Eric Bledsoe still appears to be quite a controversial figure in Phoenix.
Some criticize the soft-spoken 25-year-old for a perceived lack of leadership, as well as a high turnover rate. Others praise him for his defensive abilities and elite slashing on the offensive end. To some he's the future, and to others he's just another trade chip.
So after Bledsoe's first full season as a starting point guard, how can we evaluate the 5-year, $70 million contract he signed back in September? Is he overpaid, underpaid, or somewhere in the middle?
To answer this question on a basic level, let's compare Bledsoe to other starting NBA point guards. Bledsoe made $12.1 million during the 2014-15 season, so I focused on all point guards in the $10-14 million range.
The list is not long. There are only six such players, and they are Eric Bledsoe, Stephen Curry, Rajon Rondo, Ty Lawson, Kyle Lowry and Tony Parker. I charted all important per game stats, as well as PER. As is always the case with stats, defensive impact is hardly accounted for.
Curry is the clear exception here, as it is extremely rare for an MVP candidate to make so little. And it's probably safe to say that Bledsoe will never reach Curry's level either.
But what about the other four? Would you really be willing to swap Bledsoe with either Parker, Lawson, Lowry or Rondo and convince yourself that it wasn't a lateral move? Remember, factor defense into your decision.
Perhaps it would be easier to take the average per game stats of the other five players and compare that one stat line to Bledsoe's. So, here is is:
|Average of the 5||$11,926,762||32.2||16.0||3.9||7.4||1.3||2.7||45.2||39.0||78.5||19.0|
Keep in mind that the average shooting percentages are dependent on the volume of shots taken as well as the number of games played. Curry alone accounts for almost half of the three-pointers attempted, so that naturally sways the percentage and makes it much higher. Rondo's free-throw percentage may be putrid, but he was at the line for only 78 free throws this season, a number that doesn't carry much weight.
Overall, these two stat lines look fairly similar. The clear issue is that Bledsoe commits more turnovers than the rest while converting fewer assists, a problem which we have all discussed at length before. That remains Bledsoe's greatest weakness.
But the PER is similar, as are the figures for scoring and rebounding. The shooting numbers are similar too; the four guards not named Curry shoot a combined 34.6% from three-point range, which is comparable to Bledsoe's 32.4% clip.
One more factor to account for is age. Every single guard on that list is older than Bledsoe. Curry is the youngest at 26, Parker the oldest at 32, and the five average out to an age of 28.2. But Bledsoe is only 25.
However, why am I focusing on such a small range of contract values? Could it be that there are great point guard bargains under the $10 million threshold?
Yes, there are. For instance, Mike Conley made $8.9 million this season and Jeff Teague made $8 million. Both players could be placed in a similar tier as Bledsoe in terms of talent.
But if you throw those names out there, you also have to account for the rest of the guards in that price range. Steve Nash made $9.7 million, Jeremy Lin made $8.4 million, George Hill made $8 million, and Jose Calderon and Isaiah Thomas both made just over $7 million. For the most part, a player of that caliber is what you should expect with that sum of money.
And what about over the threshold? While you might think that anyone getting more than $14 million should be a superstar, that is not the case. For every Chris Paul ($20.8 million) there is a Deron Williams ($19.7 million); for every Russell Westbrook ($15.7 million) there is a Derrick Rose ($18.8 million).
Bledsoe's contract is admittedly backloaded, meaning it will increase over the years. The Suns will give him $14.9 million during the 2017-18 season a few years from now.
But the salary cap is also increasing, mainly due to the new lucrative TV deal. One estimate places the 2017-18 salary cap at $108 million.
This season, Bledsoe's contract alone took up 19.2% of the salary cap (which is $63 million). But if that 2017-18 estimate is correct, by then he will only account for 13.8% of the cap. That actually leaves the Suns with more cap flexibility as Bledsoe progresses further into his contract, not less.
So, is Eric Bledsoe overpaid?
Not really. He hasn't been a terrific bargain either so far, but he is producing at a satisfactory rate. So long as he continues to stay healthy, he will deserve every penny of his contract.
And if the front office does decide to commit to him up until the contract expires in 2019, he could become more "underpaid" each year, both as the salary cap increases and as his career reaches its peak.