The stagnation of summer took until autumn to be rectified, but the Suns and Eric Bledsoe have finally reached an agreement. The staff at BSOTS weighs in.
After much posturing, a multitude of wonky trade rumors, and virtually no negotiations save for the past 24-48 hours, the Suns and Eric Bledsoe have at long last agreed on a 5 year, $70 million fully-guaranteed contract with no strings attached. The two sides essentially met in the middle between the Suns' 4 year, $48 million starting offer and the seemingly ham-handed 5 year, $84 million demand from the Bledsoe camp, and a mere 34 days before the season opener we can finally talk basketball without asterisks.
The Suns had assured us all along that even after signing Isaiah Thomas and drafting Tyler Ennis, their vision was a backcourt rotation of Goran Dragic, Bledsoe and Thomas. At the eleventh hour (or maybe the tenth, but you get the idea), they put their money where their mouth was and ensured us of the backcourt bedlam we had been eager to see in action.
Of course, things aren't quite that simple. Let us open the floor to our BSOTS colleagues to hash out the particulars.
1. Brass tacks: Is Eric Bledsoe worth 5 years, $70 million?
Rollin J. Mason: On his lonesome, I'd have to say no. But as a part of this Hornacek-led system, with Isaiah Thomas on board as insurance for his suspect knee, and with the imminent bump in revenue with the new TV contract? Sure, why the hell not.
Dave King: Absolutely. Look, I've been touting 4/54 since July. That's the tipping point on the Suns giving him the most money, at just under $14 million per year. His 5/70 contract is exactly $14 million per year. My only hesitation is his health, but as long as he plays most of the contract out that's a win for the Suns. Also, the cap will rise in the coming years, making a $14 million/yr contract look like $10 million very soon.
Austin Elmer: Based on what Bledsoe brings to the floor every game, yes he is worth the money. The only concern is his health. I think the Suns were right in taking the risk because of how good Bledsoe is and how good he can be in the future.
Sean Sullivan: If he stays healthy, then I would say yes for sure. That's really the only question here, isn't it? With his history of injuries, was it a gamble worth taking? Well, from what I understand, his meniscus tore again because it was repaired previously and never really healed properly. Hopefully, now that it has been removed, there is nothing else looming on the horizon. Honestly that's an evaluation the Suns docs and training staff have to make. If they gave the ok, then so do I.
Jim Coughenour: Eric Bledsoe may have done the least in NBA history to ever earn this much money. Four years and $48 million was unilaterally deemed a fair contract. By that logic, how can $70 million be construed as anything other than a massive overpay? Bledsoe seemed to be all about the most possible guaranteed money from the outset, so he made out like a bandit. Suns fans may try to rationalize this signing, but I never heard anyone, anywhere mention that kind of money being on the table. Rich Paul is bad, bad man. Hopefully Bledsoe can live up to expectations, because he is obviously being paid on potential future production rather than anything he's actually accomplished. For now, we can make with the funnies... "When did Robert Sarver sell the Suns to Rich Paul?... Because he just owned them in those negotiations!" I can do this all day.
Kellan Olson: Yes. There are fair arguments for 4/48, but I think that Bledsoe is still worth the 5/70 and should make that look like a bargain if all goes well. The health is a real concern though and as Suns fans we will all hold our breath whenever he takes a major bump.
Mike Lisboa: Oh, sure, why not? I think that 5th year is a concession the Suns didn't have to make, but maybe they always wanted him for that long. I was hoping for an option in there somewhere, but I can't get too riled about this. If he stays healthy, he'll earn his money.
2. How excited are you for the Slash Triplets? Is this a 50-win gimmick, or a system for legitimate contention?
DK: 2 LEGIT TO QUIT. Any system that's impossible to stop is one that can contend. Sure, the Suns need more pieces but these two (he and Dragic) are a big start. The 2009-10 Suns had Nash and J-Rich making $12 million each with Barbosa at $6 million, back when the cap was about $50 million total. Now, Bledsoe/Dragic could make about $14-15 million each, backed up by Thomas at 6, with a cap over $70. That's a better ratio.
AE: Probably a bit too excited. I'm a huge fan of guards, so knowing we have three really good point guards all playing together makes me giddy. I think the Suns can definitely win fifty games and if all the pieces we have fall in place I think the Suns could be dark horse contenders.
