Eric Bledsoe trade the best use of Phoenix Suns’ flexibility

Posted by on July 2nd, 10:03 pm

After striking out in their attempt to acquire Eric Gordon last offseason, the Phoenix Suns have maintained excess cap space waiting for a day like today.

No, this had nothing to do with being cheap, instead it was an asset management technique whereby the Suns saved their cap room for a time when it would be most valuable, as PBO Lon Babby spoke about last year at this time.

With the Clippers seeking a pair of swingmen plus a team to take Caron Butler off their hands to make the salary cap math work, the Suns were waiting, and their reward’s name is Eric Bledsoe.

When looking at the trade as merely Jared Dudley and a second-rounder for Bledsoe and Butler’s $8 million expiring contract, this trade looks excellent for the Suns. There’s no better use of their cap room than the acquisition of a dynamic 23-year-old guard that seemingly half the league coveted.

The reason it’s a great trade for the Clippers as well is because they were able to turn their prospect into two quality wings who seem to be great fits, and that could only happen because the Suns took back about $6.35 million more in salary than they traded, which is the additional trade piece that sealed the deal for Phoenix. The Suns’ ability to absorb Butler’s contract allowed the Clippers to take back as much salary as they did from two separate teams despite operating over the cap, whereas a team without that cap flexibility would not have been able to take advantage of such a deal.

This is exactly the kind of trade I’ve been hoping the Suns would make for some time now, whereby they were able to use excessive cap space in the smartest way possible rather than throwing it at a restricted free agent who is inherently getting overpaid. With a guy like Tyreke Evans potentially getting $11-$12 million a season on the open market, the Suns were able to use their cap space to make a sneaky move to acquire a player they can potentially lock up before the bidding war starts.

The Suns now have several choices as to how to handle the situation they find themselves in with their two most promising players (with the potential exception of Alex Len) being point guards. Henry Abbott recently wrote on teams utilizing “sneaky tanking” by playing guys out of position, and such a tactic could work to the Suns’ advantage this season. It’s a win-win because if Dragic and Bledsoe thrive together, then the Suns just found their backcourt of the future, and if they don’t work then they get a better draft pick and can trade one of them next offseason.

That’s predicated on signing Bledsoe to a reasonable extension (hopefully at no more than $8 mil a season since he’s still largely an unknown quantity, although I figure he could get more as a restricted free agent on the open market next offseason). Dragic is owed just $7.5 mil a year each of the next three years including a player option in the final season, so he should bring value if the Suns decide to trade him.

As for this season, this move eats up the rest of the Suns’ salary cap room if the cap does not move off the $58.044 figure of the past few years. Depending on whether the rookies deviate a bit from their slotted salaries, the Suns have now committed about $58.1 million to 15 players since P.J. Tucker’s minimum deal became guaranteed on Monday. If the Suns cut a player and want to sign somebody else, they could utilize the room mid-level exception to start a free agent’s salary at $2.652 mil as this exception is for teams that previously had cap space but then went over the cap.

In terms of 2014-15, the Suns have about $34 mil committed to eight players, assuming they eat the $3 million of Michael Beasley’s salary that is guaranteed (they could further reduce that 2014-15 number via the stretch provision through which they would pay $1 million for three years). Adding in another first-rounder or two (if the Minny pick hits) and the potential Bledsoe extension (which will cause the Suns to take on more 2014-15 salary in this deal than they gave up if it happens), and Phoenix should be in the range of a mini-max salary. Of course, there will likely be many moves made in the meantime to change all that in either direction.

With Dudley having three years left on his contract (including an early termination option in the final year), his exclusion from the 2015-16 cap means the Suns only have Dragic and their current picks accounted for there along with Kendall Marshall. Even along with a Bledsoe extension, that means no deadweight or overpaid contracts and the possibility of having cultivated a young, exciting core around which they could make a big free-agency splash (a la the core Nash walked into).

So the bad news is the Suns might not be major players in free agency for two more seasons, but the good news is this roster that was so devoid of quality young talent last season could be brimming with that on (mainly) rookie contracts in a few years.

As for the present, Butler immediately becomes the Suns’ highest-paid player at $8 million and joins Marcin Gortat and Shannon Brown to form over $19 million worth of expiring contracts. McDonough has already showcased an ability to use an integrative negotiating style to finalize a win-win deal with a team trying to win now. These veterans along with Luis Scola’s reasonable contract ($9.4 mil total for the next two seasons with the final year largely non-guaranteed) will provide him with plenty of options.

