Plenty of time for Bledsoe to earn max

By Jeff Caplan,

VIDEO: Eric Bledsoe talks with the Phoenix media during last season’s exit interviews

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Electric point guard Eric Bledsoe one day might command an NBA max deal. It just doesn’t appear that day is today.

The Phoenix Suns want to pay Bledsoe, a restricted free agent, the same as what the Toronto Raptors paid Kyle Lowry earlier this month ($48 million over four years). It’s a pretty fair deal for a player like Bledsoe, who is entering his fifth season and spent three seasons as Chris Paul‘s backup. Plus, he missed half of last season, his first in Phoenix, with a knee injury.

The fearless, 6-foot-1 Bledsoe — when healthy — formed a dynamic backcourt with Goran Dragic and is seeing much bigger dollar figures for himself: max dollars over five years (reportedly $80 million).

He’s seen fellow point guards Kyrie Irving and John Wall break the bank when eligible for extensions (Bright Side of the Sun does a good job here of comparing Bledsoe to his contemporaries). This summer fellow restricted free agents Chandler Parsons and Gordon Hayward rode the market to max deals. Of course, they received the necessary help from other teams — the Dallas Mavericks and the Charlotte Hornets, respectively — making aggressive plays for their services (Parsons landed in Dallas for $46 million over three years when Houston declined to match; Hayward stayed with Utah when the Jazz matched the Hornets’ four-year, $63-million offer).

Sometimes the market embraces you. Sometimes it betrays you.

Bledsoe was counting on another team making him that max offer. In that case, the Suns were thought to be prepared to match. And if they decided otherwise, well, Bledsoe would happily cash his checks in another state.

But as is the case with Detroit big man Greg Monroe, a fellow restricted free agent, an offer sheet has not materialized. And at this late stage where most teams have shopped to their limit, it appears an offer sheet won’t walk through that door.

Bledsoe, 24, has been quiet throughout his free agency, but he did give a brief interview the other day to WVTM during a street-ball hoops event in his hometown of Birmingham, Ala.

“First off, I’m going to let my agent handle it,” Bledsoe said. “I can understand the Phoenix Suns are using restricted free agency against me. But I understand that.”

The Suns aren’t using restricted free agency against Bledsoe. They’re playing by the rules of the collective bargaining agreement. They’ve made a good offer for a player who has started 78 games in his career, and are now sitting back and letting the market work. So far, no team has forced the Suns to increase their offer.

If no offer sheet comes, Bledsoe’s most likely path is to accept the Suns’ $48 million offer, grow with a team on the rise, play at an All-Star worthy level (as Dragic did last season) and and shoot for a max deal in four years.

Or he can take a riskier approach and accept the one-year, $3.7 million qualifying offer the Suns extended him at the start of free agency (making him restricted), and go for that max deal next summer as an unrestricted free agent.

Suns general manager Ryan McDonough is playing this just as he should. He has to be mindful of his club’s salary cap situation this year and beyond.

Dragic, a bargain at $7.5 million this season, will surely decline his player option next summer for 2015-16. With another big year like he had last season, Dragic could double his annual salary. McDonough also traded for Sacramento Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas this summer and will pay him $27 million over the next four seasons.

This obviously isn’t the way Bledsoe envisioned the summer unfolding.

Eventually he will have to make a decision, and it should be an easy one. He should happily accept the Suns’ $48-million offer. From there he can create his own value by evolving into a team leader and helping the Suns become bona fide Western Conference contenders over the next four seasons.

If he does that, then come four years from now, Bledsoe will have the max offer of his choosing.


  1. RJ says:

    If I were him, I would ask for 2 years at 12 million per, and look for more (possibly max) in two years when that new tv deal makes all the players richer. That way, he could (if he’s continued improving and stayed relatively healthy) sign a max contract then at age 26, and possibly get one more max (or near max) deal after that at the age of 30 or 31.

