Eric Bledsoe played in just 24 games for the Phoenix Suns.
He’s almost a lock to play plenty more, even if they don’t come this season.
As a guest of the Doug and Wolf Show on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Tuesday as part of Newsmakers Week, Phoenix Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby was asked if the team had seen enough of the guard to know if they are going to match any offer the restricted free agent might receive from another team over the summer.
“I think our answer to that is yes, that we know enough about Eric as a player,” Babby said. “Even more importantly, we’ve lived with him now for almost a year as a person. We like everything about him. Like him as a teammate, like him as a representative of our franchise and everything that he stands for.
“He’s got a tremendous future.”
Prior to going on the shelf, Bledsoe averaged 18.0 points, 5.8 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game, while adding a 1.5 steals and shooting .486 from the field. In his first year as a full-time starter, the 24-year-old appeared to be emerging as an NBA star, the type who could carry a team..
His first three seasons in the NBA after just one campaign at Kentucky showed flashes of brilliance, but no one was quite sure if he could put it all together. Those questions have since been answered, and a player like Bledsoe will command a hefty salary as a free agent. So, the Suns will have to pay if they want to keep him around.
And though his talent is undeniable, his injury history is spotty, at best. This season alone he missed time due to a shin injury, and that was before needing surgery to repair his right meniscus in early January.
It’s the second time Bledsoe has needed the meniscus in that knee operated on since 2011.
“I always feel in these medical situations that we have an extraordinary advantage because of not only the quality of our training staff, led by Aaron Nelson, but also the quality of our medical staff led by Dr. Carter,” Babby said. “And if they tell us, as I believe they will, that he’s going to have a long and healthy career, then I’m willing to take my chances and I think the whole organization will be willing to take our chances on that. And we know his circumstance better than anyone else would know it.
“I think he will be a Phoenix Sun for a long time; that would be my expectation and my hope.”
Even if he signs an offer sheet with another team, as would be his right as a restricted free agent.
“Yes,” Babby said when asked if the team would match any other offer. “If you ask me today, I would say absolutely we are going to match any offer, but I hope it doesn’t come to that. I hope Eric has developed enough of a feeling, and my instincts are that he likes it here.”
Babby said a team can learn a lot about a player by how he handles being injured. Sometimes, a guy may secretly root against his team with hopes it will increase his own value, while also looking to take care of himself first and foremost. Bledsoe, though, has responded by being someone who roots hard for his teammates and is anxious to get back on the floor.
“His return, when it happens, will be more important probably than any trade we could make on February 20,” Babby said. “I think there’s no question that we will not lose that asset.”