Since the Suns won’t have serious cap space for two seasons perhaps he could flip an expiring for a player with an extra year on his contract plus a pick/young player. Although doubtful, the Suns could combine some of these expiring contracts if a team wants to dump a talented but overpaid player to make their big splash now (like if the Hornets wanted to get out from under Gordon for some reason if they acquire Evans). In addition, the Suns have plenty of players on rookie contracts such as the Morris twins and  Marshall who could be sweeteners in such a trade.

In short, although the Suns have largely used up their cap space, there are still plenty of moves to be made as McDonough continues the rebuilding process.

Perhaps the biggest thing this trade brings is hope. Sure, the Suns officially started rebuilding post-Nash last summer, but now in the last week with the drafting of Alex Len and Archie Goodwin as well as the trade for Bledsoe the Suns have finally made some major moves in that direction. Some of the assets that have been accumulated have been turned into promising young players of which the Suns have so badly been lacking.

Rebuilding is clearly the priority over immediate success now, and I don’t expect their general manager to sit down at a media lunch and proclaim that this is a playoff team. The agenda has been squarely set, and it’s going to be exciting to watch this young team grow, rather than grow old.

This trade also speaks to the value of Jared Dudley, both as a player and a contract. Dudley signed a five-year, $22.5 million contract extension that kicked in two years ago and immediately became something of a bargain that Dudley agreed to for the long-term security. That’s a great price for a glue guy like Dudley, and he fits well into the Clippers’ salary structure as well as their team. It’s amazing to see how much more valuable a good contract like this is worth than if Dudley were paid closer to Butler’s salary.

I’ve always felt Dudley was best-served as a top bench player for a contending team, and even if he ends up starting for the Clippers he will hold that kind of role as a glue guy who can provide lethal outside shooting, solid defense and all the intangibles for an elite team. He will be a perfect fit and must enjoy his reunion with the coach who first gave him a chance, Clippers’ new associate head coach Alvin Gentry.

From a value perspective, the Suns did quite well turning a throw-in to the Jason Richardson deal into the centerpiece of a trade for a promising prospect. Dudley must be pleased as well since his contract calls for $125,000 bonuses for both reaching the second round and the conference finals, bonuses that are much more likely in LA.

Rebuilding will still be a long and arduous process that will likely include many more losses in the Suns’ future. Yet today’s trade represents a ray of hope that Ryan McDonough really gets rebuilding and extracting as much value as possible from his assets by consummating an under-the-radar trade for a player many teams coveted, and according to Yahoo! he was the driving force behind this deal that came together in a day.

With Bledsoe acquired along with Len and Goodwin from last week’s draft, the Suns are finally starting to turn their long stockpiled assets into quality young players that may become the pillars of this rebuilding plan.

Michael Schwartz founded ValleyoftheSuns in October 2008 and is the owner/editor emeritus of the site. He is currently working toward his MBA in sports business at San Diego State University.

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Tags: Eric Bledsoe · Future · Jared Dudley · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Analysis · Ryan McDonough · Trades

55 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Andy // Jul 2, 2013 at 10:19 pm

    Correct me if I am wrong, but I don’t think that the Phoenix Suns can acquire Eric Gordon by trade at any point for the length of his current contract. That was the risk they took in having their offer matched.

  • 2 Michael Schwartz // Jul 2, 2013 at 10:33 pm

    @Andy I had originally thought that as well from my (mis)readings of Coon’s CBA FAQ, but as it turns out that is only the case for the first year after the offer sheet was signed. After that, he’s fair game.

  • 3 KidBuxton // Jul 2, 2013 at 10:41 pm

    They can acquire Gordon a full year after he signed. They shouldn’t and won’t though.

  • 4 Lloyd I. Cadle // Jul 2, 2013 at 10:44 pm

    I know that most Suns fans would like to see the Suns tank for the next draft.

    But, the new management team may have too many competitive juices flowing to let that happen.

  • 5 KidBuxton // Jul 2, 2013 at 10:46 pm

    Sorry just saw the response. Pile them up I say and see who can slug it out this season. I hope Brown is gone next, a pick and a youngster for him. OKC maybe? Get Jones III.

  • 6 Roger // Jul 2, 2013 at 10:46 pm

    @Michael Schwartz

    Thank you for penning such a thoughtful article. This is good journalism. Really enjoyed your writing.


  • 7 Andy // Jul 2, 2013 at 10:47 pm

    Ah, thanks for clarifying. For what it’s worth, I think Kid Buxton is definitely right. Not a good idea regardless of technical feasibility.

