Eric Bledsoe wants to get paid this summer.
In other news, Eric Bledsoe is most definitely going to get paid this offseason, even if it's not by the Phoenix Suns.
Any team looking to lock down the burgeoning restricted free agent will have to lay down some serious cash, according to Yahoo Sports' Marc J. Spears:
Suns interested in Love deal w/best assets Dragic, Bledsoe & picks.NBA sources say it will take full max deal to control free agent Bledsoe.— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) June 7, 2014
Tackling Bledsoe's future is two-fold.
First and foremost, is he worth a max contract? His 2013-14 performance says yes...with an asterisk.
After being dealt out of Chris Paul's shadow, Bledsoe put up monster per-game numbers. He averaged 17.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.6 steals, joining Russell Westbrook, John Wall, James Harden, Kyle Lowry, Stephen Curry, LeBron James and Paul as the only players to sustain benchmarks of 17.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.5 steals.
More impressively, Bledsoe posted such marks while logging 32.9 minutes a night, making him just the fourth player in NBA history to hit those numbers in under 33 minutes. He joins Ray Williams, Clyde Drexler and Westbrook there.
Here's where the asterisk comes in.
As dominant as he was, Bledsoe missed almost half of the season with various injuries. Investing that much scratch in someone who appeared in only 43 games will always come with red flags.
Yet there is also an asterisk to Bledsoe's asterisk, so to speak. He played in Phoenix's final 19 games, and while his efficiency levels fluctuated, previous injuries didn't appear to adversely impact his speed or overall athleticism.
That brings us to the second part of his free agency: If he's worth a max contract, who will pay him?
Back in February, Bledsoe's return to Phoenix felt like a formality. The Suns weren't going to let him get away.
Asked on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM's Doug & Wolf Show if the Suns would match any offer sheet Bledsoe received, team president Lon Babby didn't mince words, via Adam Green of ArizonaSports.com:
I think our answer to that is yes, that we know enough about Eric as a player. Even more importantly, we've lived with him now for almost a year as a person. We like everything about him. Like him as a teammate, like him as a representative of our franchise and everything that he stands for.
If this is how the Suns felt in February—a month in which Bledsoe didn't even play—their stance isn't likely to have changed, though Bright Side of the Sun's Sreekar did acknowledge Babby could have ulterior motives:
This is likely an attempt from Babby to dissuade GMs of other teams from wasting their time and efforts on Bledsoe this July so the Suns can save some money. However, I still believe at least one team will present a max offer sheet to Bledsoe--and one is all it takes. I also think the Suns will remain true to their words and match any such offer.
Posturing or not, there had to be some truth to what Babby was saying. Phoenix may be hoping to retain Bledsoe at a discount, but after how well he and the team performed last season, overaggressive suitors are unlikely to scare the Suns off.
Will Bledsoe receive a max contract this summer?
Trading him for Kevin Love, like Spears reported, isn't out of the question. But the Minnesota Timberwolves already have a point guard in Ricky Rubio. Given his inability to shoot and play off the ball, chances of Rubio and Bledsoe coexisting in the same lineup the way Bledsoe and Goran Dragic did last season are skeletal.
"He's got a tremendous future," Babby said of Bledsoe, per Green.
A tremendous future that, despite the recent infusion of trade rumors, is more than likely to unfold in Phoenix.