10 Eric Bledsoe trade ideas that the Suns' front office should consider now
A look at the ups and downs for various suitors as Bledsoe has left the team.
The Suns are imploding. Luckily, that's the Phoenix Suns, and not "the sun." Phoenix after an 0-3 start during which it was outscored by 92 points. (The Suns got off the schneid Monday by holding off the Kings 117-115.)
Eric Bledsoe's :isn't finished yet. Veteran point guard
That, obviously, created a firestorm. Bledsoe has been involved in trade rumors for three seasons, and with the team mired at a low point for turmoil -- even for a franchise that has-- the presumption is that this was an outright request for a trade from a poisonous situation. It was reasonable to expect some sort of "I was hacked" or "one of my friends took my phone" followups from Bledsoe but that never came Sunday. On Monday, the Suns essentially confirmed it was a trade request and that he has been granted leave from the team while they find a solution to the situation.
It's clear that Bledsoe doesn't fit with where the team is headed, which is a clean slate. (It's not accurate to describe it as a rebuild, as the Suns are basically in the middle of a rebuild anyway.) So where could he go?
What teams are getting with Bledsoe
Bledsoe is still really valuable. Even in a league where nearly every team has a franchise point guard, Bledsoe's combination of skill and athleticism is rare. Bledsoe has shot over 47 percent the past four seasons and topped 20 points and six assists per game the past two seasons. Also, when his entire team isn't playing like they're undergoing a massive existential crisis, he's a good-to-great defender. He's still extremely athletic even after major knee surgeries and is one of the fastest players end to end.
That said, the injuries are a major concern; he's only played more than 70 games three times in seven years. Also, he bears as much responsibility as any player for the Suns' woes as he's been the best player on the team for years during their myriad failures.
Overall, however, he's a top-15 point guard if he's on a team with talent and good culture. Here's a look at some options for a deal. (NOTE: This attempts to provide Phoenix with some level of return on investment, but there's a very good chance that the Suns are forced to essentially trade Bledsoe for nothing, just as several big-name players have been dealt for little return in the past six months.)
- Pacers receive: Eric Bledsoe
- Suns receive: Thaddeus Young, 2018 first-round pick (protected 1-20 in 2018, 1-14 in 2019, 1-5 in 2020), Chicago's 2018 second-round pick.
Why it works: Indiana doesn't want to tank. It's not in their cultural DNA. Bledsoe isn't going to pack the arena or recoup the Paul George fiasco, but he fits on a number of levels. You're swapping out veteran on a mid-sized contract for another one, but a better one, and one that fits with the roster. Bledsoe and Victor Oladipo would make a great tandem, especially defensively, and it increases the chances that the Pacers are no worse than "mediocre" which is kind of where they call home.
For Phoenix, it's the pick. It's heavily protected, but the hope of a pick down the line is more than what they'e going to get elsewhere. Indiana can make the deal with a reasonable safety net knowing the odds of conveying that pick are low, and they are less likely to acquire a player of Bledsoe's caliber through other means. Meanwhile, this continues one of the longest standing traditions in the NBA, whereby Darren Collison is given a starting job only to see it replaced within 18 months of arriving on a new team.
Why it works: Call this one the Occam's Razor. This is the simplest answer to the Bledsoe debate. Denver has a need at point guard; Emmanuel Mudiay and Jamal Murray were both given opportunities to cry carpe diem in training camp and while neither were awful, neither took the bull by the horns. Bledsoe's athleticism and playmaking would fit with the roster, he's a good enough shooter not to inhibit Nikola Jokic, he can play on and off-ball effectively, and his athleticism would be beneficial.
For Phoenix, they get two reclamation projects. Mudiay is a mess, still. His turnovers are often unforced and unthinkable. But there's also still the tremendous vision and athleticism that got him drafted. Faried has quietly been maturing as a player. He's a growly, angry player still, and one with an ego that is currently livid at its tenuous rotation spot, but he's also one of the hardest playing players in the league. His defense has taken big steps forward the past two years even if the metrics don't show it, and he's in the 95th percentile of all NBA players in athleticism. Buy low on two guys in exchange for a player you have to deal.
New York Knicks
- Knicks receive: Eric Bledsoe
- Suns receive: Enes Kanter, 2018 first-round pick (protected 1-12, 18-30), Chicago's 2018 second-rounder
Why it works: Come on, live a little. Sure, it involves the Knicks trading a first-round pick which never, ever works out well for them, but hey. What are the odds that a pick between 13 and 17 is going to result in a player better than Bledsoe? Bledsoe's a veteran with years in front of him, and the Knicks need someone to get Kristaps Porzingis the ball. Bledsoe's an upgrade. If the pick doesn't convey next year, turn it into another second-rounder (down the line as the Knicks have traded the next four).
Phoenix gets Kanter ... which doesn't really work. You would have to be at the very bottom of the barrel to take this deal ... and the Suns are very much there with Bledsoe.
