Eric Bledsoe A Potential Fit For the Philadelphia 76ers
The Philadelphia 76ers have been one of the many rebuilding teams that chose not to make too many note-worthy moves this NBA offseason. But this all could change quickly. We have seen many teams hurt by the crazy nature of free agency, especially restricted free agency.
The Houston Rockets‘ core was altered when the Rockets decided not to match the Dallas Mavericks‘ three-year, $46 million offer sheet to Chandler Parsons. The Sacramento Kings knew they didn’t want to retain restricted free gent point guard Isaiah Thomas so they worked out a sign-and-trade that dealt the diminutive guard to the Phoenix Suns. Other teams, like the Utah Jazz, were forced to overpay to keep their players (Gordon Hayward signed for four years, $63 million). The Phoenix Suns have (so far) refused to give a “max-type” deal, and this is where Philly can strike.
The Sixers have massive amounts of cap space, and it is well-known that the NBA salary cap is predicted to rise soon to proportions previously unimaginable. This means that some of the contracts looked at as bad deals could soon be bargains based on what the new salary cap will be. This sets the stage up for the Sixers to make a dramatic splash.
When the 2014 NBA Draft went crazy with the news of Joel Embiid‘s back injury, there were rumors of the Sixers drafting Dante Exum to experiment with the two-point guard system used so effectively in Phoenix. Now the Sixers can plug in a player already familiar with the system in Eric Bledsoe. Bledsoe has reportedly been asking for a five-year maximum deal of $80 million. That contract request has scared many teams off, but isn’t too crazy of an offer for a 24-year-old guard who still has plenty of room to grow, and Philly knows this.
Bledsoe just came off an injury-riddled season in which he only played 43 games, but in those 43 games he was quite impressive. He continued his stellar defensive play, using his tremendous strength and athleticism to guard any wing player. More importantly, he improved offensively. He posted the best true shooting percentage of his career (57.8 percent).
With obvious offensive improvements and tremendous defensive ability, Bledsoe could develop into one of the top 15 players in the league, further earning his nickname “mini-LeBron”. On the Sixers, Bledsoe would become the leader of a team with Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, Michael Carter-Williams and a bunch of run-and-jump athletes. This team would have the potential to be (top-to-bottom) the best defensive team in the league. This would be quite a leap for a team that just finished 30th out of 32 teams in points allowed.
Now we should acknowledge the fact that Bledsoe’s arrival would also speed up the development process of Carter-Williams. Bledsoe can defend the more effective wing scorer on most nights, freeing up MCW to play the passing lanes just like he did in college. He would also help Carter-Williams work on his jumper.
He knows what it feels like to have the three-point shot missing from your game. However, last year he shot 36 percent from deep while attempting 3.3 threes per game. He attempted more threes than he ever had in his career, and showed a willingness to get better, which is exactly what the Sixers need to do.
The Sixers need to sign Bledsoe to an offer sheet near the five-year, $80 million he is looking for, fully knowing that this would put the Suns in a tough position. The Suns would get at least 72 hours to review this offer. Usually the team with the rights to the player would stall the other team’s free agency by leaving the offer hanging out there, which eats up cap space for the team that offered.
The Sixers wouldn’t need to worry about this as they have near $30 million in cap space. They conceivably could sign Bledsoe and still make other moves while the Suns would likely be forced to watch one of their key players walk away.
The Philadelphia 76ers have been the laughingstock of the NBA the past few seasons, but making a clear effort to improve the roster would win back some of the notoriously tough Philadelphia fans.