10 NBA Teams That Should Trade For Eric Bledsoe
Eric Bledsoe isn’t rumored to be on the trade block, but if the Phoenix Suns decide to aid their youth movement by dealing their most valuable asset, which teams should pick up the phone?
In his best NBA season yet, it’d be almost cruel for the Phoenix Suns to trade Eric Bledsoe. If not for the team’s 16-35 record (worst in the Western Conference), he would have garnered All-Star consideration.
It makes sense there have been no indications that general manager Ryan McDonough plans on trading his best player anytime soon.
However, Bledsoe’s superstar play this season has boosted his league-wide value to all-time highs, and with the Suns poised to dive headfirst into a youth movement revolving around Devin Booker (20 years old), Marquese Chriss (19) and Dragan Bender (19), the 27-year-old Bledsoe might be of more use to the Suns as a trade chip since he’s on a different timeline.
He and Booker have developed some nice chemistry over the last few months, and trading a player averaging a career-high 21.4 points, a career-high 6.2 assists and 5.0 rebounds per game doesn’t sound like a smart decision for a franchise that will be missing the playoffs for its seventh straight season this year.
That being said, Bledsoe deserves to play for an actual playoff team and there are plenty of other teams who might be willing to surrender covetable assets — like young players or future draft picks to aid the Suns’ rebuild — for a top-10 point guard.
Though he has an extensive injury history, Bledsoe is in his prime and has stayed perfectly healthy this season — giving Phoenix another reason to consider moving him before his myriad of knee problems possibly rear their ugly heads again.
More than likely, McDonough will try to move veterans like P.J. Tucker, Tyson Chandler or Brandon Knight over Bledsoe, but if the Suns do decide to cash in on their most valuable trade chip, which teams might be interested? Here’s a look at 10 teams that might trade for Bledsoe, what those deals might look like and why they might fail to materialize.
10. Portland Trail Blazers
The Portland Trail Blazers don’t need to make a trade for a guard with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum already in the backcourt…unless they arrive at the (possibly correct) conclusion that this backcourt won’t thrive together for the long-term and make the preemptive decision to move one of them.
That’s the only way Bledsoe’s name would come up in the Blazers’ inner circle, and with the NBA’s 25th-ranked defense being their main concern to address, it’s highly unlikely a deal like this comes to fruition.
But are we wrong for wondering how a backcourt with Bledsoe and one of Lillard/McCollum would look in Rip City, especially with how well Bledsoe once meshed with Goran Dragic and is now meshing with Devin Booker?
PF – Ed Davis
Future 1st round pick
Bledsoe has been most effective when paired with another guard who can knock down threes, which both McCollum and Lillard can do. If the Blazers moved one of their guards, they’d be bringing in a more defensive-minded one who might be a better complement on a far more favorable contract.
Unfortunately, a straight up swap of young guards wouldn’t work because of Lillard’s $24.3 million salary, McCollum’s Poison Pill Provision after signing a four-year, $106 million extension, and the fact that the Suns might prefer to find their new franchise 1-guard through this year’s PG-heavy draft.
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A Bledsoe trade would require Portland to work out a second, separate deal to move one of Lillard or McCollum away, but strictly in terms of the Suns, a package of Festus Ezeli, Ed Davis and a future first round pick might be enough to get it done.
Ezeli is constantly injured, but if he could stay healthy, he’d either be a backup for Alex Len or a replacement with Len’s restricted free agency coming up. Davis is a useful veteran backup who wouldn’t take minutes from Marquese Chriss or Dragan Bender, and the first round pick would be the main asset — provided it’s not Portland’s extra 2017 first-rounder from Cleveland, which is slated to be in the late-20s.
However, as much as the Blazers could put together a more complementary backcourt with Bledsoe, all without really giving anything valuable up, they seem destined to wait too long to realize Lillard and McCollum won’t work together as they chase a bottom-run playoff spot.
9. San Antonio Spurs
For a team with the second-best record in the NBA, the old “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” adage comes to mind. The San Antonio Spurs could stand perfectly still at the trade deadline and still be one of the three main threats to win the 2017 NBA Finals.
But with Tony Parker being 34, at some point the Spurs are going to have to find a successor for the point guard spot, and it has to be one who’s ready to keep San Antonio in the contender category for Kawhi Leonard‘s prime and what’s left of LaMarcus Aldridge‘s.
