Does Eric Bledsoe deserve more than four years, $48 million?

20 Comments

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.

Watch best of Klay Thompson’s nine threes, 35-point night

Leave a comment

Stephen Curry is a better shooter. Kevin Durant is a better scorer with a bigger toolbox.

But no Warrior can get as white-hot as Klay Thompson.

He did that on Saturday night helping the Warriors to a Game 6 win, getting his rhythm and becoming a scoring machine in the second half, finishing with 35 points including hitting 9-of-14 from three, and having six rebounds. He was just as important on the other end of the floor.

“I thought Klay was amazing tonight, not just for 35 points and the nine threes, but his defense,” Coach Steve Kerr said. “The guy’s a machine. He’s just so fit physically. He seems to thrive in these situations. But he was fantastic.”

Thompson will need to bring some of that Heat in Game 7 on the road if the Warriors are going to head back to the NBA Finals.

Backs against wall down 17, Warriors crank up defense, rain threes, force Game 7

Getty Images
1 Comment

Warriors’ fans have been asking one question since the season tipped off in October:

What is it going to take to get Golden State to truly focus and play up to their potential?

Apparently, the answer is going down 17 to the Houston Rockets in a playoff elimination game.

Houston entered Oracle Saturday night playing smart and with energy, defending as they had the previous two games and then turning that into transition buckets and threes — eight of them in the first quarter. Houston was up 17 in the first and 10 at the half.

However, Golden State had started to defend better in the second quarter and they cranked up the intensity to the level fans had hoped to see in the second half — Houston scored 39 points in the first quarter and 47 combined in the final three. The Warriors were also forcing turnovers, 21.3 percent of Rockets possessions ended with a turnover (more than one in five trips down the court). Houston had 25 points in the second half and shot 2-of-9 from three in the third quarter.

At the same time, Klay Thompson led an onslaught of threes for Golden State (Thompson had 9 threes on the night). The Warriors defense turned into offense.

The result was a dramatic turnaround and a 115-86 Golden State win, tying the Western Conference Finals at 3-3.

Game 7 is in Houston Monday night. Winner advances to the NBA Finals.

“Effort. Intensity. Passion,” Thompson said of the Warriors’ second-half surge. “When we do that, and we rotate, and we help each other we’re the best defensive team in the league.”

While it was their defense that sparked everything, the Warriors also found an offense that worked against the Rockets’ switching defense — more Stephen Curry with the ball in his hands. There are a few ways to counter a switching defense and one is a creative ballhandler who can still make plays — not just isolation plays, but who can create a little space and find guys moving off the ball despite the pressure. Curry was that guy, he was the Warriors best all-around player on the night. He had a high IQ game and added 29 points. With the offense not running through Kevin Durant isolations, it just flowed better (the Warriors best lineup of the night was Curry, Thompson, Draymond Green, Shaun Livingston, and Nick Young, +13 in just more than eight minutes).

It just took a lot of pressure from a Rockets team to get Golden State into that mental frame of mind.

Houston opened this game with the same defensive energy they had the last two games, and once again it flustered the Golden State offense. Except, this time the Rockets did a much better job of turning those misses and turnovers into transition points (the Rockets averaged two points per possession on the break in the first half). Throw in some terrible defensive communication errors by the Warriors, and the Rockets were raining threes in the first half — 11-of-22, with Gordon going 4-of-4.

The Warriors had some success with an ultra-small lineup that unleashed Curry, but as soon as non-shooters were on the floor — Kevon Looney, Jordon Bell, and the Rockets were daring Draymond Green and Shaun Livingston to shoot — Houston shrunk the floor and took away passing lanes, plus contested every shot.

In the second half, the Warriors used that Curry energy and hit their threes to pull away. The Warriors were at their best with Bell as the fifth man with the four All-Stars, he brought an energy and athleticism that made things flow on both ends. Don’t be shocked if he starts Game 7 for Golden State.

If the Warriors pack up that second half energy with them and take it to Houston, there is not much the Rockets will be able to do. But do not expect these gritty, feisty Rockets to go quietly into that good night.

Rockets were draining threes in the first half against Warriors in Game 6

Getty Images
4 Comments

The Rockets were feeling it the first half in Game 6.

Playing with an energy the Warriors lacked at least in the first quarter), Houston defended well, pushed the ball in transition, and then they just drained three after three after three.

Eric Gordon started 4-of-4 from three and the team was 11-of-22 in the first half, which made up for the 11 turnovers and had them up 17 at one point and ahead by 10 after the first half.

Warriors’ Andre Iguodala out for Game 6

Getty Images
2 Comments

Steve Kerr has been searching for a couple of games now for his fifth guy.

With Andre Iguodala out there is no Death/Hamptons 5 lineup and Kerr is looking for a fifth guy to partner with his four All-Stars. Kevon Looney is starting, Jordan Bell is showing potential but also makes some rookie plays, Nick Young has been bad enough that Kerr trusted Quin Cook more at the end of the last game (and Cook missed his looks).

Kerr is going to have to keep searching for a guy in Game 6 because Iguodala is out again.

The Warriors are not the team heading into Game 6 with the most significant injury woes, the Rockets are without Chris Paul. That and the fact the Warriors’ backs are against the wall is the reason they are heavy favorites in Game 6.

However, the Warriors have not been the same without Iguodala. He is a playmaker who can control the ball and settle things down, makes the right decision, get the player and ball movement the Warriors have strayed too much from back, plus is one of their best defenders on James Harden. Nobody else on the roster can do that.

And if Game 6 gets tight late, the Warriors are going to miss those skills. As they have in the last two games.