NBA 

The Real House of Guards

After a long, drawn out, back-and-fourth battle between Eric Bledsoe and the Phoenix Suns about what his value is to the team, the two sides finally settled in on a deal.

This comes after weeks of posturing between both sides after the Suns originally put a four year deal on the table with a $12 million annual salary for Bledsoe. That mark was an entirely different stratosphere from where Bledsoe valued his own abilities. He believed he had max salary talent and that is where he started negotiations at. A max deal for Bledsoe would’ve been a five year, $80 million contract with some possible bonuses down the road.

Bledsoe even threatened to swallow a horse pill and sign his qualifying offer from the Suns for just under $4 million. He would have to play out a season at that salary mark and he’d be able to test unrestricted free agency waters the next season–a rarity for a player with less than seven years experience on the NBA level. Greg Monroe took this route when the Pistons played restricted free agency hardball with him.¬†

The fact of the matter is restricted free agency waters are some of the toughest to navigate. Especially when you’re at stacked positions like Bledsoe and Monroe at the power forward position. Their deals are going to be in line with some of the league’s top talent and deepest positions. When being compared to other players who’s production is clearly better, it makes it tougher for a restricted free agent to set a market for themselves at a desired price.

Chandler Parsons and Gordon Hayward were able to skip that because of their positions on the wings. Lance Stephenson was an unrestricted free agent, but if he wasn’t the market would’ve been high for him as well. But the Pacers didn’t have to wait for someone to make a first move, the move they made on Stephenson was first blood and it wasn’t hard-hitting for a number of reasons. That set the market low for other teams and the Hornets were able to pounce on his deal.

Bledsoe is a talented player in the NBA and a top-notch defender on the perimeter. Good two-way players are hard to come by in this league, but the fact of the matter is Bledsoe is still playing at one of the more stacked positions in the league, albeit one of the more pivotal, and he has an awful injury history. Making him an offer comparable to Kyle Lowry’s new deal seemed like a logical move for the Suns when factoring those things in.

But with a little help from the Timberwolves, who are also trying to lower Ricky Rubio’s bar, Bledsoe was able to raise his dollar figure and that’s how he ended up at $70 million. Add that in with the Suns giving Zoran Dragic a two year, $3.5 million deal and their roster is pretty much packed together for this upcoming season.

Bledsoe’s annual figure hasn’t been revealed yet, but let’s assume it’s going to be $14 million per year. How does this impact the Phoenix Suns and their free agent signings going forward? What about their roster?

Well, their roster is a really weird one. They’ve got four point guards on roster and two who just signed brand new deals. Tyler Ennis will probably be assigned to the D-League next season barring any significant injuries. We shouldn’t see too much of him on the court.

But the other three point guards on the roster are interesting. Bledsoe just signed his new deal and so did Thomas. Both of them are obviously playing this season out as Phoenix Suns. Goran Dragic is the reigning most improved player of the year and is the Suns’ best offensive option at this point. No other guard in the league averaged over 20 points per game while shooting 50% from the floor and 40% from three.

With Bledsoe missing a chunk of last season, the Suns’ offense hinged on two things: Dragic’s penetration and floor spacing. It worked out for the most part. They were a good team, but not a Western Conference playoff team.

But Dragic has a player option next season. Should he repeat his play from last season, he could be asking for a near-max deal himself. With Bledsoe and Thomas combining for at least $20.9 million next season, the Suns may be wary of committing so much of their salary cap to one specific position.

Even with the potential salary cap boom reportedly coming in the 2016-17 season, that is a ton of money being dedicated to three players who play the same position–albeit playing different roles. Dragic has the size of a two guard but is a ball dominating guard. Bledsoe is a smaller guard, but his stout on the defensive end. His height can be troublesome at times there, but his muscle makes up for that when guarding bigger players. Thomas is a defensive liability because of his height, but he’s a solid shooter from most spots on the floor and can fuel a secondary offensive attack.

But the Suns still need to focus on finding a game changing player at one of the forward spots. They’ve got the two Morris brothers who will be in line for extensions next season as well. Neither one of them are particularly threatening players, but both have unique abilities that make them key role players to the Suns’ success. They’re essential for the spacing of their offense.

The Suns currently have $46 million on the books for next season when including Bledsoe’s hypothetical $14 million annual salary. ¬†That doesn’t include either Morris twin figure or Dragic’s new deal. Theoretically, that figure can go down if those three players allow the Suns to backload their increases in salary should they choose to return.

Both Morris twins will be restricted free agents, so the Suns will be able to test the waters on them before committing long term money to them. They’ll be able to make runs at guys like LeBron James (lol), Kevin Love (lol!), Kawhi Leonard, Lamarcus Aldridge and Marc Gasol if they want to. Beefing up their front court has been a priority for them over the last year, and that hasn’t changed.

The priority will likely be retaining Dragic, since he’s so integral to what they do on offense. But don’t be surprised if the Suns hit a fork in the road. The roster’s core could be very different from what it is now in a short period of time.

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