The Phoenix Suns and Eric Bledsoe are still at odds over the financial terms of a new contract. This late in August that spells disaster for both sides. By now, NBA teams have their combo guards signed and already working out in advance of training camp so it’s an uphill climb for the Suns and Eric Bledsoe to both get what they want. Or what they believe they deserve. Both are entrenched in their positions. The Suns want to give Bledsoe 4 years at $12 million. Bledsoe wants 5 years at $16 million. Each side has dug a trench that they just may drown in.
The Sun’s offer is fair considering that Bledsoe has never played a full schedule in his career. He played 81 games his rookie year. Then 40 games, 76 games, and he played 43 games last year. Chris Paul’s backup for three years, Eric Bledsoe was traded last July to Phoenix and averaged 18 points a game. It was a breakout year. But he has had two surgeries on the same knee and he is only 24 years old, a red flag for any team. The Suns, perhaps sensing the writing on the wall, signed Isaiah Thomas and drafted Tyler Ennis just in case the Bledsoe deal fell apart.
Bledsoe believes he is a max player. It is not false bravado as he waits for a deal to be negotiated. He can score, drive, finish through contact. He is the best rebounding small guard and he blocks shots. His athleticism is phenomenal in a freakish way similar to Lebron James. His defense is of a high quality. But should he make more than what James Harden makes? (Harden’s salary in 2014-15 is $14.5 million). Is Bledsoe durable? Shouldn’t max players be 20+scorers? Clearly other teams feel similar to the Phoenix Suns because no other teams have come in and trumped the Suns offer of $12 million a year. Everyone is watching and waiting to catch the debris when it blows to pieces.
This is why: the metrics show that when Bledsoe was off the floor and Goran Dragic was on the floor the Suns offense was just as efficient as when Bledsoe and Dragic played together. But when Dragic was off the floor the offense stalled. The Suns have concluded Goran Dragic is the most valuable guard. Dragic, an unrestricted free agent in 2015, will be in high demand and the Suns can offer him the most money. Clearly, they have decided that of the two guards Dragic is the one deserving of the max contract and not Eric Bledsoe. Other teams feel the same way. Dragic has had his injury issues too but his 20 points, 6 assists 2013-14 is hard to overlook.
The Lakers would love Bledsoe at the $12-13 million dollar range. Their standard operating procedure is to steal other teams’ stars whenever possible. But this year they have zero leverage. 6 of their players are free agent signings. League rules prevent them from trading newly signed free agents until December 15th. Their only option is a package with Steve Nash, a first round pick and cash. They could add Julius Randle in a deal but the Lakers are holding onto Randle with the intention of developing him.
That pretty much leaves the Suns in a precarious position. Bledsoe is strongly considering the qualifying offer of near $4 million dollars. At the end of the 2014-15 season he will then be an unrestricted free agent, along with Dragic. The risk for Bledsoe is injury. He hasn’t been able to escape it the last three years. That could limit his value on the open market when he does become a free agent. He may find that $12 million dollars a year was a good deal after all.