The Eric Bledsoe situation could play right into the Lakers’ hands.
As you read this the Suns and Bledsoe, a restricted free agent, are deadlocked on negotiations for a new contract — the Suns offered four years, $48 million, which they think is fair; Bledsoe and his agent want the max of five-years, $85 million. They have yet to find common ground, which has Bledsoe considering taking the risk and playing for the qualifying offer of $3.7 million next season (that’s a lot of guaranteed money for a guy whose had knee surgery to turn down) then becoming a free agent next summer.
If Bledsoe does that the Suns are in a bind and the Lakers could make them pay, reports Marc Stein at ESPN.
Should Bledsoe decide to sign the qualifying offer, as appears increasingly likely if no sign-and-trade materializes, Bledsoe can’t be traded without his consent for the whole season … and would instantly set himself up to join Goran Dragic as an unrestricted free agent next summer….
If Bledsoe elects to go the rare qualifying offer route, Phoenix would suddenly face the very real possibility of losing both of its two best assets without compensation in 2015 free agency.
The Lakers, for example, are just one team league sources say would likely make a hard run at both of them, based on the premise that the Suns couldn’t afford the cost of paying both at that point, theoretically making either Bledsoe or Dragic gettable. Sources say that Houston, furthermore, has Dragic on its list of potential targets next summer given how he’s blossomed since leaving the Rockets for Phoenix in the free-agent summer of 2012.
There’s a lot of ifs here, starting with Bledsoe playing for the qualifying offer. Sure, he’s saying that (as is Detroit’s Greg Monroe) but it’s not something guys do — players don’t leave a lot of guaranteed money on the table. However, Bledsoe seems closer to signing the qualifying offer than anyone expected (Bledsoe’s agent Rich Paul is getting criticized in some quarters for this, but you have to wonder what other teams have told him could come).
If Bledsoe does sign it that would really put the Suns in a bind. Which is why them offering a little more now to keep him makes some sense, but at what price is Bledsoe willing to sign on, and do you want to really give a guaranteed fifth year to a guy who only played half of last season due to knee surgery?
Meanwhile the Lakers (and soon the Knicks) will just sit in the wings and wait for their chance.