  • 8 Andy // Jul 2, 2013 at 10:50 pm

    Kid – I would be shocked if anyone is willing to pay anything for Brown. Players with his skill set are readily available at lower prices out of the D-league. Maybe we can ship him to the Pacers for a pick in exchange for taking the extra year on Gerald Green’s contract, or something like that.

    I am solidly in the “go in the tank” camp – I think we still want to move Dragic, Gortat, and Scola (if possible). If we ARE keeping Bledsoe, we should make sure we offset any extra wins ASAP!

  • 9 Doug // Jul 2, 2013 at 10:50 pm

    OK so the Suns roster now consists of:

    4 Point guards/small shooting guards:

    Dragic, Goodwin, Bledsoe, and Marshall

    1 more year of Shannon Brown being the only true SG.

    2 Solid SF/wings players: Butler and Tucker.

    4 in-between “big” players who have no real position:

    Morris (s) Beasley, Scola.

    then 2 legit (or possibly legit) Center’s:

    Gortat and Len.

    I dont think that Frye is ever going to come back, and the rest of the roster seams fairly set, barring any more trades.

    Whoooo that was close, the Suns should still be in the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes next season.

  • 10 Junior // Jul 2, 2013 at 11:21 pm

    Gorat should be traded down the road when playoff teams need a player. Scola needs a new home and deserves to be on a playoff team. Dragic if the right trade comes around might be tempted.

    This trade is perfect. Bledsoe along with Goodwin, and Len, are all the guys we will be looking forward to being the young nucleus of our team.

    Bledsoe and Len have potential chances at being stars and might sneak in an all star appearance.

    Those guys and the guys we draft next year in 2014′s draft. Will be your cornerstone players. Just need one stud in 2014. SF, PF, and wing players will be are target positions.

  • 11 Junior // Jul 2, 2013 at 11:31 pm

    SG-Bledsoe You can switch him to PG
    PF-2014 draft
    SF-2014 draft

    This is year one of Hornacek and Mcd. I like how it’s already looking. 3 year rebuilding and you already got your potential long term answer at two positions (Len and Bledsoe).

    If only Suns can get the 1st pick of 2014 nba draft. I love to see a certain player (knock on wood).

  • 12 hawki // Jul 2, 2013 at 11:56 pm

    Last year at this time everyone was clamoring to tank to get Shabazz or Noel…..hmmm.

    The Heat have won the last 2 NBA Titles & the only person they drafted that gets any decent minutes is Norris Cole.

    Have complete faith in McD despite the (imo) questionable pick in Len.
    I will give the Big Fella a couple seasons to fully develop before passing final judgement.

    Even if Suns end up in 8-12 range, I’ll take Brandon Ashley (PF UofA) all day long.

    ps…..Poor Milwaukee & nice to see Duds get on a contender.

  • 13 hawki // Jul 3, 2013 at 12:02 am

    oops….forgot they drafted DWade….lol

    make that 2 guys they drafted that get minutes….point being that you need more than just the draft in today’s NBA.

  • 14 Animan // Jul 3, 2013 at 12:07 am

    I think we need to not worry so much about the draft of next year, tanking is not necessary this season, nor do I think it will happen.

  • 15 @Hawki // Jul 3, 2013 at 12:11 am

    pretty sure the Heat got substantial playing time out of some waste of space guy they drafted fifth overall out of marquette in 2003

  • 16 hawki // Jul 3, 2013 at 12:49 am

    @ Hawki @ Hawki

    talking to myself ?
    Yeah, caught that about 10 minutes B4 ya did

    As penance, will watch Billy Idol’s “Dancing with Myself” for the next hour.

  • 17 David // Jul 3, 2013 at 1:04 am

    I completely agree with hawki, I was saying the exact same thing. All I read on these forums last year was “tank to get Shabazz Muhammed then we are contenders with this roster” Even heard a thing or two about Nerlens Noel. Now everyone is saying to dump Gortat, Dragic, and Scola and put your faith in a future nucleus of a guy who hasn’t been a starter since high school, a guy we just drafted who hasn’t played a game in the NBA, and another guy who hasn’t played a game at the college level yet. Get real! What kind of GM do you think has the plan to make moves that will load us with potential, but guarantee us to lose as many games as possible? For what? To have the slight possibility to win a #1 pick? If anyone thinks an NBA GM, especially a young one trying to prove himself, is going to put the entire fate of his professional life in ensuring he has as many ping pong balls as possible then you’re going to be disappointed. How many #1 picks had? And how many last place finishes have they had? I’m not going to pretend like I am someone who knows the solution because I don’t, but there is a lot more to it than “TANK FOR WIGGINS!” because how did “TANK FOR SHABAZZ!” work out?