RJM: Even if it's a 50-win gimmick, I'll take 50 wins with a smile after these last four years, thank you very much. It's anybody's guess how well it might do in the playoffs, but getting there is the first step, innit?
SS: Words cannot express my excitement, not only as a Suns' fan, but as a basketball fan in general. I'm anxious to see how the "two at all times" game plan plays out. The Suns back-court could be one of the most incendiary units the game has ever seen. As for whether or not this puts the Suns in contention, who knows? Everyone was ready to call them one of the worst teams in the league last year, and look how that played out.
JC: I think more gimmick. Guard dominated basketball has a very poor track record in the playoffs. Having a great point guard is a death knell. Now the Suns have three. It will be a lot of fun to watch, maybe like the pre-Barkley Suns, but the team is undoubtedly still missing a key piece up front to move into a legitimate conversation of contending. Just like that team, though, this one seems to be in great shape to make that kind of impact move in the near future.
KO: When this deal got done I was the most excited for Isaiah Thomas locking up his bench spot because he is going to ruin opposing second units. I think a lot of national media is missing how massive of an upgrade Ish Smith to Thomas truly is. We already have loads of information on how the Slash Brothers worked out and I have no doubt that Thomas will fit right in. I don't think it's a gimmick but I also think this team will have some trouble getting to 50 wins.
ML: I'm all up on the Slash Triplets' jock. My bigger concern is, "Can the rest of the team keep up?" That guard rotation is going to be super aggressive and create defensive nightmares for opponents. I just hope the other 3 guys on the floor are in shape enough to maintain that aggression.
3. Goran Dragic is due for a raise come next July. How concerned are you that the rather generous offering given to Bledsoe might hamper negotiations?
AE: I'm not very concerned. Dragi? seems to love Phoenix and I think he will be willing to sign for a reasonable price. The signing process should be quick and the Suns should be able to pay Dragi? what he deserves.
RJM: It's very hard to say without knowing what kind of production Dragic will provide in 2014/15. I've doubted him before and don't plan on doing it again anytime soon, but he will be nearing his 30's by that time. Whatever the circumstances may be, I have a good feeling that Dragic is vested enough in the Suns' organization to facilitate a swift negotiation process.
DK: I don't see negotiations being hampered at all. The price on Dragic was already at least $15 million. Giving Bledsoe $14 million is good. It can only help, actually.
SS: I don't think it hampers the negotiations at all. The Suns are well aware of Dragic's impending free agency, and Dragic has already expressed his desire to re-sign quickly once free agency begins. I'm sure that if Dragic has another season like last year, the Suns will have no problem paying him to stay.
JC: Can I have negative concern? I guess that could manifest as supreme confidence that the Dragic situation will be handled completely independent of this one and that the Suns and Goran will reach an amicable resolution. Unlike this debacle, Goran will have had more than ample time to build up a body of work that merits a massive payday. Unlike this fiasco, he'll have earned his.
KO: I'm not concerned at all. Goran has a much more stable relationship with the organization. The deals for this age range are always tricky because you don't want the player to bottom out while they are still making 10 figures, but the Suns are smart and I'm pretty sure that Goran is as well. His price should be pretty clearly set and I think it gets done.
ML: Not at all. Goran and the Suns have made it clear that his amicable return is a priority. I fully expect him to get a similar deal done quickly (though not necessarily signed quickly because of them Bird Rights).
4. Where do you see Bledsoe topping out? Any chance that he will end up as a contract-year wonder?
DK: I see him being borderline All-Star, and being annually ranked in the Top 30 in the NBA. He's already #31, according to SI and was in the top 60 a year ago by ESPN. I know rankings are hollow, but I use them anyway. He's a very good two-play player in a league very thin on guys like him who can change a game on both ends of the floor.
RJM: I'd be lying if I said that the thought hasn't crossed my mind. It's always a tricky proposition to try and determine a player's worth based on what he did in a contract year. Also, we have pretty much no idea of what he's been up to over the summer, save for his basketball camp in Birmingham and an appearance on LeBron's Instagram. Let's hope his work ethic matches his talent; on a lighter note, I don't think someone like Ryan McDonough would have spoiled him with riches if he wasn't the determined type.