Why it works: The "Dream On" scenario. Yes, it gives the Bucks a dynamic two-way super-athlete guard to go next to Giannis Antetokounmpo. It would mean giving up on Parker entirely. The Bucks are in a tough spot with Parker, coming off multiple major injuries, and his plus-minus with Giannis was never spectacular. In that regard, you can justify pulling the trigger. It gives Phoenix an easy victory, a potential young star to put in and feature alongside Devin Booker.
It's just so risky to give up on a talent like Parker before he comes off his rookie deal. And yet, trading him means they don't have to deal with the dilemma over re-signing him and what to put that contract value at. They would miss Dellavedova; he's useful in deploying to pester and annoy opponents while hitting open 3-pointers. But the value is too good there. There's risk here, but this is one of the few "ideal situations" for both sides.
Los Angeles Clippers
- Clippers receive: Eric Bledsoe
- Suns receive: Austin Rivers, Lou Williams, Sam Dekker, second-round pick
Analysis: DeAndre Jordan wants him home. (Bledsoe began his career with the Clippers.) One of the reasons this is kind of specious, though, is that they don't really need Bledsoe. The ball's still going through Blake Griffin as the engine. They already have enough injury issues with Griffin and Danilo Gallinari. Adding Bledsoe seems like tripling-down on that risk. Sure, he'd do good things in the Clippers' system, but he's not enough of an upgrade to substantially change their prospects this season or down the line.
They have Patrick Beverley and Austin Rivers, and those two can get you by. Bledsoe's an upgrade, so it wouldn't be surprising, but there's not the kind of opportunity for the Clippers there may be for other teams.
Phoenix, however, would do well here. Both Rivers and Williams are tradeable deals they can package later. Dekker will be a serviceable two-way forward for many years, and the pick is sweetener. This isn't terrible return, but it's certainly not ideal.
Two deals. One they should do that they won't, and one they might do but they shouldn't.
What they should do:
Analysis: I know, I know, why would you do that to the Suns? But listen, Howard may be Dwight in the locker room, but he's been good on the floor. He's still a smart and physical defender, and a presence inside. Yes, the Suns would then have Howard, Tyson Chandler, Dragan Bender, Alex Len, and Marquese Chriss. But Chandler is likely gone either in trade or waiver sooner rather than later, Len isn't part of the future, and neither Bender nor Chriss are untouchable. So you still have options. If Howard, with his back issues, is going to thrive anywhere, isn't it somewhere like Phoenix with their training staff?
What's that? No it's not? Don't kill a dream, this frees up time for Cody Zeller who should be starting anyway. Bledsoe and Kemba Walker would be a crazy combination; Bledsoe has played well next to other point guards, and this bridges the gap with Nicolas Batum out.
Analysis: Phoenix is taking on money here, but MKG and Williams are both solid veterans who work hard and still have usable minutes left in them. Chandler's level of being checked out is concerning. It frees up the Hornets' ability to deal Frank Kaminsky or Zeller (or Howard!) in another upgrade move, and MKG's shot has just never come far enough along to separate him in terms of value from a guy like, say, Andre Roberson. They're statistically similar. MKG is still only 23, and can still grow, so there's upside there for Phoenix.
Plus, they could just have Marvin Williams teach Josh Jackson to mirror as much of his game as possible, which would actually be really good for Jackson.
Analysis: This one's pretty simple. The Suns and Pistons trade their injury-concern problematic point guards for one another's. This one isn't rocket science. Call it the "fresh start" concept.
New Orleans Pelicans
Before we look at a proposal, just a quick note: Jrue Holiday is a better fit with this roster. He's a great off-ball shooter, a great defender, and maintenance personality. Also, he can't be dealt until January 14, and he makes over $12 million more per year than Bledsoe so the math is difficult. Stop suggesting this trade.
- Pelicans receive: Eric Bledsoe
- Suns receive: Omer Asik, E'waun Moore, 2019 top-20 protected first-round pick
Analysis: Look, the Pelicans currently have no picks outbound and that's just not the way the NBA works. We have to have them owe someone a pick, it's in the bylaws. Plus, they can put Bledsoe next to Holiday (or Jameer Nelson) (or Rajon Rondo) (or Jameer Nelson) and his skillset compliments all of those guys. His athleticism in the open floor with Anthony Davis and Cousins would be crazy, plus, Kentucky guy. This is a bold idea given their guard glut, but honestly, running out three guards with the two big beasts makes some sense.
The Suns need the pick because they're taking back Asik's contract, one of the worst in the league. E'Twaun Moore is a really solid veteran who would play well for them, and his deal is movable.
- Suns receive: Iman Shumpert, Channing Frye, the Cavaliers' 2021 first round pick, top-15 protected
- Cavaliers receive: Eric Bledsoe
Analysis: I know, I know. Rose and Isaiah Thomas and Wade and Bledsoe? But Bledsoe is with Klutch Sports, James' agency. He's a friend of James'. The Cavs don't know when or in what condition Isaiah Thomas will return. Can they afford to miss this opportunity? Rose hasn't looked great, and you can justify using them together in lineups with how much the Cavs are playing small. This is insurance, and it costs them two players who aren't crucial to the rotation.
The Suns are just looking for the pick, and hey, Frye gets to go back to Phoenix where he was a fan favorite.
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