  • 18 David // Jul 3, 2013 at 1:09 am

    *How many #1 picks has Charlotte had?

  • 19 Azbballfan // Jul 3, 2013 at 1:14 am

    I really, really doub that McMiracle is going to get suckered into dealing for Eric Gordon

    While technically feasable if the Pelicans take back some expiring deals, i just see no reason the Suns do a deal like that

    We need to be shopping the morris twins and scola and Gortat to get a young power forward

    Thats the next hole for the Suns to pour cement over

    We could trade Gortat to Dallas for Brandon Wright for example

    Charlotte needs front court help, i would ship Gortat to them for Bismack Biyombo

    Cheap, young player with a ton of potential and already blocks shots and rebounds well

    Has no offensive game but thats not his job when hes in the game

    Charlotte is rumored to be after Al Jefferson, which would make their front court crowded

    signing Jefferson and swapping Gortat for Biyombo gives them real front court production along with a solid core of Henderson, Walker, and MKG and Zeller

    I would do that trade if i was Rich Cho

  • 20 DBreezy // Jul 3, 2013 at 1:25 am

    Excellent trade by McD, it will definitely be interesting to see where this leads. More trades look to be on the horizon, just a question of who and when. Also, at first glance I’m not sure it will have a dramatic effect on the Suns’ W/L record next season.

    Horny talks about playing fast, but the Suns already had the 7th or 9th fastest pace last season. Bledsoe and Goodwin should help up the pace further, but offensively the Suns’ biggest problem was awful efficiency and shooting. I don’t see Bledsoe changing that much as that’s not really his game offensively, despite his excellent defense one of him or Goran will be playing out of position on both ends. Butler shot worse from the field than Dudley and that was with an all world pg, Blake Griffin and a better supporting cast to space things out.

    Add in continued playing time for rookies and young players like Goodwin, Len, Marshall, Tucker, and the twins, those worries about bowing out of the Wiggins sweepstakes may be unfounded-even if they keep everyone currently on the roster which seems unlikely.

  • 21 Scott // Jul 3, 2013 at 5:43 am

    ^^ Yes, but maybe we want a *guarantee* the Suns will end up deep in the lottery. ;)

  • 22 KeZ // Jul 3, 2013 at 5:59 am

    Guys, Dragic will NOT be moved! Brown, Scola, Gortat, Marshall and Beasley might…

  • 23 hawki // Jul 3, 2013 at 6:13 am

    @ DBreezy

    Tucker is 28 yrs old….not sure why he is on Summer League team…..maybe to show the younger guys how to play defense ?

    Butler might last a year with the Suns….but no longer.

  • 24 Scott // Jul 3, 2013 at 6:22 am

    Sad to read that Charlotte fans are focused on tanking for next season. Haven’t they been focused on tanking EVERY season?

    I prefer the Suns be an exciting, winning team. I’m willing to go for one more losing season in a bid to grab a franchise player. But after that I want a return to winning ways.

    IMO, the Suns have already had too many seasons out of the playoffs. The Suns need to get back to lighting up the league.

    @hawki -

    Tucker realizes that he’s still on the verge of falling out of the NBA. He’ll play in Summer League to show his commitment to playing hard and to audition for other teams.

  • 25 Troy // Jul 3, 2013 at 7:12 am

    Excellent analysis and write-up, Schwartz. Really enjoyed reading it.

    To those fearful that Bledsoe/Dragic can’t work together as a starting backcourt longterm – 2 things:

    1) You might be right. If so, like Schwartz said, McD certainly has no shortage of options, depending on which one of them the Suns decide to move in that case.

    2) You might be wrong. See: KJ/Hornacek and (more recently) Parker/Ginobili. That is, guys in Horny and Ginobili who were more of a combo guard capable of playing the 1 (like Dragic is) but also successful in regularly playing off the ball and taking advantage of their scoring /distributing capabilities next to a dynamic and athletic PG. (Personally, I think Bledsoe has the potential to be KJ 2.0. Hopefully he can improve his shot to the point where that happens.)

    Either way – McDonough wins. Great use of the “flexibility” mantra we’ve been hearing all about for two years now. Schwartz is so right – much better to use it this way (snatching up a coveted young guy still on his rookie deal like Bledsoe via trade by being able to take back a larger – expiring! – salary in Butler than you’re giving away in Dudley) than to overpay a FA in a bidding war. You just can’t have too many assets in the Suns’ situation, regardless of the “logjam” at any one position. They can (and will) figure out the logjam later – but right now, that was simply an incredible haul for Dudley and a 2nd rounder.

