When the Phoenix Suns surprised everyone in the NBA by masterminding the trade that brought them Eric Bledsoe, the internets exploded with hugely positive Suns transaction news for the first time in years. After years of talk-yourself-into-it deals, the Suns turned Jared Dudley into one of the most exciting young players in the league.

Just that morning, day two of free agency, I had posted an article preaching patience for the new front office while they waited for late-July bargains. Four hours later, the Wojbomb dropped.

Emboldened by my power of persuasion, I had to predict the rest of the summer for us...

Let me try this power out...

  • Don't expect the Suns to trade Marcin Gortat for a player who could be better than him next year or the year after
  • Don't expect to get a #1 pick for Luis Scola in 2014
  • Don't expect to turn 1-2 of the M's into better players, now or in the future
  • Don't expect to bring in shooters to help balance the lineup
Does that work, BSotS fans?

-- Dave King, BSotS, July 3, 2013

You're welcome, Suns fans. You're very, very welcome.

The acquisition of Eric Bledsoe kicked off the new era of Suns basketball with a big bang. From that point on, the future was clear. Convert veterans into youth, and have their teach-first coach learn them the game of basketball.

Bledsoe was one of the first to model the new Suns jerseys, which were rolled out in August to quite the mixture of 'meh' and hate that eventually dissipated into love for the regular home and away unis.

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Still, we didn't know what kind of player Bledsoe would become. His career per-36 averages were 12/5/5 with a crazy rate of steals and blocks, but that per-minute rate was in only 20 minutes of playing time. It's much harder to produce stats in every category on 32-36 minutes every game.

At the end of August, Jacob did a Phoenix Philm study on Bledsoe's game, using data and video from mySynergySports.com to detail Bledsoe's game in LA. Jacob had so much to say, he even did a Part II a few days later.

Jacob had some great observations:

Bledsoe's shot is almost more of a set shot than an actual jumper, but if defenders go under and give him plenty of space, he can knock that shot down.

...

Bledsoe really doesn't have any sort of in-between game. He doesn't really have a pull-up jumper and his floater is far from reliable at this stage. He also doesn't have the patience or savvy of Nash and gets himself out of control too often. His drives are often reckless and his passes wild.

...

Jeff Hornacek wants his team to run, run, run this year, and Eric Bledsoe seems perfectly suited to do so. Once again, he is incredibly explosive in the open court and can get down the floor in a hurry.

Jared Dudley was skeptical that Bledsoe and Dragic could start together (at the bottom of Jacob's article), but coach jeff Hornacek was always a fan.

2013-14 Season

It is easy to point out that Bledsoe had career highs in just about every category this season, since his minutes per game jumped by more than 50%. He averaged 17.7 points, 5.5 assists and 4.7 rebounds with a True Shooting Percentage of 58.7% (factoring in three-pointer and free throws).

After putting up per-36-minute numbers of 12/5/5 for his career on short minutes, Bledsoe improved even more than most were willing to hope.

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Bledsoe produced a career high in shot attempts, points, assists, defensive rebounds and free throw attempts per minute, as well as a career high in FG%.

How Eric Bledsoe evolved into a full-time starter was summed up perfectly by our guest writer Bryan Gibberman in early April.

"I'm a little bit more patient than I was coming off the bench," said Bledsoe told Gibberman. "I had to do everything in one stretch and now I can pick my spots."

He points out that, in the Suns offense, Bledsoe takes more spot-up threes than ever before, while still limiting his midrange shots. He also points out that Bledsoe's insane steals and blocks rates declined a bit.

"Some of that is we don't want him to crash the boards," stated Phoenix head coach Jeff Hornacek to Gibberman. "He's got to be one of our defensive guys back there. We say every once in a while if you see a wide open one go for it, but you got to be a little more selective. Same thing defensively, him scrambling around looking for steals, sometimes the gamble pays off, sometimes it doesn't.

"I think early in the season he was just gambling for all kinds of steals and got us into trouble. Recently since he's come back, he's been very smart about when to go for something and when not to, and he's made some big plays that way."

