It appears that Eric Bledsoe has played his last game of the 2016/17 season. The Suns held Bledsoe out of their lineup on Wednesday night, and according to John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7, the team intends to shut down him down for the season. Doug Haller of AZCentral (Twitter link) confirms as much, noting that the point guard has been battling knee soreness.
While Bledsoe’s knee issue may have played some part in the Suns’ decision, the club’s record almost certainly played a larger part. As our 2016/17 Reverse Standings show, Phoenix currently has the NBA’s third-worst record at 22-46. A few extra wins down the stretch would put the Suns at risk of passing the Magic and Sixers in the standings, reducing their odds of landing a top draft pick.
The Suns are the second Pacific team in the league’s bottom three to shut down veterans for the season. Earlier this week, reports indicated that Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng likely won’t play again for the Lakers in 2016/17, despite the fact that they’re healthy.
Of course, Mozgov and Deng haven’t produced at nearly the same level for the Lakers that Bledsoe has for the Suns this season. The seventh-year point guard has established new career highs in several categories this season, including PPG (21.1) and APG (6.3). Without him in their lineup, the Suns figure to lean more heavily on rookie guard Tyler Ulis, among others.
Brandon Knight, another veteran who had apparently been shut down by the Suns in recent weeks, could also see some minutes in Bledsoe’s absence, though there are hints that he hasn’t been thrilled by the way the team has handled his role. According to Gambadoro, the Suns asked Knight to play on Wednesday night and he told the team he was suffering from back spasms — Gambadoro expressed some skepticism regarding that self-diagnosis.