The Phoenix Suns and restricted free agent guard Eric Bledsoe don’t appear to be anywhere close to a contract agreement. The Suns have all the leverage and are in no rush. As for Bledsoe, he is understandably frustrated.
Bledsoe is just 24 years-old and coming off a career season in which he averaged 17.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.6 steals per game. However, he only played in 43 games due to a knee injury suffered in the middle of the season.
Bledsoe and running mate Goran Dragic formed a dynamic backcourt, helping the Suns surprise everyone in the league. Phoenix was expected to compete for lottery balls; instead, they finished with 48 wins and just a game out of the eighth playoff spot in the hyper competitive Western Conference.
Given the numbers he put up last year, and his young age, Bledsoe has reason to want a max contract that would pay him $80 million over five years. The Suns are believed to be offering a four-year, $48 million deal, which is the same contract Kyle Lowry received earlier this summer when he re-signed with the Toronto Raptors.
Speaking with WVTM Birmingham this weekend, Bledsoe did not hide the fact that Phoenix was in control of negotiations, and how frustrated he was at that fact:
“First off I’m going to let my agent handle it,” Bledsoe said, while attending a “Ball Up” street ball tournament in Birmingham. “I can understand the Phoenix Suns are using restricted free agency against me. But I understand that.”
The Suns are not using restricted free agency against Bledsoe as much as they’re using the leverage that they have. If Phoenix intends to match any offer sheet for Bledsoe, then they should be in no rush to offer him the max. If another team wants to take that plunge, they’ll simply match the offer and keep their asset. Since most teams with a desire to actually spend up to the salary cap have already finished their shopping this off-season, the possibility a team would throw an offer sheet at Bledsoe at this point appears slim.
The offer on the table for Bledsoe isn’t the maximum money he’s seeking, but it’s still a worthwhile deal for someone who’s yet to play a complete season as a starter in the league.
The only alternative for Bledsoe is to accept the $3.7 million qualifying offer the Suns extended him at the start of free agency. In doing so, he would get a chance to re-enter the market next season as an unrestricted free agent. But there’s always the risk that injuries or a decline in performance could effect his value in a year’s time.
So, the wait between the two sides continues. And while it makes sense that Bledsoe is a bit frustrated by the process so far, it’s just business. The Suns are following the template that’s been set for so many years now on how to deal with your own restricted free agents: wait until someone else makes an offer sheet, otherwise, don’t budge from the contract offer you’ve made. Sooner or later, time will run out and both sides will come to terms.
What do you think?
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