What Eric Bledsoe in tweeting out a trade demand (and according to Ryan McDonough lying about it) sucks. It makes him look petty and immature and it makes the Suns look bad. But in terms of trade value, it’s not the worst thing in the world to happen either.
We all heard the rumors over the Summer about the potential trade destinations for Eric Bledsoe, chief among them the Denver Nuggets and the possible swap of Emmanuel Mudiay and a 2017 draft pick. General Manager a Ryan McDonough demurred and the trade never came to frutition. Beyond that, other trades were speculated, including the one regarding Kyrie Irving, but again, nothing was ever made official .
The reasons for these trade failures are numerous. For starters, Mudiay appears to be a bust. He has not yet rounded into shape as a star/starting point guard on a great team, and may never do so. Their first round pick was in the middle of the draft and McDonough probably didn’t see any player available there to draft that would make an impact on the Suns now, or fill any particular gaps long-term.
Kyrie Irving is an epic story on its own, but in the end it appears that the reason that trade was not made was due to the apparent demand of the Cavaliers for Josh Jackson. Had Irving walked in two years then the Suns would have been left with nothing while Cleveland would be sitting pretty with a potential star-bound small forward to build around.
Other trades also didn’t happen because teams knew that the Suns were in a relatively desperate position to trade Bled and therefore thought that they could buy low or wait the Suns out as they met a wall and got desperate.
Obviously it is the latter of those two scenarios which has come to fruition, a position that the Suns now wish they weren’t in due to the immaturity and unprofessionalism of Bledsoe and his tweet.
But this isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the world. For starters, there still will be a competitive market for Bledsoe. At least three teams – the Nuggets, Knicks, and Bucks – have already shown interest in trading for him and thus, if they are each serious, will have to compete against one another to make a deal done. Ryan McDonough and his staff will work hard to play the teams off of each other and attempt to get the best trade possible for the Suns, as they would do in any other situation.
And while 131 NBA players cannot be traded until at least the middle of December or January because of when they were signed as free agents in the offseason, it is young players and draft picks that the Suns truly seek, exactly what they would have looked for before, and generally totally available right now. Therefore a trade for Mudiay and a future first might be exactly what they were offered this past summer, and exactly what they can still get now.
Moreover, the team has set themselves up to take on a bad contract for the next couple of years with the way they have handled their salary cap and while it would be more ideal to take on a bad trade with a future first round draft pick, they could yet do that here with Bledsoe, to ensure a first round pick in return if one is not otherwise offered immediately.
The situation with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Kyrie Irving too is evidence that teams can still make out well in their trade return even in the face of a player’s public demand. I am not comparing the talent of Kyrie and Bledsoe (although do not lie to yourself, the two player’s statistics are very similar to one another at this stage in their careers, Kyrie is not light-years ahead of Bledsoe although he is admittedly better), but when all seemed lost for Cleveland that they were not going to get a decent return for Irving, they eventually did receive a very strong haul and are arguably a better team because of it then they were before.
The same can still be said about Bledsoe. While their might not be a league-wide desperation for Bledsoe at the moment, knowing that the window to acquire him this season is closing, there will be teams who do want him and would prefer to have him earlier rather than later to use an entire season to get him acclimated to a system and new teammates before the playoffs, rather than the final 26 games or so following the trade deadline.
Would a team like Denver in particular not prefer Bledsoe to work with Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap for around 80 games before the playoffs rather than the final month and a half? You bet, and if they fear that Milwaukee might sneak in with a better trade last second, they will make a pitch that is both fair and acceptable to the Suns.
In the end, I just do not see this as the absolute worst thing for the Suns and their leverage right now. Would it have been better for the Suns had they been able to wait a few months and see if a point guard (like Isaiah Thomas) goes down for the year and a team is suddenly desperate? Sure. But there is also no guarantee that the Cavaliers would have had the acquirable assets that the Suns would want to make something like that happen anyway.
Would the Suns prefer to not take on a big contract (or move another young player) to make something happen now on short notice, especially since 131 players cannot yet be traded? Absolutely. But that does not mean that the return then won’t be any less helpful to Phoenix’s long-term re-build than if not.
Eric Bledsoe selfishly, arrogantly, immaturely, what-have-you, put the Suns in a difficult position. He is under contract for two years, he is paid a lot of money to play a game, and the Suns were actively trying to trade him anyway. He would have survived another month to three months with the Suns and possibly given himself a better opportunity to be traded to a contender.
Regardless, this does not mean that the Suns will not get decent trade value in return. After all, if they had been offered something spectacular in the offseason they would have accepted it.
Maybe Bledsoe isn’t nearly as wanted around the league as he thinks he is and the Suns knew it.