When free agency began July 1, all eyes were on LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, waiting with bated breath to see where two of the most dynamic players in the NBA would decide to take their services. Once James settled on Cleveland and Anthony decided to remain in New York, the rest of the chess board that is Free Agency 2014 quickly fell into place, with Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Dirk Nowitzki and Kyle Lowry all deciding to stay where they were at.
With the Kevin Love sweepstakes still in flux due to the fact the Minnesota Timberwolves can simply hold onto him for next season if they choose, that left the Phoenix Suns’ Eric Bledsoe as the top prize for teams looking to improve through free agency. And for a while, it looked like the Milwaukee Bucks were seriously in the race to land the 24-year-old point guard who is an restricted free agent, despite him saying he wanted a max contract.
Whether Bledsoe is worth a max contract is debatable, after an up and down 2013-14 season. He only suited up for 43 games last year due to a torn meniscus, but in those games he played very well, averaging 17.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game.
So for some teams he might be worth the investment and apparently the Bucks were one of them.
But unfortunately, it seems it was all a moot point. As a restricted free agent, the Suns cam match any offer Bledsoe receives and made it perfectly clear that was exactly what they intended to do.
When Adam Green of ArizonaSports.com asked team president Lon Babby about it, he said “Yes, if you ask me today, I would say absolutely we are going to match any offer, but I hope it doesn’t come to that. I hope Eric has developed enough of a feeling, and my instincts are that he likes it here.”
The result is that many teams have been scared away from making Bledsoe any kind of offer, max or otherwise. Including, it would seem, the Milwaukee Bucks.
And honestly, this might not be a bad thing.
Right now the Bucks have three players that they can use at point guard: Brandon Knight, Nate Wolters and Kendall Marshall. Knight is penciled in as the starter and last season averaged 17.9 points, 3.5 rebounds and one steal per game, which with the exception of the steals stat puts him right in line with Bledsoe’s production. Wolters is a second-year player who is coming off a very strong rookie season that ended prematurely when he broke his left hand in March.
And Marshall, whom the Bucks claimed off waivers earlier this month, comes cheap and is a passing machine with a lot of upside.
So why would the Bucks, a young team that is rebuilding, want to tie up a ton of money in a player that, while very good, also has a history in not being able to stay healthy and might not be worth the max contract he is asking for? It would be different if the Bucks had issues at the point guard position, but Knight and a fully healed Wolters should be able to run the floor without any issue.
Plus, and this is important, realistically the Bucks are still not going to be very good during the 2014-15 season, despite the addition of Jabari Parker. They are likely headed back to the draft lottery in 2015 and are years away from being seriously competitive in the Central Division.
Why sign Bledsoe to a four- or five-year deal, and then have to negotiate a new contract just when the team is starting to win and making a return to the playoffs?
The addition of Bledsoe would help the Bucks win now instead of later, of that there is no question. But if the franchise wants to build a team that will be a winner in the long term, making big, splashy free agent signings should probably wait for another year or so.
I mean, Kevin Durant is going be be available in 2016, right?