Jordan Schultz of The Huffington Post has the latest buzz for Bledsoe's potential exit from the desert, stating that Los Angeles is the most likely destination for him beyond Phoenix:
Hearing that Lakers have moved to front of the Eric Bledsoe sign-and-trade line. Suns want Julius Randle + HOU first-rounder.— Jordan Schultz (@Schultz_Report) July 20, 2014
Hearing that the Lakers - not the Suns - came with this. Just remember, Julius Randle can't be traded until mid-aug since he has signed.— Jordan Schultz (@Schultz_Report) July 20, 2014
Lakers have best chance of anyone not named Suns to get Bledsoe but Suns remain in lead given upper hand circumstances— Jordan Schultz (@Schultz_Report) July 20, 2014
That's fine. The Lakers are in need of some serious roster upgrades beyond the likes of aging and injury-plagued All-Stars Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant. Another notable member of the team is Jeremy Lin, who may only turn out to be a one-year rental as it is.
Then came the Lakers' apparent justification of interest from Schultz:
Hearing that Lakers are willing to go close to max for Eric Bledsoe. Kobe loves his game. Suns like Jordan Hill and his tradability next yr.— Jordan Schultz (@Schultz_Report) July 20, 2014
Yes, Bledsoe is a dynamic force at the point and has upside still to determine just how good he can be. But Los Angeles going close to a max deal on him would be a massive risk at the moment—and one that doesn't fit with its needs right now.
Bryant likes Bledsoe's game? Great. An endorsement from the most important active Laker is a nice bonus for general manager Mitch Kupchak. However, there won't be much time for Bryant and Bledsoe to play together and bringing Bledsoe into the fold won't be enough to make the Lakers a legitimate title contender right away.
Plus, Pau Gasol is now gone, and froncourt players like him don't just spontaneously appear. No. 7 overall pick Julius Randle therefore needn't be dealt before he's had a chance to prove himself.
Randle led Kentucky in rebounding in his only year there—Bledsoe's school, ironically enough—proving he could get it done on the big stage. The versatile forward is meant to add grit, toughness and sheer ability to crash the glass after the Lakers finished 25th in rebounding in 2013-14.
Dr. Robert Klapper of Fox Sports 1 noted how Bryant and Randle are destined to mesh well together:
KOBE.Nothing like a Superstar with a chip on his shoulder. Julius Randle falling to 7th pick will be a blessing in disguise. MAMBA Mentality— Dr. Robert Klapper (@DrRobertKlapper) July 20, 2014
In that vein, Bledsoe was somewhat overlooked as part of his loaded Wildcats squad, which featured John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and others. Bledsoe also played second fiddle to Chris Paul with the Clippers. Just don't forget Bryant's warm reaction when the Lakers selected Randle on draft night:
The lack of depth at point guard was supposed to be addressed when the hometown kid Lin was brought in from the Houston Rockets in a trade. Bledsoe may be the better long-term option, but offering up near-max money for him when he's not a proven commodity seems outlandish.
Should the Lakers pull off a sign-and-trade for Eric Bledsoe?
By bringing in a starting-caliber point guard in former Sacramento King Isaiah Thomas in a sign-and-trade, the Suns have a crowded lot of floor generals between Bledsoe, Thomas and Goran Dragic. Then, general manager Ryan McDonough drafted Syracuse point guard Tyler Ennis to further complicate the matter.
What do the Suns even expect to do with Bledsoe? This situation is convoluted on both sides, and if Los Angeles really believes Bledsoe is worth the money he thinks he is and isn't getting from Phoenix, then the Suns ought to shop him for more.
If inheriting Jordan Hill for future trading is the greatest asset Phoenix can rake in—aside from trading a top draft choice in Randle, whom Bryant publicly endorsed—then Bledsoe certainly isn't worth the asking price for the Lakers.
That the Suns landed Thomas as a restricted free agent and drafted Ennis should be a red flag. There aren't many other studs on Phoenix's current roster that it has to pay. McDonough and company are nevertheless balking at paying Bledsoe big money.
The Lakers ought to clear the decks in free agency for the next two summers as much as possible. Bledsoe took a big leap after getting out of Paul's shadow in what may be his only season in Phoenix. That doesn't mean the Lakers should overpay to bring Bledsoe back to the City of Angels, though.
With such an uncertain future for the Lakers and bigger potential fish to fry—such as UCLA alum Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge or perhaps Rajon Rondo—in the 2015 offseason (h/t ESPN.com), it makes little sense to risk a big contract on Bledsoe now.