AE: I think he will make a few all-star teams over the course of his career, there is no denying how talented of a player Bledsoe is. Have you ever looked into Bledsoe's eyes? He does not want to lose. He is too competitive to end up being a contract-year wonder.
SS: If he remains healthy, I could see him making the All-Star team. I think either he or Dragic will make the All-Star team this year, depending on who plays better. I really don't see much danger of his talent or productivity on the court diminishing. Really, the only thing I worry about is his health.
JC: Let's just say that I have a hard time envisioning I'll be looking back at this in four or five years and reflecting on how Bledsoe outplayed his contract. Probably a borderline All-Star, which means that he can hopefully earn his money. I'll be happy if he earns his money.
KO: I thought he was a borderline All-Star last year and I think he will make a few before the end of his career. The crowded backcourt and level of competition in the West might make some hesitate on that, but I think he's that good.
ML: Kevin Johnson Plus. Similar skillset, but with more defense and a greater athletic advantage. I look forward to his inevitable posterization of Dwight Howard.
5. Who makes an All-Star team first, Bled or Dragic?
RJM: I lean towards Dragic, but only because I see him getting more minutes due to his compatibility in any lineup. Drags is big enough to defend pretty much any 2-guard, thus I see him as a more common backcourt mate with Isaiah than I do with Bledsoe. Plus Dragic had the breakout year in 2013/14, and they tend to reward such guys a year late.
AE: Dragic, he should have made the all-star team last year. If he puts up close to the same numbers this year, I doubt he get's snubbed.
DK: I pick Dragic as well. Any repeat of last year will get him picked, and he will deserve it.
SS: I'd say Dragic at this point, only because he should have earned a spot last year and now people will be paying more attention to him. However, Bledsoe arguably has more star potential. So if he comes out and plays lights out, that could certainly change.
JC: Goran. He'll be starting out with an edge over Eric based on last season. Last year Dragic was probably the first player out and finished the season strong. Sometimes these selections are earned in the previous season almost as much as in the current season. Now Goran has some street cred. Bledsoe will have to clearly outplay Dragic to make it ahead of him. I guess a tenebrous prediction would be neither will ever make it (which is unfortunately at least somewhat possible), while the most roseate one would be they both make it this season. As usual, I'm right in the middle.
KO: Dragic. This team isn't going to sneak up on anyone anymore so now everyone is aware of how good he is. All they will need to see is the numbers.
ML: I'm going with Bledsoe. Because fan voting.
Comment with your own 2 cents, Bright Siders -- how does the EB contract sit with you?
And here it is.
On going to the NBA
I'm very happy this happened. It was my dream to sign in the NBA, but this is only the start of, how should I say; a new era, starting from zero. I can't wait for this test and I hope I stay in the NBA as long as possible.
On minutes with Suns:
It's true that there are a lot of players there. I'll give my max at training and try to get minutes.
It's on me. The coach will decide. Have to be patient, wait for my opportunity and prove myself at practices.
On playing with Goran:
It will be nice to join forces with my brother, like we did for national team. I hope it's even better here, since we'll be together all year.
The back court is finalized.
As details of the contract emerge, we will update the story.
The Phoenix Suns grand plan, much to the head-scratching of many, is to keep their three guards - Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas - long term. Here's how they will do just that.
After signing Eric Bledsoe to a 5 year, $70 million contract in the same summer they gave a 4-year, $27 million contract to Isaiah Thomas, the Phoenix Suns have continued to heavily invest in their very successful back court tandem.
Make no mistake. Goran Dragic is in the team's plans as a starter for a very long time. When Goran Dragic and Bledsoe started together last year, the Suns were 23-11, so the Suns very much want to keep Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe together. And because the two made 44 starts together, they purposefully added Isaiah Thomas as a highly paid third guard to ensure the guard rotation is fresh and strong all season long.
Each of those three guards averaged at least 17.7 points and 5.5 assists per game a year ago. Thomas won't make those raw numbers again, barring injury to one of the starters, but he will be a super-sub off the bench and one of the league's best insurance policies.
This season, the Suns will be spending $31.23 million on their top 4 guards, including Gerald Green who put up more than 16 points per game last season himself in a spot-starter role. That is nearly 50% of the $63 million salary cap going to 40% of the team's minutes. Not a bad ratio, considering the team's three highest paid players - and four of the top five - are in that number.