  • 26 suns fan from israel // Jul 3, 2013 at 7:37 am

    like the trade very much.
    nice 2 know we have a GM that actually doing something.
    quick question – Bledsoe is on the final year of his contract? if so y r we so sure we will be able to sign him on a long term contract for a reasonable fee?
    i think that he is highly rated and might get a better deal somewhere else or we will have to splash big money 4 him…

  • 27 Andy // Jul 3, 2013 at 8:06 am

    SFFI – Beldsoe is a restricted free agent, i.e., the same situation Gordon was in during our failed bid on him. While, potential aside, the idea of even a baby-max contract for him at this stage makes him a bit queasy, it does mean that we’re guaranteed the chance to match any deal he gets offered. (That is assuming he doesn’t sign an extension before Halloween, which is something that I’ve seen reports that he and his agent are amenable to.)

  • 28 Andy // Jul 3, 2013 at 8:07 am

    Ugh, sorry. The max contract makes me queasy, not him, obviously. I’m sure he’d be fine with it. I haven’t finished my coffee yet.

  • 29 Dominik // Jul 3, 2013 at 8:08 am

    Bledsoe is on his final year of his rookie deal, so he will be an UFA, which enables the Suns to match any offer given.

    I’d love to see him pairing up with Dragic from the beginning. Lately someone wrote (for ESPN’s 5-on-5) Bledsoe is able to play both PG and SG. Dragic has spent some time as SG on court, too. I’d give it a try and let those two guys run the offense without any hesitation. As a right hander, Bledsoe might be able to help Gortat’s nmbers increase a bit as well.

    ATM my starting crew is:
    Dragic – Bledsoe – Tucker or Butler – Scola (could imagine Beasley here as well, for more speed // you might even consider Tucker to play PF, if we use a really small unit and yes, he’s totally able to do that, he spent most of his time on court in Germany as a PF) – Gortat (later on possibly Len, whose agility might work even better)

    I don’t expect that team to win significantly more games than last year but it could be a fun squad to watch.

    The Knicks showed how successful you can be having to PGs on court most of the time. I know the Suns are lacking an inside presense like Chandler and a scorer like Melo but it might just turn out right.

  • 30 Andy // Jul 3, 2013 at 8:22 am

    Also, to the “anti-taking” crowd, esp Scott. I think it’s easy to say “the Suns should go back to being competitive” – but it’s not that simple. Dallas, last year, basically gave us an example of what building a team out of free agency gets you in today’s NBA. (And they’re both a more attractive destination than we are, and were already carrying a legit superstar in Nowitzki.) They missed the playoffs. Utah is a pretty close approximation of the same thing, though arguably the value they were carrying with Favors/Millsap/Hayward far outpaces the value of the group we have together. Still, you’re looking at teams that get locked in at “scrambling and probably failing to make the playoffs” – that’s just the nature of paying, by definition, the top of what the market will bear for every bit of talent you have on your roster.

    Obviously, signing a Lebron James superstar below market is a dream scenario but, realistically, its not one that is likely to happen to us. And even given that, as mentioned above, it started with the Heat drafting and cultivating their own superstar. Beyond that, look at the teams that came out of the first round: San Antonio (Duncan, Parker, Ginobili, Splitter), Thunder (Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka, Jackson), Grizzlies (Gasol, Conley), Warriors (Curry, Thompson, Barnes), Pacers (George, Hibbert, Stephenson), Bulls (Noah, Gibson, Deng, Butler). These are all teams that have built the majority of their core from drafting and development. Really, the only exception is the Knicks. And again, they’re a premier destination that benefited from Carmelo demanding a trade. AND, even if we could, do we really want to be the Knicks (or Nets)? They’re sort of the super version of what we’re talking about with the Mavs, and it has left them absolutely capped out, loaded with poison pill contracts, and with a ceiling well short of the NBA Finals.

    Yeah, the draft comes with risks. There’s a chance of success and a chance of failure. But, as I think recent history shows, for a team with the desirability level of the Suns, there’s not much precedent for anything but failure (in the long-term) for the alternative.

  • 31 Suns fan from israel // Jul 3, 2013 at 8:32 am

    Thnx Andy.
    I hope we will be able to sign him on an extention b4 the end of the season.
    In the summer, With all the crazy GM, his proce will go to the roof

  • 32 JamRock // Jul 3, 2013 at 8:34 am

    We don’t have a point guard log jam. With Kedall Marshall looking like the next Kevin Ollie, he’ll probably be a to well waver/garbage time guy most of the season along with Marcus Morris and Oriakhi.

