BY SAM VECENIE FOR FANSIDED
Eric Bledsoe is not happy.
Information is leaking from his camp like it’s a faulty faucet, and none of it is good for either party. First, he was angry at the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement. The most recent development, as reported by Chris Haynes of CSNW, is that the Suns-Bledsoe relationship is “on the express lane towards being ruined.”
According to league sources, an “ominous development” has arisen with sides still “very far apart” in contract negotiations. It has even escalated to the point where the “relationship is on the express lane to being ruined,” a source with knowledge of the situation informed CSNNW.com.
The Suns offered Bledsoe a four-year, $48 million deal with declining salaries each year, two sources said. That proposal was quickly turned down. Bledsoe’s camp is putting a max price tag on the player Suns Head Coach Jeff Hornacek called “a Top-10 player in the NBA in coming years”, another source said.
So that doesn’t look good. The four-year, $48 million offer is probably a pretty fair one for Bledsoe, considering past and current point guard negotiations. Stephen Curry got four years, $44 million from Golden State after a similarly injury-laden first three seasons. Ty Lawson got four years, $48 million from Denver after a similarly strong first three years. Mike Conley got five years, $45 million from Memphis after a middling first three seasons. And of course, Kyle Lowry got four years, $48 million this year from Toronto after hitting the open market during what was a near All-Star campaign.
Four years, $40-50 million seems to be the going rate for borderline all-star point guards, so it makes sense why the Suns would believe this is a fair deal to offer. Getting a talent like Bledsoe under contract for four years at a reasonable rate has worked out for each of the previously mentioned teams, so that’s their best case scenario at this point. Even with the injury risk that Bledsoe has presented in the past, it makes sense to roll the dice here. When he’s on the floor, he’s a two-way dynamo that is rapidly improving with every passing moment.
However, let’s try to take a look at the negotiations from Bledsoe’s perspective. Could it make monetary sense for him to sign a qualifying offer then hit the free agency market? Would he be better off signing this deal? Does he actually have the ability to go out and sign a shorter-term deal somewhere else?
I’ve laid out the three options for Bledsoe in the chart below. Before we get there, I’ve explained them:
- Accepting a long-term deal for the Suns. I’ve upped the numbers to 4 years, $52 million in order to account for negotiation leeway. This seems like a fair amount, given that Bledsoe is on the market and only one of the previously mentioned point guards ever got that far. Also, I’ve given flat salaries across the years as well.
- Accepting the qualifying offer at $3.726 million. This would allow Bledsoe to become an unrestricted free agent next offseason and pursue the max he so desires. I’ve been generous and estimated that he plays well this season and finds the five year, $80 million deal he’s looking for now.
- Going out and finding a team willing to offer him a shorter term, higher salary deal so that he can hit free agency faster and get out of Phoenix immediately. While Phoenix would potentially match this offer anyway, it could end up being a good scenario for Bledsoe to get out faster, while still signing for big money. Teams that could offer this include Atlanta, Milwaukee, Orlando and Philadelphia. I’ve estimated it at two years, $28 million, which would then allow him to go out and get a max contract after if he plays well.
Long Term with Suns
Short term deal somewhere else
First and foremost, I should note that the maximum contract as defined by the CBA for the first six years that someone is in the league is 25 percent of the salary cap. Given that the salary cap may rise in the coming years, the salary estimates here on future earnings are slightly off. I’ve used a 2014 max contract as an example.
The biggest thing that this table shows is that signing a qualifying offer does not make monetary sense for Bledsoe. The salary that he would lose out on this year would not be made up until potentially the fifth season of this deal. However, by that point, Bledsoe would be eligible for the maximum contract given to 7-9 year veterans, which is worth 30% of the cap and started at $17,695,200 this season. So it’s entirely possible that he would never actually make up the money that he lost by signing the qualifying offer. This, along with the inherent injury risk that Bledsoe has shown to be over the first four seasons of his career, should not be an option for their camp.
However, it might make the most sense for Bledsoe to go out and find another offer. There is also inherent risk in this deal, in that he’d only be guaranteeing himself half of what the Suns have offered him at this point. That’s not a small factor here. However, if he could sign this deal, perform well for, say, Atlanta (who I actually think this represents a tremendous opportunity for), and then hit the open market in two seasons, he could brace himself for an even larger future pay day.
It’s worth noting that a three-year deal is Bledsoe’s absolute dream scenario here. It would allow him to accrue enough service time to be eligible for the 30% of the cap maximum deal when he hits the open market, and would lessen his stint with the Suns by a season. Obviously, the Suns would not be fans of that deal, and they hold the leverage until he agrees with another team. However, that could be another way for a team to entice Bledsoe to sign with them, or even a reasonable negotiation accommodation by the Suns to make Bledsoe happy. Some precedent for this was set in the Lance Stephenson deal this offseason, although Stephenson was an unrestricted free agent.
Overall, signing the short term deal probably makes the most sense for Bledsoe’s camp in order to maximize salary in the future, slightly minimize injury risk, and potentially regain leverage in the negotiations.