The Phoenix Suns still have most of the power in their restricted free agency talks with Eric Bledsoe, but with the threat of his $3.7 million qualifying offer looming large, general manager Ryan McDonough may be exploring his options.
According to local sportscaster Jude LaCava, the Suns are discussing pursuing a sign-and-trade deal for Eric Bledsoe to avoid losing him for nothing as an unrestricted free agent next summer. If Bledsoe were to take the risky route of accepting Phoenix’s qualifying offer, he’d be severely underpaid for the 2014-15 season, but he’d be able to sign with whomever he pleases in 2015. The Suns would only be able to trade him before the February trade deadline if Bledsoe agreed to a deal in that scenario.
In his chat with FoxSports 910 radio, LaCava said, “You can take this to the bank, so to speak, the Suns are now discussing trade possibilities for Eric Bledsoe.” LaCava didn’t have any details on what the Suns would look to acquire in a potential deal, but anything less than another big name wouldn’t cut it.
Why? Because the Suns already have enough young assets and draft picks. In the next two years, Phoenix has four first round picks and the Suns already have four players under the age of 22. This team came closer to the playoffs than almost every lottery team in NBA history last season and the next natural step for a 48-win team would be to aim for the postseason in 2014-15.
I can see why the Suns are torn on Bledsoe. Crazy talented player, but he wasn’t totally integral to their success last year
— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) August 20, 2014
Last year, Bledsoe only played in 43 games and the Suns were still agonizingly close to the postseason. Even though he turned down Phoenix’s fair four-year, $48 million because he wanted a five-year, $80 million mega deal, nobody offered Bledsoe a max contract over the summer and it appeared more and more likely he’d be back in the purple and orange next year one way or another.
However, with Bledsoe likely entertaining the thought of that qualifying offer, the Suns may be jumping the gun to try and get what they can out of Bledsoe before he takes the offer and leaves for nothing next summer. That qualifying offer is a risky path for Bledsoe, since he’d have to prove for the first time in his career that he can stay healthy for a full 82-game season while logging starter’s minutes. That’s a tall task for a guy who’s had two knee surgeries in the past three years.
Bledsoe averaged 17.7 points, 5.5 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game for the Suns. Alongside Goran Dragic, the Suns had one of the most dangerous offenses in the league and under rookie head coach Jeff Hornacek, Phoenix defied all expectations and became the most pleasant surprise of the 2013-14 season. Bledsoe would be hard-pressed to find a better fit than Hornacek’s high-flying offense, but so far, it appears money is the root of this contract dispute evil.
The Suns did the right thing not giving in and rewarding a promising player with a max deal after he only played half the season, and acquiring Isaiah Thomas in the offseason was a brilliant move that provided Phoenix with some Eric Bledsoe insurance. But losing Bledsoe will still hurt the Suns’ playoff pursuit and now the pressure could be on McDonough to deliver once again and get equal value from a trade that isn’t built around future assets.