A year ago, the Phoenix Suns went into the offseason wondering if then-restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe was going to commit to the team long term and at what price.
And now, the Suns are in that same predicament with another guard who has made only a few appearances with the team, Brandon Knight.
The 6-foot-3 combo guard arrived in Phoenix at the trade deadline in February, but only played in 11 games for his new team due to ankle and heel injuries.
Whereas Bledsoe was quite mum on his intentions leading into a contract showdown, Knight has struck a noticeably different tone ahead of July 1 free agency period, including speaking highly of the Suns’ dual-point guard lineup.
“I enjoy playing with Eric, because he’s a great talent and he’s not a selfish player,” Knight said Thursday in an interview with Eddie Johnson and Justin Termine on SiriusXM NBA Radio. “He’s very, very unselfish. He’s just trying to make the right play, trying to win. So, as far as playing with Eric goes, I think it’s a great thing because you have two players that can attack at any time, instead of having one team focusing on just one of us. Being able to have two guys that can really break down a defense at any time, I think, will make it not only easy for myself, but easy for him as well.
“So, like I said, it’s really just about making the right play. If Eric was a selfish guy, then I think it wouldn’t work. But both of us being pretty unselfish guys and really just wanting to win — and also being familiar with each other — I think that helps the situation as well.”
The Suns started out 4-4 with Knight, but lost the last three games in which he appeared. With Phoenix, the fourth-year guard posted averages of 13.4 points, 4.5 assists, 1.9 rebounds and 0.5 steals per game while shooting 31.3 percent from three-point range and 35.7 percent overall. He finished the season with averages of 17.0 points, 5.2 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1.4 steals per contest while shooting .422 percent from the floor, including 38.9 percent from long range.
Knight, 23, told the satellite radio station he was shocked to learn the Milwaukee Bucks had traded him at the deadline. He was leading them in scoring and assists and they had a 30-23 record at the time.
“I was just as much surprised as you guys were,” Knight said. “But with me heading into free agency this year — nothing bad against the Bucks — but they probably wouldn’t want it to get out that they were looking at trading me, just in case it didn’t happen; you know, it’s not good for free agency and talks like that. I mean, in this business, you’ve got to be prepared at all times, but I definitely wasn’t expecting it based on how well our team had been playing, and how well I had been playing as an individual, as well. We had a lot of success, so I figured our team would pretty much stay intact … So our entire team was shocked once the trade happened.”
Milwaukee went just 11-18 after Knight’s departure, but still secured the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference Playoffs, losing in six games to the Chicago Bulls in the opening round.
The combo guard made a little more than $3.5 million in 2014-15, but will probably command something in the vicinity of Bledsoe’s contract — an average of $14 million over five years — this offseason.
Knight’s former Detroit Pistons teammate, Greg Monroe, signed a qualifying offer as a restricted free agent last summer, but this is a road players historically don’t go down too often. If Knight and the Suns reach an impasse late in the summer and the Kentucky product chooses to play one more year in the Valley before becoming an unrestricted free agent, he would make just under $4.8 million, according to his current contract.