    I wouldn’t give a guy a max deal at 30 or 31 unless it were a LeBron, Kobe, or Durant type, but teams seem to pay big money for guys long term at that age regularly. One recent example I can think of is Joe Johnson. So if Bledsoe plays as expected through the rest of his 20’s, he could get 2 max deals (plus a nice 12 million per for the next two years) by going with this plan.

  2. Vesmir says:

    Bledsoe should go to Indiana. They need a PG and he could easily fit in for Stephenson (although he is smaller). Plus he can take some of the load Paul George carries.

  3. J-Short37 says:

    Bledsoe is a solid young PG but he wants elite point guard money which in the NBA its about numbers and marketability ( meaning can you expand your brand and the league at the same time). Which in Bledsoes case unfortunately he does not. He is a solid player and could be pivotal on a championship team, but not a super star. With that being said his agent should not over extend his market value and loose out on money in the hand now. He has to prove with a full productive year that he warrants super star money, long story short he should try and push for a one year deal about 5-6 mil increase his market value and then ask for the big bucs. Teams will be more willing if he has the numbers and pushes for an all star spot. To many other point guards that are playing better right now.

  4. Reyi says:

    I think Pat Riley should get him. He is the perfect fit for Miami. Better Point Guard and scorer than Chambers. In addition, Miami needs a bench. Other teams for Bledsoe are the Knicks, and Lakers.

    • Aaron says:

      And none of those teams have any resources to add Bledsoe, at any price that would be reasonable

  5. burakzorlu says:

    After all of these news, i really hate you Bledsoe. He had just a good half season. Yeah half season ! He got injured and we can’t know what’s going next. Maybe he would be injured again, because this is a real threat. Despite all of them, he wants a max contract? Are you kidding me, bro?

    In our system, he is a good piece but we have talented guys like Thomas, Ennis, Goodwin. So if he goes away, i don’t care. Actually i will be happy. Suns will continue to improve, no matter if Bledsoe stays or not.

  6. Carlo says:

    Either he’s worth a max or he’s not. I’m not discussing that.
    I’m just saying that if he gets a 4-yr contract now, he’ll be 29 when it’ll expire, that is AFTER the zenith of his career and then he’ll probably get only a LOWER salary, not a higher.

  7. The Voice Of Reason says:

    If he developed his jump shot, both mid-range and his 3, I’m sure the Clippers would have him back at the 2 and have him playing with CP3 instead of as his shadow. Don’t see it happening though 😦

  8. Clips says:

    Got injured, isn’t THAT good … I get he wants the biggest pay possible, but be realistic here. No way is he worth more than 48 over 4.

  9. bull4life says:

    This guy seriously thinks he is worth 16mil a year? He’s only bee in the league for 4 years, he has to earn a contract like that. You have to be a real superstar to earn that kind of money. I think phoenix offer was quite fair. He probably thinks if Kyrie can get a max offer, so can he, but that was the Cavs mistake, one they will pay for dearly.

  10. Vladimir Radmanovic says:

    After the 2004–05 season, Radmanović turned down a six year, $42 million contract offer to re-sign with the Sonics, and instead decided to sign a one-year deal, making him an unrestricted free agent after next season.On July 1, 2006, he agreed to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers for the full mid-level exception over 5 years (at an estimated $31M)

    As a Suns fan, at this point, I wouldn’t sign Bledsoe anymore and go for Monroe, or offer something Love could not resist like Melo. Bledsoe is going to play selfish all year trying prove he is better than everyone else on the team. I think the Suns did just fine with him injured and a lot of times when he had the ball at the end of the game, he messed up making bad decisions.

    If he thinks he’s worth more, I say let him go. The franchise is in better hands with the modest Dragic.

