NBA Trade Rumors: Latest Buzz on Eric Bledsoe, Taj Gibson

Thomas Duffy@@TJDhoopsFeatured ColumnistJune 28, 2016

Dec 26, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe reacts after suffering an injury in the second quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

NBA free agency begins on July 1. As exciting as that will be, forget about it for a moment.

Let’s talk trades.

On draft night last Thursday, rumors were swirling around Jimmy Butler, Jahlil Okafor and other big-name players. Those have since died down, but other whispers still remain.

Two of the league’s most prominent trade rumblings are below.

Eric Bledsoe

Nov 29, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Phoenix Suns point guard Eric Bledsoe (2) during their game against the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre. The Suns beat the Raptors 107-102. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Here we go again.

Reports about the Phoenix Suns shopping players in their overcrowded backcourt are becoming a yearly occurrence.

In 2014-15, Isaiah Thomas was sent packing. He’s now an All-Star with the Boston Celtics.

Is Eric Bledsoe next?

On Thursday, ESPN’s Marc Stein reported that he could be—but Brandon Knight is on the table, too:

Head coach Earl Watson shot down the notion that the team is looking to deal the high-flying Bledsoe Saturday on SiriusXM NBA Radio with Justin Termine and Eddie Johnson: “We have to retain key guys, character guys. Never once was Bledsoe’s name even brought up in our war rooms. So, where that’s coming from, I don’t know. Maybe another team wants (Suns players), and that’s a compliment to our roster and to our guys.”

The Suns have six players in the backcourt all fighting for playing time. Shooting guard Devin Booker had a stellar campaign that landed him on the All-Rookie First Team, so he figures to get the lion’s share of minutes at the 2.

But there’s still Knight, Bledsoe, Archie Goodwin and Ronnie Price vying for minutes, and don’t forget about second-round pick Tyler Ulis, either.

Matt York/Associated Press

Phoenix went 23-59 last season, so, despite Watson's comments, perhaps change is necessary.

At just 26 years old, Bledsoe is signed on a reasonable deal through 2018-19 with the salary cap rising significantly. Coming off a career-high 20.4 points per game, his value is high.

Taj Gibson

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 28: Taj Gibson #22 of the Chicago Bulls slam dunks against Kobe Bryant #24 and Julius Randle #30 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half of the basketball game at Staples Center January 28, 2016, in Los Angeles, Californi
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

The Chicago Bulls traded Derrick Rose to the New York Knicks last week, and now, according to Joe Cowley of the Chicago-Sun Times, Taj Gibson could be on the move, too.

Here’s what Cowley wrote on Sunday: “To add some further clouds to the Bulls frontcourt rotation, a league source said that the Bulls have been talking to several teams about the possibility of moving Taj Gibson. The power forward is in the final year of his contract, scheduled to make $8.9 million.”

Gibson has spent his whole career with the Bulls. At 31, you know what you’re getting with him—a bruiser, leader and strong defender.

But third-year sharpshooter Nikola Mirotic and second-year big man Bobby Portis need playing time. Robin Lopez, the Bulls’ primary get from the Rose transaction, figures to man the middle with Joakim Noah hitting free agency, too.

Gibson could be the odd man out. The idea of trading him makes sense.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JUNE 24:  Minnesota Timberwolves 2016 NBA Draft Pick Kris Dunn is introduced to the media by Tom Thibodeau, President of Basketball Operations and Head Coach and Scott Layden, General Manger, on June 24, 2016 at the Minnesota Timberwolve
David Sherman/Getty Images

Though Cowley didn’t list any potential suitors, the Minnesota Timberwolves come to mind.

New coach Tom Thibodeau spent five years with Gibson in Chicago, and the two defensive-minded guys grew close:

Gibson won’t cost Minnesota long-term, but he would provide valuable leadership to a young roster full of future (potential) stars. He and Kevin Garnett come off the books next summer, which would keep Thibs’ options open.

Thibodeau pursued Butler, according to Stein, and it wouldn’t be the least bit surprising if he made a play for Gibson, as well.

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