Off-Season Trade Possibility: Eric Bledsoe and Kyle Lowry?

Dec 29, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe (2) handles the ball against Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (7) in the second half of the NBA game at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Suns won 99-91. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 29, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe (2) handles the ball against Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (7) in the second half of the NBA game at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Suns won 99-91. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports /

The very nature of this trade possibility is based on one particular event happening first: The Suns draft either Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball.

If the Suns receive the first or second overall pick in the 2017 draft, they will have the chance to select either Fultz or Ball, setting them up with a future, long-term, backcourt that includes Devin Booker. At that point, the currently 27-year old Eric Bledsoe could become expendable, should the Suns prefer to throw the rookie point guard into the fire right away.

The question for Suns fans immediately then becomes: who could the Suns trade Bledsoe to, and who/what would they get in return?

At the moment there are zero other teams in the league that look to be a perfect  fit or Bledsoe, although teams like Denver or Dallas would be front-runners in reality should this scenario come to fruition.

However, there is one team that at this very moment has no need for Eric Bledsoe’s services and as of last week prior to the trade deadline would have never had any interest in him, and yet in three months might be all over the idea:

The Toronto Raptors.

Kyle Lowry is having a career-year in 2016-17 averaging 22.8p/4.8r/6.9a/46.4%FG/41.7%3PT

Bledsoe too is having a career-year averaging 21.3p/5.0r/6.4a/44.0%FG/33.0%3PT

The only statistic that Lowry is clearly having a better season than Bledsoe in is 3PT%, and yet Bledsoe has averaged right under 40% before in his career before so the reality that he could show improvement in the future is one of sincere realism.

But why would Toronto want to flip Lowry for Bledsoe in the first place?

For several reasons:

First is age. Lowry will be 31-years old on March 25, and is out with a wrist injury until at least that date. While 3q does not make him old,  Bledsoe is nearly four years younger and does not even turn 28 until December. Their statistics are very similar already, and the Suns guard has shown just as incremental of an improvement as Lowry over the past few years, only Bledsoe has reached his current level four years earlier.

Replace one veteran in the peak of his prime with another one at the beginning of his own, and the Raptors have an opportunity to keep their winning roster in place for an extended period of time.

The next reason for replacing Lowry for Bledsoe is their contracts.

Lowry is an unrestricted free agent following this season and will likely demand (and deserve) a max contract extension. The Los Angeles Lakers are already rumored to have interest in Lowry and should he reciprocate, Los Angeles might become very enticing should they trade for Paul George (especially if D’Angelo Russell is part of the returning package).

Yet, one would assume  that the Raptors would have no problem offering a max contract to their star point guard keeping him around long-term – and this may still be the case.

But let us not forget: Toronto just signed DeMar DeRozan to a max contract under the new CBA last off-season and is making over $26M this year already, and will be making up to $27.7 come 2020. Jonas Valanciunas is under a decently large contract at between $14M to 17.6M through 2019; DeMarre Carroll is signed for $14.2M through $15.4M through 2018; and Toronto now has Serge Ibaka too who is an unrestricted free agent this summer and will require at least $20M to keep. Patrick Patterson is also an unrestricted free agent, and will demand well above the $6M he is making this season. Add potentially $27M for Lowry, and the Raptors will have very little room to wiggle.

The core the Raptors have built should have several years in them to make a run at the Eastern crown several times, and was already an Eastern Conference Finalist last season. They will surely not want to break up the core and make a Finals run totally unrealistic. Should the Raptors move on from Lowry and his potential $27M contract and assume Bledsoe’s $14.5M-$15M over the next two seasons before having to extend his  contract, they would have those two years of $12M savings and production to add other pieces for depth and re-loading should an unforeseen roster problem arise.

Obviously several significant events have to happen for this to even become a relevant rumor this off-season, although the number of moving pieces is neither that high, nor that implausible.

The Suns could also be the team that makes the first move. Once Phoenix knows where their pick is, and if their intention is to draft either Fultz or Ball, then they may immediately reach out to teams looking to find a trade market for Bledsoe. Toronto would be an obvious first call because of these reasons laid out. If the Raptors believe that paying Bledsoe short-term better keeps their core together than paying Kyle Lowry long-term, then the move may have to happen.

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Of course the two teams would obviously need to work out some sort of an arrangement, and truthfully I do not think that there would be a whole lot on the Raptors roster that would make sense for both teams meaning a three-team trade would probably have to be the way to make this arrangement happen. As just additional speculation, for Lowry to maximize his max contract, he would need to be signed-and-traded, meaning the three teams could likely include the Lakers, although to what degree would be impossible to speculate on at the moment.

That being said, this scenario is honestly not nearly as far-fetched as it might seem on the surface.