The Suns have been one of the most positive surprises of the first two months of the season, getting out to a 19-11 start after trading away players for reasons that initially appeared to be geared more towards salary cap relief and rebuilding for the future than they were meant to help the team win this season.
But a new head coach and consistent contributions from guys like Markieff Morris, Miles Plumlee and Gerald Green that no one saw coming has Phoenix legitimately in place to make the playoffs in a year that was supposed to be a lost cause.
Eric Bledsoe, who the Suns acquired in the offseason, wasn’t exactly as unheralded as those other guys. Many believed Bledsoe would produce the way he has, but he had yet to do it consistently since he was stuck in a backup role behind Chris Paul in Los Angeles.
Now that Bledsoe is showing he can be productive as a starter with averages of 18 points, 4.3 rebounds and 5.8 assists in 33.5 minutes per contest, Suns GM Ryan McDonough isn’t planning on letting him get away next summer when he enters free agency.
“Obviously we don’t have a whole lot of money committed for the future, we don’t have a lot of long-term contracts on our books. So we’ll have no problem stepping up and paying Eric whatever it takes to keep him.”
Whatever it takes?
“Correct,” McDonough said. “Any reasonable offer.
“We have some advantages. We’re able to give him another year, five instead of four if we choose. We’re able to give him higher-percentage increases than other teams too. And then if another team does make an offer, we can always match that. So we feel like we’re holding the cards with Eric, and more importantly, I think Eric’s had a good experience here so far. He’s played well and the team has played fairly well. I think he kind of likes what we’re doing.”
Phoenix had nothing whatsoever to lose at the time they traded for Bledsoe; many teams coveted him in a deal, but it was the Suns who were the aggressors, and sought out the Bucks and the asset they possessed in J.J. Redick to put the three-team trade into place.
Giving up only Jared Dudley, who is a great teammate and glue guy that would be better suited playing for a contender than a team starting over, along with a second round pick for Bledsoe was a no-brainer, and about as low-risk of a trade as possible. Bledsoe came cheaply for this season while playing out the final year of his rookie contract, and if he didn’t work out for whatever reason, the Suns could simply have let him walk in free agency once the year was finished.
Since Bledsoe has met the Suns’ expectations, however, Phoenix will make him a qualifying offer to retain his rights as a restricted free agent. And by the looks of things, they’ll lock up Bledsoe on a long-term deal, likely near the max, when the time comes.