Eric Bledsoe’s first comments about his free agency read somewhere in between frustration and fact-stating. They were probably closer to the latter.
It’s good news for the Phoenix Suns, then, that Basketball Insiders editor Steve Kyler has sources telling him that while the two sides are far apart, they aren’t close to shutting down talks. Those sources close to the Suns believe Bledsoe will be back in some capacity, and that at least means the franchise is not any closer to checking out sign-and-trade offers for Bledsoe. It also indicates Bledsoe’s camp isn’t currently demanding a sign-and-trade or set on finding better offers.
Per Basketball Insiders:
Sources say there continues to be ongoing dialogue towards a deal and there is some sense that the Suns might increase their offer slightly; there has also been talk that Bledsoe’s camp might agree to a short-term deal that gets Bledsoe into free agency again inside the next three seasons.
Kyler also adds that the Milwaukee Bucks might still be interested in acquiring Bledsoe, but they wouldn’t do so unless they can unload some salaries. It’s not clear what salaries would be necessary to head out of Milwaukee, but it’s hard to see the Suns ever biting without asking for several young players, even if a third team is forced to take on a cumbersome contract like that of Larry Sanders ($11 million per through the 2017-18 season), O.J. Mayo ($8 million a year through 2015-16) or Ersan Ilyasova ($7.9 million per through 2015-16 with a non-guaranteed final year of $8.4 million).
Again, Phoenix won’t bid against itself, but it would be surprising if it refused to budge from a reported offer of four years and $48 million. While that might’ve been the most recent after lobbying by Bledsoe’s agent, Rich Paul, the most recent talks indicate neither side is being completely stubborn.
There’s not a whole lot of room to re-structure a Bledsoe deal without hitting the max mark, but a shorter contract would be beneficial for both parties. The Suns could pay Bledsoe what he believes he’s worth while also protecting themselves down the road if the point guard doesn’t produce or has any injury issues.
Obviously in that scenario, this whole process might play out a lot sooner if Bledsoe becomes a free agent in two or three seasons, but by that point it’s hard to know the direction the team is headed. If the Suns have strung together a few strong playoff performances, Bledsoe might be very willing to return and the Suns would be willing to pay him. If it’s been a disappointing run, going in another direction might be a good idea anyway .
For teams not in Oklahoma City and San Antonio, windows of opportunity aren’t as long as they used to be. Even the Cavaliers could theoretically fumble away the LeBron James return after a single season.
The Suns seemingly are handling Bledsoe’s restricted free agency like the Pistons have with big man Greg Monroe. Detroit is wary it has to pay fellow frontcourt mate Andre Drummond in the next two seasons, while Phoenix knows it will need to pay to keep Bledsoe’s backcourt mate, Goran Dragic. Neither team wants to overpay, and both continue to have the leverage.
UPDATE: Kirk Goldsberry at Grantland breaks down free agency movement and notes that only two of 13 free agents that signed deals averaging more than $10 million a season switched teams. LeBron James and Chandler Parsons had two very unique free agencies of their own and went against the trend of what Goldsberry calls the “hometown advantage.”