Bledsoe's free throw rate is the highest on Suns out of any player that gets regular rotation minutes helping them rank 11th in the league for free throw attempts per field goal attempts according to basketball-reference.com.

...

In the 35 games Bledsoe has played in 13-14, according to the SportVU data his average speed is 4.0 miles per hour and he travels 3.24 miles per 48 minutes.

In the 20 games available from last year's SportVU data, (Clippers didn't have the technology and they only played 20 games in arenas with it) his average speed was 4.2 miles per hour and he traveled 3.33 miles per 48 minutes.

--Gibberman, The Evolution of Eric Bledsoe

The Slash Brothers

Taken liberally as a variation of the Splash Brothers in a December game preview, the Slash Brothers nickname stuck for the rest of the season to the point that NBA.com used it several times during promos of late-season games on NBATV.

Both Bledsoe and Dragic attack the basket on the pick-and-roll to either finish at the rim, take a midrange spot-up from a favorite area, pass to popping big or dribble around and pass off to restart with the other. The Suns were very difficult to defend with both in the lineup.

The Suns were 23-11 with both Bledsoe and Dragic in the starting lineup this season.

The presence of Eric Bledsoe to take pressure off, and the schemes of coach Hornacek allowed Bledsoe's backcourt mate Goran Dragic have a career year that won him the league's Most Improved Player award and will likely result in an All-NBA selection.

Bledsoe handled the ball the most when the two shared the court, with Dragic shifting to off-guard and secondary playmaker. Still, Dragic led the team in assists, scoring and shooting in a role very reminiscent of Manu Ginobili in San Antonio.

Injuries

Clearly, Eric Bledsoe played great basketball this season. The Suns were 28-15 in games Eric Bledsoe played, 27-13 when he started.

But he only played 43 of 82 games, due to a shin bruise early in the season and then a torn meniscus that required surgery and a two-month recovery.

The Suns were only 20-19 in games Bledsoe missed.

This marked the second time in four seasons that Bledsoe missed half a year with a knee injury, so there has to be a bit of concern going forward in that area.

Summing it all up

Bledsoe still has a few warts - inconsistent shooting percentage, injuries, quiet personality full of platitudes and inanity - but at 24 years old he is one of the brightest young stars in the league.

He is the complete package: he can score, pass, rebound and defend like few points guards the league has to offer. Westbrook scores better. Curry shoots better. Paul passes better. Conley and Rubio defend better.

But none of them do everything on both ends of the court at the level that Bledsoe offers.

Eric Bledsoe will get paid this summer. It's only a matter of how much.

"The only real unknown for fans is how much money are we going to pay Eric Bledsoe," Suns managing partner Robert Sarver said on KTAR last week. "It's not whether he's going to be here or not."

"I did learn from the Joe Johnson deal that it's just part of the business," he said. "There's an ugly part of this business in terms of how things are negotiated. But that's separate and apart from who the individual is, the basketball part.

"We know Eric works well in our system, we know he and Goran play well together, we know Eric's a competitor, we know Eric's got big cajones and will take that shot at the end when he needs to. And we know he's a really good person and a good teammate, so we don't need to know anything else."

Final Grade

Anything less than an A+ would have to factor in his injury history or his potential contract amount. But the 28-15 Suns record with Bledsoe in the lineup, and his career highs in just about every category are impossible to ignore when it comes to grading his 2013-14 season.

Grade: A+

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After pulling off a great coup last summer in getting Eric Bledsoe, the Phoenix Suns have enough assets to do the same kind of deal again.

The Phoenix Suns are in position to make a big splash this summer, armed with $20 million in cap space while Eric Bledsoe and P.J. Tucker test the restricted free agent waters and a handful of draft picks.

The Suns will be mentioned in most every big-name rumor as free agency approaches and runs rampant: Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Gordon Hayward, Greg Monroe, and so on and so on. The Suns have the means to acquire any of those - it's just a matter of fit and, in some cases, working out the trade parameters.

