last season. He averaged about 23 minutes and was able to net a 14.3 per game average with a usage rating of 26%.
*Photo Credit: USATSI*