The Phoenix Suns were something special during the 2013-14 season and look like a future contender-in-the-making with one of the NBA’s best backcourts in Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe. But Bledsoe hasn’t made any promises he wants to stay in Phoenix with his impending free agency this summer. Here’s why Bledsoe’s best decision would be resigning with the Suns, in the form of this fan’s impassioned letter to Bledsoe himself.
Dear Eric Bledsoe,
I know you don’t know me and probably get tons of fan mail, but this is important. After watching you back up Chris Paul with the Los Angeles Clippers, I knew you could be special. I don’t think many understood how much potential was there, but you immediately showed Phoenix Suns fans in your first season as an NBA starting point guard. We got to watch you make the leap and there’s no doubt you have a bright future. But with your restricted free agency coming up, I feel the need to tell you that your future will be even brighter if you resign with the Suns.
I know what you’re thinking, Eric (can I call you Eric?). You’re a biased Suns fan. That may be true, but that also doesn’t change facts, and here’s a big one: something special is happening here in the Valley of the Suns. I know you can feel it. Not only is this the first team to really invest in you and give you your chance at NBA stardom, but you and your backcourt buddy Goran were a sight to behold this year. I know the Dragon was the leader and driving force behind this team because you missed 39 games and who knows? Maybe that brought up flashbacks of playing behind CP3. But this is different and you have the chance to be part of a contender-in-the-making here.
The way you dazzled us in just 43 games this season was remarkable. You averaged 17.7 points, 5.5 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 1.6 steals while shooting 47.7 percent from the floor and posting a 19.6 Player Efficiency Rating. While I was checking out your career stats the other day, I noticed those were ALL career highs. This team was expected to win less than 20 games, but you were huge part of only the fourth team in NBA history to miss the playoffs after winning 48 games! So it’s no secret that you’re a player on the rise that plenty of teams in need of a point guard will want to offer a max deal this summer.
Suns: 48 wins, tied for best record by a team to miss playoffs since 1983-84 when playoff format went to 16 teams (2007-08 Warriors)
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 17, 2014
But guess what? If a team wants to sign you to a max deal and you sign that offer sheet, the Phoenix Suns can still match that offer and keep you here. Here’s the thing though: if you do that, it sends the message to your teammates and fans that you were ready to walk away from something special just for the money. It’ll send the message to management that you wanted a max deal and that if they hadn’t decided to extend one your way, you were gone. Don’t make this awkward, Eric.
There are plenty of reasons to not even touch any offer sheet within arm’s reach this summer. First of all, general manager Ryan McDonough has already warned other teams to not waste their time since Phoenix plans to match high-dollar offers to keep you around. He’s even said the Suns would prefer to take care of your contract situation before free agency begins, so it’s not like you should feel slighted if he offers you something a tad south of a max deal because it’ll still be a fair one. There’s no way your new contract is worth anything less than $9 million per year. Do you know how happy I’d be if I got to play basketball for a living, make $9 million a year and have a chance to win an NBA championship in the near future??
That’s right, Eric. If you stay in Phoenix, that’s what you could be playing for in a few years. You could be one of the cornerstones of the first Phoenix Suns championship team! Tell me that wouldn’t cement your reputation as a star. I’m not naive enough to think this current roster is going to get there next season and you may need to say goodbye to some friends along the way so the Suns can make the necessary trades/signings to become a contender.
For all the talk of Kevin Love to the Lakers and Knicks, the Suns are the team I think could/should make a serious run at him. AK
— Kamenetzky Brothers (@KamBrothers) March 29, 2014
But can you imagine forming a big three with Goran and maybe Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Love, Luol Deng or even LeBron James or Kevin Durant in the next year or two? A lot has to happen for one of those players to come to Phoenix, but the salary cap is about to rise $5 million and this team is on the rise, so nothing is impossible. What if the Miami Heat fail in their three-peat and King James is available? What if Russell Westbrook leaves for LA and Kevin Durant wants to move on from Oklahoma City? What if Kevin Love demands a trade? You can’t deny the Suns are more attractive to big name free agents with every passing day.
This is the team that gave you your shot and they want to keep you around. You’re surrounded by young, promising prospects and McDonough knows what he’s doing. You got to play under one of the top Coach of the Year candidates in Jeff Hornacek this season so you know this team has a bright future. I have faith you’ll stay healthy next season and if you do, can you imagine what you and Dragic can accomplish together in the backcourt?
That’s why you being so non-committal about staying in Phoenix scares us, Eric. After the loss to the Memphis Grizzlies that eliminated you guys from playoff contention, you said, “We gained experience. We’ve got to take it to the next level next year.” But you haven’t publicly said you want to come back. In addition to the reasons I’ve already listed, don’t forget you guys were 23-11 with you and Dragic in the starting lineup. And if you’re worried about that knee, where are you going to find a better situation than the legendary Phoenix Suns training and medical staff? Remember how well Grant Hill and Steve Nash played into their late 30s in Phoenix and how fast it all fell apart as soon as they left? Don’t let that be you!
In closing, thank you for a wonderful albeit injury-shortened season. I don’t doubt that if you hadn’t gone down with that meniscus tear, the Phoenix Suns would be in the playoffs right now. But just because you guys fell a few games short doesn’t mean there isn’t something special happening here in Phoenix. Hornacek and Dragic will help you succeed, the fans love you and you could be part of a Western Conference contender in the next few seasons. So if you could find it in your heart to work out a deal with McDonough before free agency even starts, it would show the fourth winningest franchise in NBA history that its fans’ loyalty means something to you.
The future has already been ignited, Eric. But the Phoenix Suns couldn’t picture it without you.
Hoops Habit Assistant (To The Regional) Editor & Phoenix Suns Fan