  11. Upside says:

    Jeff, You are way off. Bledsoe is better than Parson’s, Lowry, and way better than Hayward. He averaged 20 and 6 and rebouded better than most guards his height and he blocks shots well for a point guard and does ok at getting steals. He is tuff and can jump out of the gym. Those numbers deserve a max deal. He is not injury prone the way you talk. Some of the guys I have seen get max deals are not as good as him. I don’t even think Bosh at 30 is as good as Bledsoe. Bosh got such an outlandish deal for having only averaged 16 and 6 last season. Last season was his first season out of the shadow of Chris Paul and he did great. He is just going to get more and more comfortable and get more and more better running a team. His agent is so smart in waiting for a decent offer. His agent must know what I know and that is why he is still holding out. Jeff you mentioned Lowry. Bledsoe is way more athletic and just as tough as Lowry and does more than Lowry in all catagories. I don’t agree with your article and think the other NBA teams who won’t make him offers are crazy and blind.

  12. scott says:

    The Pelicans should try to get him! Or the Lakers

  13. secouille smith says:

    we joked about the mini lebron thing just because the guy can dunk (6’1, i’m not impressed, shame if you don’t), and he did some nice exposive blocks for a small guy too. and that’s all ERIC.(yes i know you are reading and are affected by what i say, i’m a sooo valuable comment man, i want the max too this forum is nothing without me)
    you are a giant nate robinson, who was a mini mini lebron, or a mini you. you follow me, nate robinson is not a max player, he is a good player like you. a good one, i will never give you more than 10M/year. because i’m cool

  14. Kenneth Williams says:

    Just sign with sacramento for 2 years then you get to play in a new arena with owners that will take care of you and the fans are top 5 in the league and we will have a dominant team

  15. harrythehawk says:

    Bledsoe would be very foolish to take the one year contract. Nobody but the Suns wants him.

  16. renzo says:

    suns need a solid PF or C (like Monroe or Love) to be contenders, with Bledsoe in the roster, they have 3 PG plus (green,warren,goodwin,tucker) …plenty talent on the backcourt…but inside with the morris brothers,plumlee,len and tolliver you cant compete

  17. TheKush says:

    My guess is Bledsoe thought maybe the Lakers would go after him? But the Lakers are waiting for next season with Westbrook and Love! Here’s what I think about Bledsoe I think Dragic is a better point guard than he is. Bledsoe is very reliant on his athleticism if he’s comparing himself to a Kyrie Irving I think Irving is A LOT better than he is Irving isn’t reliant on his athleticism similarly to Chris Paul it’s clear that Irving spent a lot of time developing his game.

    Bledsoe reminds me of a Steve Francis – good point guards but not good enough to build a franchise around! Another name that comes to mind when I think Bledsoe is Bobby Jackson I think an off the bench role on a good team is where he’ll be most effective. If I were him I would stay Phoenix he’s injury prone and Phoenix drafting Ennis shows that they’re prepared for his inevitable injuries! Stay in Phoenix Bledsoe they have a good coach and good team that can help raise your stock! If Bledsoe thinks he’s worth more just sign a 2 year deal with a one year opt out!

    • You're not wrong says:

      Bledsoe is one of those perennial, also ran players who’ll always be on everyone’s honorable mention lists.. but never quite have the nuts or spine to actually carry a franchise. As good a player as he is, he has suffered that disease that’s struck many a “good NBA player” over the years – having an overinflated view of himself. It may well be he is worth more than $48M over 4 years.. but as the market has shown, every other franchise knows and has proven what we’re simply echoing: he’s good.. just not that good. Bledsoe should take the qualifying offer, shut his trap, knuckle down & get to work. He gets no respect from me for this display of greed.

  18. Mannix says:

    Even being unrestrictive will not get him a max offer. Even if he signs the QO he’ll still be at the mercy of the SUNS for a S&T to get a pay raise with another team which probably won’t be much more than SUNS offering now. Actually playing for a low sum for another year will just dilute his total earnings with another team leaving him no better off than accepting the SUNS current 4 year offer. I’m sure his agent is smart enough to figure that out.