Phoenix Suns restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe is easily the best player left on the market, but you wouldn’t know it from the offer sheets – or lack thereof. While Gordon Hayward and Chandler Parsons, among others, received lucrative contracts, Bledsoe has gotten nothing.
Why is that? Why won’t a team like, say, the Milwaukee Bucks make a play for him?
“Part of the problem is what he can command on the market as an unrestricted free agent is what’s in his head and what’s in his representative’s head,” NBA.com insider Sekou Smith said on The Morning Show. “And they’re going out operating under that premise when the fact is, restricted free agency is exactly what it says. It restricts your earning power. It gives your incumbent team the opportunity to match that offer, and therefore, a lot of teams just aren’t willing to stick that money out there on the open market and tie up the dollars.”
Bledsoe, 24, averaged 17.7 points, 5.5 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game last season. If he is offered a contract, the Suns would have three days to match it.
“Bledsoe is right to be adamant about his price,” Smith said. “I mean, when Gordon Hayward pulls in a $63-million contract, you can take the whole summer and turn it upside down – because every guy in the league who thinks he’s better than him is going to want more money than Gordon Hayward’s getting.”
That all makes sense, but at this point, look at Bledsoe’s competition. If you’re Phoenix, who else is out there that you would want the freedom to match for? It’s pretty thin at this point, isn’t it?
“Yeah, it is,” Smith said. “And Phoenix has struck out in terms of their pursuit of big names, so they have nothing standing in the way of them matching that offer, and that’s really the problem. It’s just a leverage game that’s really the problem. It’s just a leverage game that Bledsoe and his agent can’t win right now in restricted free agency.”
Of course, returning to Phoenix wouldn’t necessarily be the worst move for Bledsoe.
“Honestly, the thing he could do is play out the qualifying offer this year coming up, be an unrestricted free agent next summer when potentially LeBron and some other guys are back on the market and (he could) really see his price skyrocket,” Smith said. “But the bottom line is, he thinks he’s a max player, and Phoenix is daring someone to confirm that by putting an offer sheet in front of him.”
Looking elsewhere, what do we make of rookies like Doug McDermott who have had solid showings thus far in summer-league games?
“It’s kind of like OTAs in football,” Smith said. “You get excited when the rookies are out there running around in T-shirts and helmets, but then you realize the first day of training camp (that it’s just a different ball game) when you see guys who looked good in summer league get in there with the veterans and they get their shot blocked seven times and they fumble the ball out of bounds three or four times. Summer league is only one gauge, and it’s really a chance to see if a guy measures up physically or (if) his skills match what you saw leading up to the draft. It’s hard to understand.”
“But these young guys, as talented as they are, they have no clue what’s in store for them. When (the season starts), it’s going to be a whole other world.”
And then, of course, there’s Kevin Love, who may or may not end up in Cleveland.
“Flip Saunders has all the power right now, but the longer this goes on, the less leverage he has,” Smith said. “Because as we get closer and closer to training camp – and beyond that, the trade deadline – he’s going to have to give up Kevin Love for whatever the price is because Love’s not staying in Minnesota. So he can threaten to take Kevin Love deep into the season and keep him all year, but at a certain point, if they want to get something in exchange for an All-Star that everybody knows is walking out the door in Minnesota, he’s going to have to pull the trigger on that deal.”