Surprising or panicking teams could jump on Bledsoe trade
If the Phoenix Suns firing coach Earl Watson three games into the year didn’t convince you that things change quickly in the NBA, then little will.
Now, the Suns can take advantage of that knee-jerk decision-making to find disgruntled point guard Eric Bledsoe a new home.
With the help of ESPN’s trade machine, below are a few workable trades involving Bledsoe. Many involve teams that were linked to Bledsoe in trade reports and in similar deals to potential trades discussed here in Kellan Olson’s column. But more importantly, we’re here to lay out just why these four teams want Bledsoe — and why they’d perhaps make a deal sooner rather than later.
While more options open up in mid-December and in some cases mid-January due to restrictions regarding recent contract signings, here is what the market could look like for the time being.
So, about assembling the oldest team in the NBA: It’s not working well.
Cleveland fell 114-95 to the New York Knicks on Sunday evening and in its last five hasn’t allowed fewer than 112 points per game. The Cavaliers have also lost to the Nets, Magic and Pelicans, and are actually ranked below Phoenix in defensive rating even though the Suns lost by 40 points twice in their first six games.
While Jae Crowder and LeBron James are rocks at forward, the Cavs’ defense has been killed by point guards and bigs alike. It’s panic time!
Fun fact: The Cavs are one of few teams that, without a third team involved, could swing a deal to acquire both Bledsoe and Tyson Chander, who is reportedly also on the trade block.
As badly as the Cavs don’t need to get older, Chandler can bring some rim protection. And Bledsoe has better defensive legs and offensive efficiency than Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose and a slumping J.R. Smith. With Isaiah Thomas’ timeline for a return from a hip issue unknown, and Rose and Jose Calderon the options at point, Bledsoe is an obvious upgrade.
In this hypothetical, the Suns get two young prospects on the cheap and only have Iman Shumpert’s salary weighing them down next year.
Cavaliers receive: Eric Bledsoe, Tyson Chandler
Suns receive: Channing Frye ($7.4 million this season, one year remaining), Iman Shumpert ($10.3 million, two years), Cedi Osman ($2.6 million, three years) and Ante Zizic ($1.6 million, four years)
Take a few pieces out if the Cavs don’t want Chandler, or add a third team dangling a draft pick to tinker with the assets Phoenix gets back, and this is doable.
Have we mentioned Bledsoe and LeBron are boys?
Does this solve much?
It’s hard to say. Denver took a leap toward becoming a playoff team with the rise of center Nikola Jokic last season. The Nuggets have two guards, Jamal Murray and Gary Harris, who make up an intriguing backcourt, but neither is a true point guard.
Murray and the Nuggets’ offense has struggled to start the season, and they will be in a fight to meet playoff expectations. After ranking second in offensive rating last season once they ran a starting lineup around Jokic, they are 17th six games into this season. Murray has started those six games as the point guard and the 20-year-old is shooting 34.2 percent in them.
Bledsoe would solidify questions in the backcourt, but he would still raise some more about how he’d gel with Jokic and free agent signing Paul Millsap, whose addition hasn’t led to the cleanest of starts despite the high hopes for those in the Mile High City. Still, the point guard would give Denver its No. 1 go-to guy to take over in crunch time and when plays break down (how he’ll find room to drive is iffy at this point).
Enter point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, a 21-year-old former No. 7 overall pick in his third NBA season who has yet to figure much out. He’s shooting 38.3 percent, 40 percent from three-point range and averaging 11 points and 2.8 assists per game off the bench.
Phoenix could take on such a reclamation project if they believe he hasn’t been put in the right situation to succeed. The same goes for 20-year-old Malik Beasley, a relatively unheralded recruit who in one year at Florida State in 2015-16 flashed elite scoring efficiency. He’s gotten little opportunity in Denver thus far.
Nuggets receive: Eric Bledsoe
Suns receive: Kenneth Faried ($12.9 million, two years), Emmanuel Mudiay ($3.4 million, two years), Malik Beasley ($1.7 million, three years)
The problem here: Kenneth Faried has taken a backseat and has been vocal about leaving. The energetic forward is the obvious return piece that the Suns must take on for salary matching, but he might hamper the development of Phoenix forwards Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender unless Phoenix reverted back to small ball. Ditto for Darrell Arthur or Wilson Chandler, whose salaries could help get a deal done.
Regarding Bledsoe or even by throwing Tyson Chandler into the mix, Denver could become a more viable option in mid-January 2018, when backup center Mason Plumlee’s $14 million contract is tradable.
The offensive numbers don’t bear out that the Bucks have a problem at this point.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is a legitimate MVP candidate so far, and it’s a matter of philosophy and preference when deciding whether the Bucks would be better off with Bledsoe or current starting point guard Malcolm Brogdon. After winning Rookie of the Year last season, Brogdon, 24, has continued his sound, solid play. A floor general, shooter and defender, he would help the Suns and fit well with Devin Booker, T.J. Warren and the other youngsters who need the ball.
Bledsoe, however, is the more dynamic problem for opposing defenses to cover.
Bucks receive: Eric Bledsoe
Suns receive: Malcolm Brogdon ($1.3 million, two years), Mirza Teletovic ($10.5 million, two years)
If the Bucks won’t budge from Brogdon as reported, shooting guard Rashad Vaughn is a third-year pro with a disappointing resume. But at 21 years old, he’s a project perhaps worth taking a flyer on.
Throw in a draft pick or young big man D.J. Wilson, and the Suns might bite, even if Milwaukee would rather hang onto Brogdon and move him to shooting guard alongside Bledsoe.
The Suns could swap John Henson’s or Greg Monroe’s contract for Teletovic as well.
Or they could include two of the three to help the Suns trade Chandler. If a third team is involved with Phoenix in any deal, Milwaukee could act as facilitator just because of their several contract options.
Speaking of panic, the Magic might do something panicky just because of a somewhat surprising 4-2 start.
If you want to get messy with the trade machine, there’s a few handfuls of three-way trades that could involve the Suns, Magic and Nuggets, all of whom would like a reset at point guard.
Orlando has options to work with in 23-year-old 2014 lottery pick Elfrid Payton, veteran D.J. Augustin and backup Shelvin Mack on the roster.
The Magic not only have point guards but 2015 lottery pick Mario Hezonja. Like Mudiay, the 22-year-old shooting guard has not met the expectations of a top-10 pick and would be another reclamation project as a scorer and shooter off the bench.
Magic receive: Eric Bledsoe
Suns receive: Elfrid Payton ($3.3 million, one year), D.J. Augustin ($7.3 million, three years), Mario Hezonja ($3.9 million, three years)
Throw in a third team like the Nuggets, who need a veteran point guard like Augustin, and maybe it makes even more sense.
For now though, this is about Phoenix determining what’s on the table, what is desired assuming Bledsoe’s value doesn’t earn a rising youngster in return and then pulling the trigger.