But don't count out another trade that follows last summer's blueprint of acquiring young, undervalued prospects for playoff-ready veterans. The Suns aren't "there" yet, so they need to keep acquiring undervalued youngsters whenever possible.

I know what you did last summer

Last summer, the Phoenix Suns had handful mid-priced veterans who were coveted by playoff-hopeful teams enough to produce a bevy of young talent and picks in return.

Washington wanted a starting center for a playoff run to replace the injured Emeka Okafor. The Suns gave them Marcin Gortat in exchange for the 17th overall pick in this year's draft.

Indiana wanted a backup PF for a title run. The Suns gave them Luis Scola in exchange for the 27th overall pick in this year's draft, third-leading scorer Gerald Green and leading rebounder Miles Plumlee.

But best of all, the Los Angeles Clippers wanted sweet shooting wing players. The Suns gave them Jared Dudley and a second round pick in exchange for starting point guard Eric Bledsoe who will be an All-Star candidate in the coming years.

That's three starters and two first-round draft picks for one starter and two veteran role players.

Can the Suns do it again?

First of all, Ryan McDonough is going to have a tougher time consummating deals this summer. Every GM in the league is going to raise the value on anyone McD wants in return.

You want the guy on the end of my bench, that my coach wouldn't even play last year?

Yeah.

Uh well, we have big plans for that guy. Sorry. (cups hand over phone, whispers to assistant 'trade away everyone in front of that kid! Get him on the court next season!')

But seriously, other GMs would be wise to hesitate working with McDonough on a similar trade this summer. Yet, the offseason is all about acquiring talent, and many GMs looking at the playoffs will undervalue their young assets in order to get that glue guy who help get them over the top in the playoffs.

Channing Frye for Harrison Barnes

First of all, I'll say that Barnes has never been on my 'drool list'. He is not a first or second option on any team because he doesn't appear to have that killer scoring instinct. He's primarily a jump shooter despite having enough handle and athleticism to get to the rack when he wants. He's similar to Rudy Gay in that way.

However, he did start 81 games for the Warriors a year ago as a 20-year old rookie, and helped them make the playoffs as the fourth scoring option in the offense behind Curry, Thompson and Lee.

Barnes struggled this past season when he was moved to the bench in favor of Andre Iguodala. Barnes was needed to provide scoring punch in the second unit, but regressed under the pressure of being a more primary option.

Still, he's only 21 and has the skillset to be a great player.

How could the Suns pilfer Barnes from Golden State?

The Warriors have no room for Barnes in their starting lineup, having Andre Iguodala under contract for three more seasons.

What they really need is a stretch big man to compliment their inside scoring of David Lee and paint presence (but non-scoring threat) Andrew Bogut.

Amin Elhassan of ESPN.com mentioned on a podcast with RealGM last week (there's 40 great minutes of Suns talk right there!) that Channing Frye would be a perfect fit for the Warriors offense, spreading the floor with his shooting while also being able to defend the post on the defensive end.

Would the Warriors want to swap Barnes for Frye?

My take

While this is definitely an intriguing option, I don't really want to do the trade unless the Suns have already made some other moves to squeeze Frye's minutes.

I love having Frye on this team and he loves being here. He is a great calming influence in the locker room that's really necessary for a young team to stay even-keeled. And most of all, he's got a great connection with Goran Dragic, who will be a free agent next summer if he wants to be.

But if, and it's a big IF, the Suns acquire another stretch big man in the draft (Payne) or trade (Love) or free agency (Bosh) and don't have the room for Frye in the lineup anymore, maybe just maybe swapping Frye for Barnes is a great deal.

Barnes is much like Bledsoe - stuck behind an All-Star caliber player ahead of him with no starting role in sight. The Warriors just might decide a sure-thing stretch big man is more important for their "here and now" playoff run than the development of Barnes into a Sixth Man candidate.

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Would you trade Channing Frye for Harrison Barnes this summer?

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