Bledsoe remains Suns’ top free-agent priority

With the LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony scuttlebutt dying down, the Suns' most-pressing priority could be retaining restricted free agents Eric Bledsoe and P.J. Tucker.

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Everywhere you go along the information superhighway, nobody’s talking — or writing — about Eric Bledsoe.

Well, almost nobody. And those few who are mentioning the Suns’ restricted free agent point guard do so in regard to a seeming lack of contractual effort in hiring him.

Not yet, at least.

As the NBA talent grab of 2014 officially begins, we’re all painfully aware that much of the upheaval has been postponed by decisions from LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.

With James reportedly aiming for a return to Cleveland and ‘Melo looking very much like a New York Knick for another five years, teams waiting for those two could turn to Bledsoe as a target for their precious cap space.

But it also should be noted that few teams possess three important variables for luring him into signing an offer sheet: The need for a point guard, sufficient cap space and winning potential.

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By the way, despite continued suggestions to the contrary from a national writer here and there, the Suns’ sign-and-trade potential with Bledsoe is limited to dealing with a team he actually wants to play for.

For example, if Bledsoe signs an offer sheet with the Los Angeles Lakers (a team that’s been rumored to have interest in him should Anthony return to New York), the Suns can match the offer and keep him. They also could match and trade him to the Lakers, but L.A. is a bit light on players any team would want.

The Suns couldn’t sign him and trade him anywhere else — without his consent — for one year.

It also has been presented that rehiring Bledsoe to a max deal would corrode the Suns’ financial ability to keep Goran Dragic, who next summer has a player option to opt out of a contract that now seems woefully inadequate for his recent level of performance.

The main impediment being mentioned is the presumed unseemly notion of paying about $30 million per season for two point guards.

What a lot of these well-intentioned scholars aren’t considering is the moot point created by the Suns playing both of those players close to 35 minutes per game. If they both play and produce at high levels, any convenient labeling of their on-court "position" is pointless.

Dragic could decide he doesn’t want to play in a two-PG system (he always said he was happy to do so last season), but that probably would have nothing to do with how much Bledsoe is paid.

Anyway, we can approach the shock-and-ink portion of free agency by reminding Phoenix fans that sometimes the best deals are the ones your teams never makes.

This means that while waiting out the King James verdict, the Suns seemed to miss out on some players they had at least a little interest in acquiring.

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Examples here include Utah swingman Gordon Hayward (max-offer sheet from Charlotte) and Houston small forward Chandler Parsons (three years, $45 million offer sheet from Dallas), two players who would upgrade the Suns, offensively, at the three spot. (Also off the market is Channing Frye, who bolted Phoenix for Orlando,)

But the cost to get them and others likely is more than the Suns thought they could pay while maintaining enough flexibility to hit any big talent score that could arise later.

Even though Phoenix has yet to become the superstar-tempting, destination oasis that team president of basketball operations Lon Babby says it is, the Suns aren’t precluded from using this flexibility to land an elite player in trade.

So, much like the first summer of LeBron (2010), the Suns have money to spend.

Four years ago, they offered a lot of it to keep Amar’e Stoudemire but stopped short of a max-year deal. That decision has looked pretty sharp for a while.

But instead of taking careful steps to retool a team that had reached the Western Conference finals, owner Robert Sarver (not blessed with a general manager at the time) green-lighted deals for the unholy trinity of Hakim Warrick, Hedo Turkoglu and Josh Childress.

Live and learn.

With the celebrity free agents off the table for this summer, the Suns’ efforts may be limited to the very important duty of keeping Bledsoe and P.J. Tucker while finding an affordable replacement for Frye.

Tucker’s restricted free-agency status has yet to attract publicly revealed interest from multiple teams. Perhaps most potential suitors understand Tucker is not worth as much to them as he has been to the Suns. But as the month wears on and cap space burns holes in franchise pockets, some team may jump.

Frye, whose floor-spacing chops are well documented in this part of the basketball world, left for Orlando and a four-year, $32 million windfall. Replacing someone who can provide that caliber of 3-point threat while doing passable defensive work at two positions will be tricky. If players with Frye’s particular skills were plentiful, he wouldn’t be on the receiving end of $32 million.

The Suns probably will move Markieff Morris into the starting power forward role with the marching orders of doing what he did during last season’s breakout — take shots you can make at a high rate.

Or the Suns can see if they can assemble enough trade assets to make the Minnesota Timberwolves believe the best way to part with Kevin Love is to spend him to Phoenix.

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