You thought this might be breaking news on an Eric Bledsoe deal? Ha. No.
In fact, now Phoenix Suns GM Ryan McDonough is rightly putting the brakes on the deal-making until a good enough offer comes along for his disgruntled point guard.
To recap quickly, in one five-day period the Suns went from the owner predicting a winning record to losing by a league-record 48 points AT HOME on opening night to losing a “future has no defense” game to the hated Lakers to losing by franchise-4th-worst-all-time 42 points to the Clippers to losing their point guard to the upside down place he called a hair salon to firing their kumbaya coach and half his coaching staff.
Five days after starting a potentially promising season of growth and family, the winless Suns found themselves staring down their final 79 games without their head coach and borderline All-Star point guard.
Of course, to pull back for a minute: if you’re losing by an average of 31 points a night, do you really NEED that head coach or that borderline All-Star point guard?
Fortunately for the Suns and their fans, the dead coach bounce is real.
The Suns players and remaining coaches heard the “wake up call” and suddenly started playing with the urgency they should have had the week before. A 2-1 week now gives players, coaches and fans a better outlook on the season.
After posting the league’s worst defense (BY FAR) and second-worst offense in three games under Earl Watson and Eric Bledsoe, the new-look Suns have produced the 8th best offense and 14th best defense in three games since. #SmallSampleSizeAlert
Where do we go from here?
We cheer on new starting point guard Mike James and backup point guard Tyler Ulis as they collectively try to replace Bledsoe’s production and keep up the good-times Suns feels.
James and Ulis are combining to average 8.6 assists per game over the last three, while Devin Booker has added another assist per game to his numbers as well.
We cheer on competent coaching from Jay Triano, right-hand man Ty Corbin and the band of brothers from the NAZ Suns coaching staff.
When I asked Triano last week how he’s different as the full head coach versus the right-hand man he’d been under Watson, he said he now has a stronger voice. It’s already evident he’s also a better at in-game substitutions and play calling than Watson. And, he appears to trust Dragan Bender more than the previous coach did. All good things.
That leaves one hanging chad: the fate of Eric Bledsoe.
While McDonough may still not have learned the art of keeping the peace with his best players, he has at least learned not to keep them on the active roster while they Don’t wanna be here.
Bledsoe might be on the Suns roster for a while. That is, until a team finally caves and gets desperate enough to give up too much booty for Bledsoe’s services.
By all accounts, Bledsoe is healthy and ready to boost a “contender” with borderline All-Star talent... as long as they give up a promising young talent and/or draft pick in return.
One of those contenders is the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Cavs have limped out of the gate with their aging roster and could really use a boost of energy. It also helps that LeBron James, Eric Bledsoe (and Earl Watson, if you didn’t know) all share the same agent: Rich Paul and his Klutch Sports group. You have to expect forces are conspiring to get Bledsoe on the Cavaliers roster, one way or another.
The Cavs have one prize in their possession that the Suns would covet: the rights to the Brooklyn Nets’ first round draft pick next June.
The Cavaliers acquired that coveted pick from Boston in the Kyrie/IT trade this summer, a move meant to protect the team and jumpstart a quick rebuild if LeBron bolts in free agency next summer.
But then wouldn’t it be better for the Cavaliers to just keep LeBron and keep making deep playoff runs for as long as possible? And wouldn’t the likelihood of him staying improve if his buddy Bledsoe joins the team, helps them reach the Finals and gives them hope for the future AND present?
That’s the dilemma facing Cleveland now. Given their current roster and the questionable health situation of Isaiah Thomas, the Cavaliers are quite unlikely to experience what Boston did last year: combining a deep playoff run with a Top-3 pick in the draft.
They are going to have to make a choice: boost the roster NOW, or suffer a horrendous season that ends in LeBron leaving the team for a second time. The Nets pick would be a tiny consolation for years of angst and rebuild.
And about that Nets pick. Maybe it’s not even a Top-5 pick anymore.
The Nets, tonight’s opponent by the way, are better than expected with a soaring offense behind DeAngelo Russell. They are 3-4 already, and look like a team that could finish in the mid-lottery rather than the basement.
Wouldn’t that be a kick in the pants for Cleveland, if the Kyrie trade resulted in nothing better than a vastly overpaid, hobbled Isaiah Thomas and a mid-lotto pick.
So Cleveland should roll the dice quickly.
And the Suns should take on whatever contracts are necessary to acquire that Nets pick for Bledsoe. A mid-lotto pick for Bledsoe is good value. Depending on the other pieces involved, I’d even let Cleveland protect that pick slightly (say, Top-1 or Top-2 protection).
What could the Suns and Cavaliers do? Something like is easy.
If the trade is done by early December, the Suns would be allowed to re-trade Iman Shumpert to a playoff contender for another asset at the deadline - just in time to give his minutes to rookie Davon Reed.
Or they could make an even bigger deal, to include Tyson Chandler.
This version is not as clean, because Cleveland would have to give up young talent or an important rotation piece or two to match the salaries of Chandler AND Bledsoe.
Some variation of these deals, where the Suns are taking on salary in order to acquire the Nets’ pick, seems to make a lot of sense for both sides.
And it seems like the perfect kind of deal for the
GM agent Rich Paul to want to make. Putting Bledsoe on the Cavaliers alongside LeBron James would only improve Bledsoe’s chances of getting a long-term cash money extension next summer, further lining Paul and LeBron’s pockets.
And it would help the Suns move further in the right direction on their rebuild.