Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Sign The Man? Eric Bledsoe

As we approach NBA free agency, I'm going to be taking a look at upcoming restricted and unrestricted free agents and addressing their value. Last week we dealt with the Celtics Avery Bradley. This week I take a look at upcoming Suns restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe.

His History

The 18th pick in the 2010 NBA draft, Eric Bledsoe has been hard to figure out ever since he entered Big Blue Nation in 2009. While there, Bledsoe played as a 2 guard next to John Wall, which many think disguised his true skill set. This skill set was further hidden from us after the Clippers traded for Chris Paul in 201, which basically gave Bledsoe no shot at seeing any reasonable burn.  In 2012, Bledsoe showed some promise and potential and got his name floated in a few trades, including the infamous Doc Rivers-to-the-Clippers thing. That season he averaged 8.5 ppg and had a PER of 17.5. He was an above-average guard and he was trending upwards. Eventually, he gets traded to the Suns, a team who likes to turn that game speed setting to high, and Bledsoe came out of his shell like a 10th grade guy who just read a Tale of Two Titties for the first time. He only played 43 games last year, but he showed he could do a little bit of everything. He averaged 17.7 ppg/5.5apg/4.7rbg. His PER was 19.6, and virtually every other metric was solid, if not above average. His game/skill set appeals to both the advanced statistic nerds and the basketball purists. He's the Natalie Portman of basketball players.

We know he is super athletic. We know he is very explosive. But we don't know if he has what it takes to be a Max player, capable of telling his teammates to "jump on his back"a la Cedric Maxwell in the 1984 Finals. The Suns have $30 million in cap space this upcoming season,
which I'm sure has Bledsoe's agent waking up with a boner more often than not. But on the contrary, this cap space is also likely causing Suns GM Ryan McDonough to stare himself in a mirror or two and ask himself this question:

Is Eric Bledsoe a max player?

That depends on a lot of things, most importantly, who Mr. Bledsoe would be surrounded by in the Desert. After all, max players are lot like women, man, it's all how you hold 'em.

His Value

If Bledsoe were to sign a max deal, then he's looking at about $60mil over 4 years. The way max contracts work for players with six or fewer years of experience is to award them a maximum of 25% of the that years salary cap. Thus, 25% of a salary cap of $58.6 mil leaves Bledsoe with a max yearly salary of $14.65 mil. This puts him as a little bit cheaper version of Russell Westbrook, which is actually a pretty decent comparison when you think about.

Obviously, the Suns will wait and see if another team first offers Bledsoe a max contract. This same type of shit happened last year with Phoenix when they tried to poach Eric Gordon away from New Orleans with a maximum salary offer sheet, but New Orleans matched it. Right now, reports are saying Phoenix will match any max offer for Bledsoe. This is probably the wisest move. It's technically a max contract, but there's not much max to it. Like being a Varsity captain, but doing it on the track team.

If I'm His Agent

Give me max money, and bake me a bundtcake. Bargaining-wise, it shouldn't be that difficult to get someone to pay for Bledsoe's services. There are a few troubling aspects, such as surgery to repair torn cartilage in his knee and the fact that we don't know if Bledsoe has what it takes to be an alpha male. But that shouldn't hold any GM's bak. The max money isn't too steep, and the Suns have the juice to keep him out West where he can go to RnR with Subbi in the off-season.

If I'm The Suns

Frankly, I'm worried if I do sign Bledsoe and he does end up going to RnR with Subbi in the off-season. I've been to RnR with Subbi. That's the mans league. Bring your lunch pail to that one, because you're gonna get worked.

More legitimate concerns I would have would be the fact that Bledsoe and Goran "The Dragon" Dragic are pretty similar players who play pretty similar positions. Both are capable of playing the 1 and 2. Both are young and have tremendous upside. But, do I really want put $20mil/year into one combo-guard position (The Dragon gets 7.5 mil a year which is basically a bigger steal than a Danny Ocean movie) or would I prefer to diversify my assets like any half-way decent financial advisor would suggest? With all this cap space, maybe I'm better off going after a different type of player like a defensive instigator/douchebag in Lance Stephenson or a do-it-all big man like Greg Monroe.

The point is just because Eric Bledsoe is on your team, you have the final say in signing him, and he's actually pretty fucking good…it does not mean that you have to do it. The League is littered with max contracts that were signed because it seemed logical at the time and there wasn't an alternative. But that is just the wrong way to look at things. There shouldn't even be discussions of "alternatives." You have your plan and you accomplish that. No detours.  Yes, you may be forced to rely on bargains at times. But, if your plan is build around two combo guards to the tune of 20 million a year then sign Eric Bledsoe. If it's not, then don't sign the man. No matter how reasonable it may seem.

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