You have to stop considering three of those guys as point guards, and start realizing the Suns do believe this is their back court of the future. Some day, Green may be replaced by a younger, cheaper model (Archie Goodwin, Tyler Ennis, or another player), but the trio of Bledsoe, Dragic and Thomas are truly the team's long term plan to cover most of the minutes at the two guard positions.
If nearly no one blinks at Golden State's Klay Thompson getting a big contract next summer to stay next to Stephen Curry, then you can't blink at the Suns keeping their guard tandem together either.
"We have every intention of keeping Goran in a Suns uniform as long as possible. We know he loves Phoenix. There's plenty of money for Goran next year or when it comes up. We fully anticipate taking care of him."
Goran Dragic, who makes $7.5 million this season (or $8.5 million if he makes the All-Star team), can opt out of the last year of his contract next summer and become an unrestricted free agent. But he doesn't appear to want to go anywhere. Within a week of the World Cup ending, Dragic was back in Phoenix working out with the Suns and getting with the Training Staff Mafia to prep for the season.
"Got a very interesting position with the club. Guess I'll break the contract and sign a new one. As I spoke [to the Suns], I immediately during the first week, when the market opens, sign and I will therefore be calm."
Make no mistake, Dragic has spoken to McDonough and President Lon Babby since returning to Phoenix and he was fully in the loop on the Bledsoe deal. Dragic knows that the Suns need Bledsoe, and he wants Bledsoe to stay in Phoenix.
McDonough expressed even more confidence to FoxSports910 on Wednesday afternoon, after the Bledsoe signing was done, that Dragic would re-sign next summer.
"Yes I am," he replied when asked if he is confident the Suns can retain Goran Dragic. "You know, a lot will happen between now and July 1, but we obviously want to keep Goran in a Suns uniform as long as possible. He had a terrific year last year. He loves Phoenix, he loves coach Hornacek and the organization. Those two guys are key parts of our team. We set it up cap-wise to have a lot of flexibility this summer. There's still plenty of money to give to Goran next year."
What would that look like? Assuming Dragic gets the same or more money than Bledsoe, can the Suns afford to spend upwards of $38 million per year on just their top three guards?
Yes, as long as the cap rises as expected. McDonough said on The Drive yesterday what others have echoed all summer in the media: he expects the new TV deal to raise the salary cap by a wide margin as early as next summer and no later than the summer of 2016. And in raising the cap, you raise individual player salaries.
Many assume the salary cap will be at least $70 million next summer. Possibly as high as $73 million. Spending just over half the cap on your best players, those who use 40% of your team's minutes, is very doable proposition. The model depends on player development. There won't be much room for mid-level salaries. The bulk of the team will be stars and kids on rookie scale deals.
The Suns have been doing this dance for thirty years, ever since free agency was introduced in 1988. The better teams generally structure their cap with 2-3 high salaries, 2-3 mid-level salaries and a handful of minimum and rookie deals.
Here are the Suns guaranteed contracts going into next summer.
The Suns will enter next summer as an "over the cap" team when all the cap holds are applied to expiring contracts. (Dragic, Morris 1, Morris 2, Green).
They will juggle the cap holds and free agent spending to their best advantage. Note that the Suns could have $18 million to spend next summer AND retain Dragic if they want to let go of the Morris twins and Green, as long as they get the free agent commitment before Dragic signs.
Even after that, the Suns will have the mid-level exception to spend after Dragic and Morrii/free agent are under wraps. The Suns still have a lot of room to maneuver while keeping all their kids and their stars.
But the big plan is predicated on Goran Dragic staying right in the Valley.
One key component to keeping Goran in the valley just might be signing his brother Zoran. On that front, we won't have to wait long.
"We do have one open roster spot," McDonough said. "We are considering different players and Zoran is one of them. We'll know by Friday. We want to lock down our roster with training camp opening next week."
And this morning we get this report, from sportando.net translation:
Zoran Dragic will not play against Olympiacos because he already informed Unicaja Malaga that he is going to the Phoenix Suns in the NBA, according to Rafael Molina Guerra.
Dragic will pay around €770.000 to buyout his contract and sign with his brother's team.
Welcom to the Valley, Zoran!!