  • 33 Troy // Jul 3, 2013 at 8:45 am

    @JamRock – the “logjam” isn’t really with Kendall Marshall. IMO, the question is whether Dragic and Bledsoe can both be effective sharing the backcourt simultaneously, since both have similar skill sets but are definitely worth playing starters’ minutes as opposed to coming off the bench. The back-up guard spot is really a related-but-separate issue.

  • 34 JamRock // Jul 3, 2013 at 9:48 am

    ok@Troy. I can understand that concern. I’m glad the Suns are taking that. chance though.

  • 35 DBreezy // Jul 3, 2013 at 10:40 am


    I can only assume Tucker is on the team to show he’s a hard worker and possibly work on his offensive game at the 2.

  • 36 Scott // Jul 3, 2013 at 10:58 am

    @Andy -

    Maybe you got me mixed up with someone else? I’m fine with a losing record for next year and taking Wiggins (or whoever). I just don’t want tanking to become habitual, as it has been with Charlotte.

    I know this is the Suns’ first honest rebuilding season, right now with McD, but before this we had a few fruitless losing seasons under Blanks and Kerr. So I’m ready to return to winning ways, and I’m hoping that just one more losing season will be enough to capture the necessary talent.

    Look at what Hennigan has done so far in Orlando. He drafted Nicholson and Oladipo, and traded for Vucevic, Harris, and Harkless. Look at what the Rockets did last season (though I don’t like the idea of swallowing poison pill contracts).

    The Suns have picked up only one young talent through trade so far under McD (Bledsoe). I think they ought to acquire one or two more, and who knows, it may happen before the trade deadline this year.

    Also, keep in mind that Bledsoe, who we’re all so happy to have gained, was not a lottery pick. He was #18. So tanking is not required to draft someone like him, just a combination of good luck and properly disciplined scouting.

    If the Suns have a GM who can find talent outside the lottery (as he did with Rondo and Sullinger), the Suns don’t have to spend so long in the doldrums.

  • 37 a-game // Jul 3, 2013 at 11:45 am

    The suns came out like bandits on this deal. Clearly Bledsoe’s skill and star potential, as well as Butler’s expiring contract was worth more than Dudz and a second round pick. McMiracle – you sneaky guy, you!!

    Love the trade!!! Hope there’s more “exceptional” ones to come like this one.

  • 38 Andy // Jul 3, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    @Scott – Sure. I’m more directly “countering” @hawki or @David, I guess. But I highlighted you because of exactly that point – that you thought we should take one swing for a franchise player and then, regardless of how that worked out, just start “competing” again. I guess my point is that it’s unrealistic to think we can just flip that switch. And it’s dangerous, because teams that stay on that treadmill to appease their fans rarely do well.

    Rondo was a great find. Our GM was a low-level video scout at the time. Yeah, people have cited him as a key in singling out Rondo, but it’s a far cry from making the call. Sullinger, though, is what everyone knew he was, a low-ceiling injury risk who came in, played ok, and then lost half the season to the pre-existing injury that caused him to fall that far. I’m not sure I’d be listing that as a serious feather in anyone’s cap.

    Acquiring Rondo-level talent, though, outside of the lottery is basically unheard of. Even with that one awesome example, Rondo has serious questions about whether he can be the best player on a title team. Revisit that list above – yeah, there are players like Parker, Ginobili, or Butler who seem to be “out-of-nowhere” finds. But the VAST majority of those key pieces came in the lottery. As you’d expect. And those surprise finds, when they do come, tend to come on teams that have well-established systems built around an existing superstar, which in turn allows them to value things other teams don’t. (And to take risks and show patience that teams who are desperately trying to “get competitive” can’t.) Picking “low and smart” just has not been the route to find that superstar and, as a result, to build a meaningfully competitive team. And if it was just a matter of “scouting smart”, McDonough shouldn’t have just as many misses as hits on “his” resume.

    I think there’s a difference between being happy to have gained Bledsoe, and thinking he’s going to be a franchise cornerstone. We did well to get a valuable asset with Dudley and that Toronto pick. But compare Bledsoe’s numbers at equivalent ages to someone like Rondo, who shares some key strengths and weaknesses with him. Heck, factor in that Bledsoe is just one year younger than Russell Westbrook is right NOW. I don’t know that there’s a great argument that Bledsoe turns into anything better than a third best player on a seriously competitive team. That’s a good find at 18. But it’s not what you plan your future around. And yeah, once we’re building a team around a star, we need to find those types of perks. But we’re not guaranteed that star, and those perks are only so helpful without him.

