Orange is the New Black is a Netflix original series based on the experiences of Piper Kerman. Piper, a bisexual female played by Taylor Schilling, is sentenced to 15 months in prison for an offense (transporting drug money) that happened ten years earlier.
The show is based on the novel Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison.
The Suns may be approaching their own (dark) comedy-drama this fall.
Orange is the New Black: My Year on a Qualifying Offer.
Starring Eric Bledsoe.
In this case, though, the prisoners will be fans of the Phoenix Suns, with Bledsoe playing an unlikely warden and the organization handcuffed in their own right.
All of this is because, despite his obvious risk, Eric Bledsoe has complete control over this situation... and he can make choices which would make this end badly for the Phoenix Suns.
Here's how this shakes down.
All information per Larry Coon's NBA Salary Cap/Collective Bargaining Agreement FAQ.
1. Bledsoe can't be traded without his approval right now.
If he doesn't agree to sign a new deal with his potential suitor a trade can't be consummated. In this type of situation the team is basically maneuvering under a set of player dictated stipulations. This isn't favorable to the team's best interests, or very conducive to constructing any type of realistic package at all. There hasn't been
any a huge demand for Bledsoe's services, but this further expunges practical options.
2. Once Bledsoe signs the qualifying offer he has veto power over any trade.
There are two additional circumstances in which a trade requires the player's consent: (the first of which is) When the player is playing under a one-year contract (excluding any option year) and will have Larry Bird or Early Bird rights at the end of the season. This includes first round draft picks following their fourth (option) season, who accept their team's qualifying offer for their fifth season. When the player consents to such a trade his Larry Bird/Early Bird rights are not traded with him, and instead becomes a Non-Bird free agent.
In addition to this, Bledsoe can't be traded until December 15th. The trade deadline is February 19. That gives the Suns a little over two months to work out a deal during the season, but this situation is even further complicated...
3. Any team trading for Bledsoe will need cap space to re-sign him.
That last part of the previous citation is very important. Here are the ramifications of becoming a Non-Bird free agent.
Non-Bird Exception: Players who were to be Larry Bird or Early Bird free agents, were playing on one-year contracts, and were traded mid-season.
This exceptions allows a team to re-sign its own free agent to a salary starting at up to 120% of his salary in the previous season (not over the maximum salary, of course), 120% of the minimum salary, or the amount needed to tender a qualifying offer (if the player is a restricted free agent), whichever is greater. Raises are limited to 4.5% of the salary in the first year of the contract, and contracts are limited to four seasons when this exception is used.
What this means is that if a team trades for Bledsoe during the season they will need to have cap space clear next summer to sign him to a new deal. If a team isn't under the cap the most they can give Bledsoe is 120% of his 2014-15 salary ($3.7 million), which is about $4.5 million.
Any team that has the cap space to re-sign Eric in that scenario will be able to sign him as a free agent. There will be no reason to trade for him ahead of time.
4. Bledsoe can't get more than four years on a sign-and-trade deal next summer.
Sign-and-trade contracts must be for at least three seasons (not including any option year) and no longer than four seasons.
This is the final death knell for the Suns. Once Bledsoe hits free agency the Suns can't facilitate him getting a better deal than he could with any other team on a free agent contract.
The Suns would have the capability to give him the most money and years (five, which no other team can offer), but at this point does it seem realistic Bledsoe would consider that option? It would seem safe to surmise that Eric wouldn't be salivating at the prospect of signing a deal with a team that forced him to take on this risk to "prove" himself.
The final possibility is that the Suns could work with Bledsoe to send him to a team that isn't in a financial position to make a "reasonable offer"... This still makes some sense, but there are other ways for teams to shed salaries (see Rockets, Houston).
Other cap considerations with matching salaries come in to play here, some of which Geoff Allen described in his article on Bledsoe's possible destinations, so obstacles are still prevalent. Even assuming Bledsoe wants to work with the Suns things will be still be difficult.
Will orange be the new black?
Will the promise of the most electric and terrifying trio of guards in the NBA wither under the pall of the stygian cloud of Bledsoe's impending free agency?
A scenario exists where Bledsoe has an outstanding season and leaves the Suns as a free agent next summer with nothing coming back in return. A scenario which Bledsoe has complete control over. A scenario that seems to be gaining momentum.
This wasn't supposed to play out this way. The qualifying offer wasn't even part of the equation going into the summer. After all, since 1995 only 17 players have opted to go this route. Only one of those players ended up re-signing with his team...
Only Ben Gordon signed a deal worth more than ~$7 million per year (five years, $58 million).
This type of thing just doesn't happen.
But maybe it will start to more. Players are prisoners in the NBA in their own right. When a student graduates from medical school he has the opportunity to pick and choose his employers. Which hospital to work at. Which city to live in. The most talented college basketball players typically get sent to the worst teams and/or franchises (think Detroit/Minnesota) in cities nobody would want to be transplanted into (think Detroit/Minnesota).
Perhaps if the Suns aren't overpaying in terms of a max contract (which they shouldn't do) the freedom to choose his next destination offsets the risk of foregoing a huge sum of guaranteed money. Perhaps for Eric... Phoenix just isn't a desirable destination.
Barring an increasingly unlikely trade, however, Bledsoe is stuck wearing orange for one more year. A year that may be a little more black than anyone cares for.