Suns owner Robert Sarver recently said that the offer made by the team to restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe of four years, $48 million was one that was fair.
Of course he feels that way — it’s Sarver’s money, and given his position as the team’s owner, he obviously wants to see the Suns lock up free agents at or below market value in order to help solidify the roster.
But others around the league, with no bias toward either the team or the player, agree with that assessment.
Four current NBA executives and two prominent agents were anonymously unanimous in their belief that the Suns made a fair offer to Bledsoe and that he does not merit a maximum-salary contract now. …
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.” …
“He expected way too much,” another executive said. “They built up his head, and it gets him out of whack. I’d love to have him, but he’s not a max player. All it takes is one team, but one team hasn’t made him an offer sheet.”
The Suns have restricted free agency on their side, which comes with it the ability to match any offer Bledsoe might have received from other teams — and he knows that. No teams made any offers, however, at least ones that we heard about or that Bledsoe was willing to sign in order to force Phoenix’s hand.
Bledsoe is eligible for a five-year max deal, and that’s what his representation is seeking. Much like Gordon Hayward with Utah, the Suns would have been more than happy for Bledsoe to sign a four-year offer sheet with another team that they could match, and avoid negotiations that involved a fifth guaranteed season.
It’s unclear where things go from here, but Bledsoe has three realistic options.
He can take the offer on the table, which may or may not prove to be too little if Bledsoe can remain healthy and realize the potential that so many feel that he has. He could negotiate a shorter deal (two years, perhaps) to get at least a chunk of money guaranteed, while attempting to prove his worth before pursuing life as an unrestricted free agent.
Finally, there’s the nuclear option, which would be playing out next season under the qualifying offer, and then becoming an unrestricted free agent the following year. But players coming off of rookie contracts almost always take the guaranteed dollars at this point in their careers, so this one doesn’t seem all that likely — especially after witnessing the injury to Paul George, which should have given all players a sobering reminder of the amount of risk they’re taking anytime they step onto the court.