While people around the NBA have been acting like all of the big dominoes in 2014 NBA Free Agency have fallen, there are still some relatively high-profile players left with no home for next season. Moreover there are teams that are clamoring to try and sign these guys before the market is barren. At the top of the list is restricted free agent guard Eric Bledsoe.
After spending one year with the Phoenix Suns and almost helping lead the youth-driven team to the postseason, Bledsoe has the ability to sign an offer sheet from any team willing to put money on the line. Obviously Phoenix can match any offer sheet Bledsoe signs, but there hasn’t been an offer sheet out there to match yet.
According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard, the Suns have extended one of the only offers to Bledsoe, one which would put the 24-year-old guard under a four-year, $48 million contract. Bledsoe and his agent turned that down, though. More importantly from this offer and the report from Broussard is the notion that Bledsoe and his agent are seeking a five-year, $80 million max-contract. Clearly, the two sides are far apart in terms of money.
Based on the potential and the skills of Bledsoe, you could seemingly justify paying him the max. He’s one of the most explosive young players in the league who contributes on both ends of the floor and can change any contest in an instant. We’ve seen that from him, and saw it in Phoenix last year. The problem is that we haven’t seen it for a full season.
Bledsoe played only 43 games for the Suns last season after a knee injury required surgery, effectively bringing his year to an end. Sure, he averaged 17.7 points, 5.5 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 1.6 steals in 32.9 minutes per game while also shooting 47.7 percent from the floor, but he was unable to be on the floor for an entire season in his first year as one of the Suns’ lead guards. It’s not a question of durability, though, but rather that it’s just too small of a sample size to determine whether or not he’s worth $80 million over five years. In that light, the Suns are right to be playing hardball with Bledsoe.
Moreover, Phoenix has all of the leverage in this situation. Not only could they ultimately match a max offer sheet if another team were to give it to Bledsoe, but they also were able to acquire another young point guard in Isaiah Thomas this offseason. Having Thomas in-tow serves as a sort of security blanket for the Suns; as does having Goran Dragic on the roster.
In terms of promoting good basketball and seeing a young team progress together, Bledsoe staying in Phoenix would be exciting, fun, and good for the eyes of fans. However, the Suns are wise right now to not extend the guard a max deal. If they want to keep him around, which could mean matching a max-offer sheet, that could still work out just fine. However, there’s no need for Phoenix to throw that deal at him now given the situation both parties are in.