COMMENTARY | Eric Bledsoe hasn't played a game in a Phoenix Suns jersey, but there's still plenty to think about as far as his future is concerned. As an upcoming restricted free agent, this year is the biggest of his NBA career.
Things could go well and Bledsoe could make serious money. Things could go poorly and Bledsoe could find himself in another city. More than likely, it's somewhere in-between.
Let's break down the scenarios:
THE DREAM SCENARIO
Bledsoe plays relatively well, showing improvements on his jump shot and ability to run an offense. He doesn't make the All-Star team, but his averages of 14.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.5 steals show that he's still growing and is worth a significant extension.
After signing Bledsoe to an extension worth $10 million per year, the Suns are comfortable moving Goran Dragic for a more traditional shooting guard. They get lucky enough to win the 2014 NBA draft lottery, take Andrew Wiggins No. 1 and have more star power and hope than they have in a long time.
WE'LL TAKE IT SCENARIO
Bledsoe explodes and becomes an All-Star player in 2013-14. He shows that he's dynamic enough to be explosive on both ends of the court. He turns into a perimeter stopper on the defensive end and his averages of 19.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 7.0 assists and 2.0 steals make him the hottest young point guard in the league.
Although the Suns would likely be facing a max-level extension, they're still counting their lucky stars that it wasn't Eric Gordon who got that money. Dragic gets moved for future assets, as it's Bledsoe's team for sure. The 2014 NBA draft doesn't bear any immediate fruit, but the Suns feel good knowing they got Bledsoe for next to nothing and he's locked in for five years.
PAR FOR THE COURSE SCENARIO
Let's be honest. The Suns haven't been lucky with their draft position, but they scored with Amar'e Stoudemire and were very lucky (or smart) with their signing of Steve Nash. They've been in the middle for a long time as far as luck is concerned.
Par for the course is Bledsoe improving ever so slightly, but struggling to adapt to a traditional point guard role. The team is afraid to move Dragic because the offense tends to run better through him when Bledsoe struggles.
Bledsoe averages 13.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.5 steals per game in a season that's forgettable. The Suns sign Bledsoe to an extension worth $9-10 million per year, but they're still a bit nervous that Bledsoe is too much of a tweener to be a big money guy.
The 2014 NBA draft goes as it normally does, with the Suns drafting outside the lottery at No. 4. They get a good value pick, as general manager Ryan McDonough normally does.
NOT THE WORST, BUT PLEASE DON'T SCENARIO
The transition from backup to Chris Paul to starter next to Dragic goes very poorly. Dragic knows he's much better running the offense but is too nice to be vocal about it and he seethes beneath the surface. Bledsoe feels the pressure and tries to do too much, hurting the team in the process.
McDonough is beyond afraid to pull the trigger on any Dragic trade and starts considering moving Bledsoe. With paltry averages of 10.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.0 steals, it's obvious that Bledsoe is unhappy and it's affecting his play.
The Suns end up holding onto both Bledsoe and Dragic and stall out on the rebuilding project. The 2014 NBA draft goes poorly and the fans that once backed McDonough and looked forward to the future, no longer do.
WE JUST CRAPPED OUT SCENARIO
The worst scenario possible for the Suns and Bledsoe is a blend of the previous ones with one big change. Bledsoe starts the season on absolute fire, looking like an All-Star and a huge steal for the franchise.
McDonough pulls the trigger on a Dragic trade, confident that Bledsoe is indeed the man. Then, snap, Bledsoe tears his ACL a quarter into the 2013-14 season. With averages of 20.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 8.0 assists and 2.0 steals, he was looking like Derrick Rose 2.0.
Now, the Suns have no point guard (sorry, Kendall Marshall) and they have to sign Bledsoe as his ACL looks like string cheese.
This is the worst scenario because if Bledsoe simply bombs or is uncomfortable, the Suns have clear-cut options. In this last scenario, what can they do? Bledsoe earned a huge extension, but that was the totally healthy Bledsoe.
What if he doesn't come back the same? The Suns would be handcuffed to hope and prayer. I guess it's not much different than the last few seasons.
Michael Dunlap is an NBA credentialed writer who covers Phoenix Suns practices and games for the site he founded, HoopsHabit.com.Follow @DunlapNBA on Twitter!
- Sports & Recreation
- Phoenix Suns
- Eric Bledsoe
- Goran Dragic