The last big domino of the NBA’s free agency is finally set to fall, just weeks before the opening of training camp. Eric Bledsoe, who made his headway into the houses and homes of basketball fans with his play behind Chris Paul on the Los Angeles Clippers two seasons ago, blossomed into yet another top tier point guard this year with Phoenix, may be on his way to the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Wolves, who had engaged Phoenix in talks for Bledsoe during the Kevin Love trade sweepstakes (before sending the power forward to Cleveland) are reportedly willing to trade for the point guard after he signs a max deal with the Suns, the only kind of deal Bledsoe, a restricted free agent, was willing to sign.
If there had been no offer forthcoming, Bledsoe would have signed a one-year qualifying offer, making him an unrestricted free agent for the 2015-2016 NBA season. The point guard and the Suns may as well have been when it came to the contract negotiations, with ESPN‘s Chris Broussard reporting that “[the] Suns offered Eric Bledsoe [a] 4-year, $48 million contract. Bledsoe wants max of 5 years, $80 million.” Because of the CBA rules surrounding a sign and trade, the largest contract the Timberwolves would be able to sign Bledsoe for is for four years and $63 million (you can read all about the CBA’s contract restrictions here).
While the package that Minnesota would be sending out to Phoenix is unclear at the time, we can figure out, more or less, what the deal would have to include. If the contract will really be for $63 million over four years, that puts Bledsoe’s first year of salary at just over $14 million, and the Timberwolves would have to send out $11 million to Arizona. There are a few ways the Wolves can make that work, but the long and short of it is that pairing an uptempo guard with Andrew Wiggins, Thaddeus Young, and the other pieces that the Wolves would have available could make for a very fun team, if not a particularly winning one.
Regardless of the details, the deal means the end of what was an incredibly entertaining 2014 season for the Phoenix Suns, who had a dark horse run of 48 wins and a shot at the eighth seed in the playoffs due, in large part, to the twin point guard attack of Bledsoe and Goran Dragic (pictured above and to the left). By playing up tempo basketball with roughly a thousand pick and rolls a game, give or take a few hundred, the Suns were able to drive and dish their way to success, or out of a high lottery pick, depending on how you look at it.
It’s possible that the Timberwolves could turn into a facsimile of last year’s Suns, especially if they play passing wizard (and scoring nonentity) Ricky Rubio and Bledsoe at the same time. This is the point where we bring up, hopefully for the final time, that the only reason the Timberwolves are going to be able to trade for Bledsoe is because they wound up passing on a max for Kevin Love. They turned him into Eric Bledsoe, Andrew Wiggins, Thad Young, and Anthony Bennett. That’s not a bad haul at all.