Several prominent members of the NBA media, including Marc Stein of the New York Times and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, reported Thursday that the Pistons have been added to the list of Eric Bledsoe’s main suitors.
Detroit has been eager since last season to get off of guard Reggie Jackson’s salary, having seen backup Ish Smith outplay him for the better part of these two years. He is owed $51 million over the next three seasons (including 2017-18).
If the Suns could find a third team to take Jackson’s salary, potentially by sending another asset that team’s way as compensation, a deal with the Pistons is appealing. The team has several young players who could appeal to the Suns, including Stanley Johnson, Luke Kennard and Henry Ellenson.
So far, the Bucks and Nuggets are the only two other teams whose interest in Bledsoe has appeared legitimate. Deals with those teams would likely have to include either Malcolm Brogdon or Emmanuel Mudiay, who could take Bledsoe’s place in the rotation and give Phoenix another young player to add to their core.
While these two point guards would represent talented upgrades over the Suns’ current Bledsoe-less point guard rotation, each comes with a concern. Mudiay is still unproven in his third NBA season, and will require a contract decision in the summer of 2019. Brogdon’s price is high enough that Milwaukee has been so far unwilling to budge on his inclusion in a Bledsoe deal, leading one to wonder whether they might actually ask for another asset in return to get the deal done.
On the other hand, Kennard and Ellenson especially look like deal mid-tier assets that can get a deal like this done. The Suns haven’t quite lost all their leverage with Bledsoe, considering they are publicly saying there is no rush to move him. Teams across the league are faced with a sense of urgency to put together an enticing package if they want to add Bledsoe.
This works in the Suns’ favor more than in similar trade request situations, such as the one New York faced with Carmelo Anthony this past summer.
Updated with last night's game included. What I've learned is that looking at this stuff this early in the season is effectively pointless. pic.twitter.com/aKPCCfj7ui— Matt (@MontaWorldPeace) October 30, 2017
Ellenson is a plus-22 in 54 minutes through Oct. 30, while Kennard has struggled to find playing time. They have combined to shoot 6-22 from long range this season -- their upside is far greater than their current production.
It’s entirely reasonable that Detroit would include one of the guys mentioned above if they were able to both get off of Jackson’s salary and acquire Bledsoe. The Pistons are overachieving this season, sitting at 5-2 and third in the East. They could see this as a very important year for them in a weakened Eastern Conference.
Bledsoe would be an upgrade over even a fully healthy and locked-in Jackson, and his contract expires one year earlier than Jackson’s.
It’s difficult to sift through the flurry of reporting today and understand how serious a suitor the Pistons are for Bledsoe. There are clearly ongoing discussions, but their shape and inertia are unknown as of now.