    I guess my point is just this: we’re all excited to be competitive again. But the NBA is built so that even the worst team in the league only has a 1/4 chance at that top pick next year. There’s a better than 1/3 chance that the worst team won’t even pick in the top 3. As fans, we should want the Suns to do everything they can to maximize their chances at winning a championship, and I don’t know that there’s much argument that that means maximizing your chances at that spot. And we should be excited that we’re seeing the first signs of a regime that seriously gets what it’s going to take to build a contending team again. But we should strive to support the PROCESS. I think that pitting a slow, inherently risky rebuilding program (one that may well take 2-3 years) against a fantasy alternative, where the team just “gets serious about winning again” and then does so, undermines that very process. That last paragraph is a perfect example – yes, it’s POSSIBLE that we hit the handful- of-times-a-decade lottery with our own Ginobili or Rondo. But every team in the NBA is trying to do that. Positing that as a realistic plan – treating it as if it’s just another version of picking high – isn’t realistic or fair. It’s not a matter of tanking OR picking smart. It’s going to take both.

    Anyway, I don’t think I’m “against” you, here, I think we’re largely saying the same thing. I straight up disagree with the people who are against the lottery totally, and I’m not saying you’re one of them. I’m just preaching patience – if we’re taking this path, we really have to commit to it. We have to look at what came before as sunk costs, and not agitate for a quick rebuild because of what the last few years have held. Sadly, if anything, those “attempts at rebuilding” have left us further from contention then we started. I guess if what you’re saying is “we should start rebuilding as soon as we have a potential superstar”, I agree completely. If what you’re saying is “we should be able to realistically expect this doesn’t take longer than a year”, I’m less confident.

  • 39 Bob // Jul 3, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    So im guessing there’s no chance of re-signing Wsley Johnson? NOOOOOO!!!!!

  • 40 Bob // Jul 3, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    I mean Wesley Johnson

  • 41 Scott // Jul 3, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    @Andy -

    The Suns already have Dragic, Len, Goodwin, and Bledsoe, which – if they all remain – is a good start. Another year in the lottery and another year in trades should add more talent to that core. I’m hopeful that the Suns will have enough of a core acquired by the start of the 2014 season that they won’t have to be in tanking mode, giving precious court time to marginal players with no future (Beasley, Brown, etc.).

    If the Suns lose big in 2014-2015, it will at least be fruitful losing with promising young players like Len and Goodwin getting court time and getting better.

    Looking at it in terms of roster spots, if the four players mentioned above remain and pan out, and the Suns add another one or two more developmental players this year in trade (or a miracle occurs, and Marshall and the twins shape up), and if the Suns do well again in the 2014 lottery by picking up 2 quality players, then the Suns should be in good shape to proceed. That’s a core of like 6-9 good young players.

    As for Sullinger and Rondo, my point is less that McD picked them personally, and more that like Bledsoe they were not lottery picks. Good GMs can find quality outside the lottery, like Parker, Ginobili, Scola, Gortat, Batum, and so on.

    I’ve not said a thing about a franchise cornerstone. Sure, the Suns might get one in next year’s draft, or maybe they already have one. Who knows? If you’re talking about a young player and not a veteran All-Star type, that sort of thing only gets proven with time and winning.

  • 42 Azbballfan // Jul 3, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    If you are near the bottom of the NBA this next season you pretty much have to tank

    If you get a good rotation player, or anything above that in a non lotto situation you won because either your GM had giant balls or some other GM missed the boat on that pick

    luck favors the prepared, and you really have no chance (2004 pistons an exception) without a superstar

    good rookies on their 3 year deals are the best production for pay ratio in the NBA

    If your drafting in the lottery and you swing and miss on a pick, thats going to hurt for maybe a long time

    But you have to tank! very few teams possess cap space and at the same time are a place where the uber elite want to play

    with the harsh luxury tax and brutal repeater tax, you have to develop your own guys, spend your money very carefully and tank strategically.

    There is virtually no reward in the NBA for being less than the 5th seed in the playoffs

    anything lower, its statistically almost impossible to win a title

    its just too much to expect a team to win every series on the road, barring a derek rose tears an acl during the series type gift that philadelphia got a few seasons ago

    I am all for tanking for a few years, now, if you are the clippers and you are in the lotto for like 10 straight years then sure your gm should have been gone

    but for now? unless the NBA starts rewarding mediocrity, might as well tank and finish with atleast the top 3 worst records in the NBA

    if the Suns finish with the worst record, they are guaranteed a top 4 pick, if they finish 2nd worst they are guaranteed a top 5 pick and 3rd worst would get you top 6, worst case scenario

    i dont see any bulls fans saying “gee we should have made the playoffs as the 8th seed that one year, i dont want derick rose on my team”

    it just makes too much sense to tank, just do it in a way like the Suns are, where the record sucks but the team is fun to watch and i doubt the fans at the end of the day will care

    being competitive means nothing if you are spinning your wheels every year because you never bottom out and rebuild and blow it up

    if Boston was like me, i would trade Rondo to Dallas for expiring contracts and picks

    get it all done in one summer, instead of torturous slow rebuild where the team pretends to be competitive for the sake of it

  • 43 Scott // Jul 3, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    So far as I can see, Dallas isn’t really set up to sell expiring contracts. The vets they have they want to keep for one more run (Dirk, Carter, Marion).

