Bledsoe tabbed No. 38 NBA player by Sports Illustrated

Former Kentucky guard Eric Bledsoe had a career-year last season and on Tuesday he saw his stock rise 11 spots in the latest annual Top 100 NBA Players list by Sports Illustrated. SI released players ranked between Nos. 50-31 on Tuesday.

Bledsoe, who started in all 66 games he played last season before being shut down by the Phoenix Suns in mid-March, is ranked No. 38 in SI’s Top 100 NBA Players of 2018. At No. 38, Bledsoe checks in just ahead of Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum and just behind New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony.

Bledsoe is coming off a season in which he played 33.0 minutes per game and averaged career highs in both scoring (21.1 points per game) and assists (6.3 apg). He also grabbed 4.8 rebounds per game and had 1.4 steals per game.

Former Kentucky guard Eric Bledsoe is ranked No. 38 by Sports Illustrated in its annual Top 100 NBA Players of 2018. (photo by Chet White, UK Athletics)

Sports Illustrated’s Rob Mahoney wrote that Bledsoe has often been paired in Phoenix with very young players or those past their prime, but has still put up fantastic numbers. Mahoney also says that Bledsoe has had to play with some very strong players who happen to play the same position as him, making things sometimes “awkward” on the floor.

“What we know is that Bledsoe is forceful enough to produce but limited enough to need help,” Mahoney wrote. “One can understand some of what the Suns were going for when they attempted to pair Bledsoe with another point guard, given that Bledsoe isn’t quite equipped to be a ball-dominant playmaker. Supplementary creators – like, for example, Devin Booker – would only help. Pare down some of Bledsoe’s responsibilities and the rest of his game turns razor sharp.”

In explaining how the rankings were made and what criteria went into it, authors Mahoney and Ben Golliver said that both injuries and injury risks were factored into the equation, as well as previous performances, including the playoffs.

Rookies were not included because they have not yet faced NBA competition. They did use a “predictive element” in anticipating improvement from young players and perhaps a decline in aging veterans, but future play beyond the upcoming season did not play a factor, nor did the player’s salary.

“Given the wide variety of candidates involved and the deep analytical resources available, no single, definitive criterion was used to form this list,” the two authors wrote. “Instead, rankings were assigned based on a fluid combination of subjective assessment and objective date. This list is an attempt to evaluate each player in a vacuum, independent of their current team context as much as possible. A player’s prospects beyond the 2017-18 season did not play a part in the ranking process.”

Sports Illustrated has now released its rankings for players from Nos. 100-31, and Kentucky leads all schools with five players named. Mahoney and Golliver released their rankings for players ranked Nos. 100-51 on Monday. Patrick Patterson (No. 98), Julius Randle (No. 94), Nerlens Noel (No. 86) and Booker (No. 64) were named in that post. The top 30 players will be announced throughout the remainder of the week.

This is the fifth annual edition of Sports Illustrated’s Top 100 Players list. Nine Wildcats were ranked in last year’s edition. Kentucky’s nine players in the 2017 season’s top 100 was four more than any other school in the country. UK also had the most players in the top 25 with four. Only one other school (Texas) even had two former players ranked in the top 25.

You can read the complete breakdown of SI’s 50-31 player rankings by clicking here.

Wildcats in Sports Illustrated’s Top 100 NBA Players of 2018

38. Eric Bledsoe (Phoenix Suns)
64. Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns)
86. Nerlens Noel (Dallas Mavericks)
94. Julius Randle (Los Angeles Lakers)
98. Patrick Patterson (Oklahoma City Thunder)