Eric Bledsoe’s camp wants a max deal, or at least close to it. Max would be five years, $80 million. Bledsoe wants that fifth year.
The Phoenix Suns have offered four years, $48 million. Owner Robert Sarver thinks that’s fair.
This is the kind of negotiation that leads to bad blood between a player and team (and fans), drawn out negotiations in a public setting where both sides have very different views of a player’s value and the risk involved. It leads to fans thinking “he doesn’t care about the team” when to the other sides this is a cold, business negotiation. See Erik Gordon in New Orleans for example 1A.
Bledsoe hasn’t been able to get more in part because he has no leverage — no team was going to offer more if they felt the Suns would just match it, and the Suns said they would match any offer (and the feeling around the league is that wasn’t a bluff).
But how much more could Bledsoe really have gotten? The Arizona Republic’s Paul Coro talked to some league executives and agents who said “not much.”
“I’m surprised that they would offer him that much,” he said. “They don’t need to. It is really fair and, in fact, generous. He is talented, but he has never put it together very long, and he hasn’t been healthy. It’s hard to turn your team over to him.
The question isn’t production — the athletic, dynamic Bledsoe averaged 17.7 points, 5.5 assists, 4.7 rebounds and had a true shooting percentage of .578 and he can knock down threes. Those are borderline All-Star numbers if extended over the course of a season. The concern on a big contract is durability after two knee surgeries that have shortened two of his last three seasons.
For fun, here’s a list of guards making in the $12 million a year ballpark:
Rajon Rondo ($12.9 million), Tony Parker ($12.5), Kyle Lowry ($12), Ty Lawson ($11.6), Tyreke Evans ($11.3), Stephen Curry ($10.6).
Now to be fair there are outliers there. The Curry deal was signed before he had shown he could come back from multiple ankle surgeries like he did, that looks like a steal now but was a gamble at the time. Parker has played for under market value for years. We could go on.
But it’s also fair to say that’s some good company for Bledsoe.
If he really wants the max, or just really wants out of Phoenix, Bledsoe’s option is to play next season for the $3.7 million qualifying offer — take that pay hit for a year, play well and stay healthy, and he’s going to get a nice payday at the other end of it. Hard to say it will be max, but he’d have suitors and options.
But that’s a risk for Bledsoe, who has a long injury history. He could try to get the Suns to give him a player option on the last year of this four-year deal (or get a two-year deal), so that he can opt-out after that if he proves he’s worth more.
The problem is, as we have seen in cases like this around the league, this just all builds up bad blood that doesn’t necessarily go away easily (see Love, Kevin, for an example). Bledsoe’s not making a lot of friends in Phoenix right now.