    However, if the Suns can gain young quality talent by acting as a go-between, I’m okay with that. :)

  • 44 Miguel // Jul 3, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    Excellent article Michael. Bledsoe is the most explosive guard, pound for pound, in the universe! TNT!

  • 45 john // Jul 3, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    Great write up, Michael. I’m in agreement that this is a great trade for the Suns. Bledsoe is the type of quality youngster needed for a rebuild, assuming the Suns intend to (and succeed) sign him long term, preferably before he’s a UFA.

  • 46 KidBuxton // Jul 3, 2013 at 6:56 pm

    Andy – Hey man, I’m not a big Brown fan at all but you’d be surprised how highly other people still rate him!

    A contender would definitely take him for 4 million I think as he’s been to the play offs numerous times and has the experience and spark off the bench.

    I think wait a while until teams start getting desperate.

  • 47 KidBuxton // Jul 3, 2013 at 7:03 pm

    Hey guys I’m Karl, follow me @KidBuxton on twitter and we can chat more. Just starting to utilize Twitter more, would be good to chat with some Suns fans, I can’t find any where I live!!!

    Like I said on another thread, Cavs were fun to watch last year and they still were worse than us. I think it’ll be a fun/losing year with Eric and Len. Baby steps.

  • 48 Dan.C133 // Jul 4, 2013 at 10:36 pm

    I think that Bledsoe is what he is a good young asset that has value and potential for growth. Don’t we have 3 1st rounders next year if the wolves make the playoffs. Next years draft is deep with potential all stars thru 10 or 12. Sure a top 3 pick would be great but we should end up with several quality kids next year to go with our 2 1sts this year. Granted those kids will take time to develop but I believe we have the FO and coach to work towards that goal.

  • 49 Scott // Jul 5, 2013 at 11:54 am

    @Dan.C133 -

    ATM, the Suns only have 2 first round picks next year (2014), and 2 in 2015.

    The following page is a top resource for who has what picks, but keep in mind that trades that are currently in the offing but which have not been finalized yet are not factored in.

  • 50 Junior // Jul 5, 2013 at 11:47 pm


    Rhondo being drafted wasn’t due to anyone in the Sun’s organization. Celtic’s and their GM told us to draft him.

    Suns fans need to stop thinking that was a smart Sun’s draft choice.

  • 51 Ty-Sun // Jul 6, 2013 at 10:03 am

    @hawki – About why Tucker is going to be in the summer league, I have no real knowledge but perhaps Horny wants him there so he can have a chance – before training camp starts – to work with Tucker on improving his shooting? That is the biggest hole in Tucker’s game and if Horny can help him improve his shooting then Tucker would be a much more valuable player. That’s the only logical reason I can think of for Tucker to play in the summer league.

  • 52 Scott // Jul 6, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    ^^ That would be good. If Tucker could even just have more confidence and accuracy shooting the corner 3, it would really help his career.

  • 53 RC3973 // Jul 7, 2013 at 7:00 am

    the best thing to do is:

    1. trade Gortat to a contender for a 1st round pick and a young player/expiring contract.

    2.Package a deal to trade beasley, scola, and brown for an expiring contract and a pick as well.

    3.drop the season. those players traded would lead a lineup of bledsoe, Dragic, butler, morris and len.that will make the lottery for sure. picks to get another lottery pick without touching their coveted pick to draft two franchise players.then get young role players in FA

  • 54 The elite, mediocre and tanking teams of NBA free agency // Jul 17, 2013 at 11:09 am

    [...] young player in Eric Bledsoe for the low price of Jared Dudley and a second-rounder. The Suns were able to make that trade happen by absorbing Caron Butler’s contract into cap space, which is another reason why moves like [...]

  • 55 Luis Scola converted into more assets for efficient Suns // Jul 27, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    [...] being many uses for cap space beyond its traditional usage of signing high-profile free agents, and after using cap space to finish off the Eric Bledsoe deal by taking on Caron Butler’s contract to make the cap math work, the Suns have now struck once [...]

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