The relationship between Eric Bledsoe and the Phoenix Suns may be broken. He very well could follow Greg Monroe to become one of the biggest-name free agents in NBA history to take the risk of accepting a qualifying offer and forgoing a multi-year, eight-figure annual deal. Or, the Suns could trade him.
Fox 10’s Jude LaCava went on Fox Sports 910 on Tuesday and acknowledged that his NBA sources said the Suns were discussing sign-and-trade possibilities for Bledsoe. LaCava doesn’t know whether the Suns have discussed Bledsoe with other teams but notes they’re “open for business.” That sort of makes this non-news, as there’s of course going to be internal discussions and a willingness to talk to other teams regarding any player, especially one who had a very complicated free agency.
Bledsoe’s free agency never appeared (to me, at least) as a cut-and-dry situation. Many people expected he would receive a maximum contract offer, which has never come. It’s not surprising that teams don’t want to doll out more than $15 million per season for a young player who has undergone two major knee surgeries in the past three years.
The Suns have always seemed willing to pick up the phone and discuss trades, but there are too many reasons for this to seem like a longshot. And admittedly before you continue reading this, I’ve probably oversimplified Bledsoe’s free agency process from the beginning: two serious knee operations does not equal trade attention or willingness for teams to pay max money (or give up a lot of trade pieces).
He still won’t get the max
Phoenix is right to consider sign-and-trade options if Bledsoe and agent Rich Paul make it clear they’re taking the qualifying offer. Them doing so would put the Suns at risk of losing Bledsoe for nothing, as he’d be an unrestricted free agent next summer. Bledsoe’s camp will have to first sign a contract with the Suns; a new team would then pay him that money. We learned that teams weren’t willing to throw a big contract offer at Bledsoe, even though they did throw a lot of money at Lance Stephenson and Chandler Parsons.
The same issues remain if Bledsoe really wants a max contract. LaCava insinuates there has been bad blood with the Suns and Bledsoe after they failed to extend him before the 2013-14 season. If that’s the case, maybe Bledsoe wouldn’t be asking for max money elsewhere and maybe this is a non-issue. But as it’s been presented by owner Robert Sarver and all other national reports, the issue is about the money. That probably isn’t going to change.
Obviously, the sides have to agree to a trade
In other words, Phoenix still holds all the power. The team could help Paul and Bledsoe find a suitor, but then it’s a matter of lining up the financial aspects, getting enough in return and satisfying Bledsoe. The Suns don’t want to weigh down themselves from a financial perspective, and they’d probably want picks and young players coming back. There aren’t enough teams (outside Philadelphia) that have enough cap space to take on a new Bledsoe deal without sending salary back to Phoenix in return.
One repeatedly-discussed trade scenario involves the Milwaukee Bucks, who have enough young talent to entice Phoenix. John Henson and Brandon Knight would fit well with the Suns, as would stretch 4 Ersan Ilyasova. The Bucks, however, might be focused on using the trade to also dump a big multi-year contract of Larry Sanders on the Suns. For a team still feeling the financial ramifications of signing Michael Beasley, that isn’t going to be tempting.
A sign-and-trade would probably have to include a third team or more.
He’s no Kevin Love
Beyond Kevin Love being a surefire max player teams will pay and want from a no-duh basketball standpoint, Bledsoe’s desire to be traded is a little more tricky. The timing Phoenix and Bledsoe have to potentially work on a sign-and-trade is waning thanks the non-negotiations that have apparently been going on.
Bledsoe must accept the qualifying offer by October 1 (it can be extended but for the sake of simplicity, I assume something will happen by then) and that’s a brief window for the Suns to build up a market for Bledsoe if he’s truly on the block. The Timberwolves had a full summer (and even until February) to set the market for Love. Golden State refused to offer Klay Thompson in any deal, and even so it became clear to other teams what Minnesota was aiming to get in return.
Many smart people credited Flip Saunders for his patience in getting what appears to be Andrew Wiggins and Thaddeus Young in a deal for Love. The Suns don’t have the time to let this build. And with that, the likelihood they like a proposed package is less likely.
So you’re saying there’s a chance …
Bledsoe taking a qualifying offer is a worst-case scenario for both teams. The player risks injury or disappointment, while the Suns risk watching Bledsoe shine on their team and leaving for nothing.
The optimist would say that’s a full season for the Suns to make up to the guard if he’s really upset –Rich Paul is the King at handling make-up meetings — a shot to prove that he can sign long-term in Phoenix and do great things. Because if Bledsoe doesn’t shine, well, then the Suns won’t feel all that bad about letting him walk. And by the way, the Suns still can offer Bledsoe the most money if he takes the qualifying offer.
It’s not surprising Phoenix could be open to looking at sign-and-trade options, and it’s probable the front office had at least considered the possibility between the end of the season until July 1, the start of free agency. If they are truly examining a sign-and-trade option, it’ll take a lot of effort to make it so both sides make a move of this sort.