Are Both Luol Deng and Eric Bledsoe a Possibility for Los Angeles Lakers?
Amidst a six-game losing streak, the Los Angeles Lakers have now been rumored to be extremely interested in point guard Eric Bledsoe. Bledsoe is playing his best basketball of his career after being traded from the Los Angeles Clippers to the Phoenix Suns last summer. With the Clippers, Bledsoe never had a legitimate shot to prove himself due to the fact that Chris Paul was playing ahead of him. Obviously, he was not going to get the starting nod over arguably the best point guard in the entire NBA.
When given the opportunity to start in Phoenix, Bledsoe has proven himself to be worth all of the hype that has been surrounding him these past few years. He enjoys playing an up-tempo style of basketball in addition to his gritty defense. Unlike most point guards in the league, Bledsoe is able to at least contain opposing guards such as Russell Westbrook, something nobody else has been successful with. Although he may not be the best perimeter shooter out there, his ability to finish around the rim as well as his explosiveness make up for it.
All of these characteristics are the main reasons why teams around the league have been drooling at the idea of Bledsoe hitting free agency this summer. The downside is that he is a restricted free agent meaning that the Suns can match any deal Bledsoe is offered. So, if a team like the Lakers want to acquire him that badly they may have to substantially overpay for him. Unless he steps up his game even more in the second half of the season, Bledsoe is not a maximum salary player. A fair contract for a player of his caliber is probably in the $8-$10 million per year range. So in order for the Lakers to sign him they may have to pay way over that figure or sign him to a “poison pill” type contract. What this means is that the team would backload Bledsoe’s contract, giving him upwards of $15 million or more in his third year under contract. This is something that the Houston Rockets did to pry Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik away from their previous teams. Even with that sort of contract Phoenix may still match.
On the other hand, Luol Deng will be a much simpler signing. Unlike Bledsoe, Deng is an unrestricted free agent so he can sign anywhere he pleases without the Cleveland Cavaliers intervening. If I had to guess, he will also be a highly coveted player in this upcoming free agency class due to his durability. Last season, Deng led the league in minutes per game while still being able to keep up his intense defense which is something he’s known for.
At this point, it’s hard to imagine Deng sticking around Cleveland because of how many more appealing options he will have this summer. The Lakers would be a perfect fit as they have been desperately missing a solid defender to stifle the league’s elite players. Deng will be a very affordable player the Lakers would be stupid not inquire about.
If the team has a shot at acquiring both Bledsoe and Deng, they must go all in. Even though Kevin Love is a soon to be free agent as well, this sort of situation would be too sweet to pass up. If you are the Lakers in this situation, would you rather have two All-Star caliber players and flexibility or an MVP caliber player but with no flexibility? The logical answer to this question would be to sign two players rather than being restricted to just one. Furthermore, to go along with Bledsoe and Deng, the Lakers will also have a top tier rookie coming in to play alongside the duo. This situation is certainly a possibility and perhaps Los Angeles’ best chance at constructing a deep, balanced team.
Joseph Crevier covers the Los Angeles Lakers for RantSports.com. Follow him on twitter @RealJoeCrev or Facebook or add him to your network Google.