The Spurs might not be back to afford to keep Patty Mills when he hits free agency this summer, and though rookie Dejounte Murray shows a ton of promise, he won’t be ready to lead a championship-caliber team anytime soon. Enter Eric Bledsoe, the perfect transition from TP to the next era of Spurs basketball.
Future 1st round pick
Pau Gasol has put up decent enough numbers at age 36, averaging 11.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game on 46.5 percent shooting from three-point range, but the Spurs are much better defensively when he’s not on the floor and he’ll probably be a free agent this summer.
They haven’t missed him during his ongoing eight-game absence with a broken finger, and rather than stay content with being second-best in the West, a move for a two-way player like Bledsoe could really launch San Antonio into the same otherworldly orbit as the Warriors.
For the Suns, they’d be getting a great veteran presence for the youngsters until he inevitably split in free agency, but the real prize would come in the form of the future first round pick. The Spurs, meanwhile, would get one of the most athletic players in the league who would benefit from Gregg Popovich’s tutelage and help San Antonio remain in the contender category long after Aldridge’s prime.
However, the Spurs may prefer to ride it out with their depth and see if Kawhi Leonard can do MVP-caliber things in the playoffs. They may try to re-sign Mills as their Parker successor, and the Suns may ask for too much if they pushed for two first-rounders, given the fact that San Antonio’s picks are always in the late-20s due to their sustained success.
8. Denver Nuggets
With Emmanuel Mudiay moving to the bench behind veteran Jameer Nelson, the point guard spot is hardly the Denver Nuggets‘ most stable position right now. As they attempt to batten down the hatches for a playoff push, trading for an All-Star caliber point guard would be something of a home run.
Bledsoe would be a massive upgrade over Nelson, and though the Suns probably wouldn’t want Mudiay as part of the deal (they can just take a new franchise point guard at the top of this year’s draft), that would allow Mudiay to continue coming off Denver’s bench and learn from one of the game’s top-10 point guards.
SG – Jamal Murray
C – Jusuf Nurkic
In the first scenario, Phoenix gets the promising 22-year-old Nurkic to either compete with a re-signed Alex Len for the starting center spot or replace him. With Nikola Jokic‘s emergence as one of the NBA’s rising unicorns, Nurkic has been on the trade block for weeks.
Nelson gives the young Suns’ locker room another mentor, particularly at the point guard spot for rookie Tyler Ulis and whichever young guard Phoenix takes near the top of this year’s draft.
And then there’s the 19-year-old Murray, whose 8.7 points per game don’t tell the whole story since he’s been very impressive whenever Gary Harris has been sidelined. A young backup for Devin Booker would be a great thing to have, bolstering Phoenix’s young core with two more players under 22 and a veteran to help guide them.
If parting with Murray is too much to bear for the Nuggets — especially with lingering doubts surrounding Mudiay — perhaps a future first round pick would seal the deal.
However, Denver’s most pressing need is for a stretch-4 who can help bolster the defense (Serge Ibaka trade rumors, anyone?). An upgrade at point guard would be great and Nurkic is expendable, but the Nuggets might not want to include Murray or a first-rounder too.
7. Indiana Pacers
The Indiana Pacers are slowly but surely turning their season around, so it’s entirely possible they’re not very active around the trade deadline. But even Jeff Teague‘s midseason resurgence shouldn’t distract from his status as a free agent this summer, and there’s no question Bledsoe represents an upgrade on both ends of the floor.
If Larry Bird felt like swinging for the fences, trading for a superior point guard who will be on the books through 2018-19 is one avenue he could take. Bledsoe’s prime wouldn’t line up with Myles Turner‘s, but it would put another star piece next to Paul George and help accelerate their ascent back up the Eastern Conference food chain.
Teague has been solid lately, averaging 16.4 points and 9.4 assists per game on .532/.459/.880 shooting splits since the calendar flipped to 2017. But he’s not a great defender and it’d cost the Pacers a pretty penny to retain him in free agency. Wouldn’t a Big Three of Bledsoe, PG-13 and Turner be a more promising core, especially with Thaddeus Young not included in the swap?
SG – Glenn Robinson III
Future 1st round pick
Indiana would have to give up the promising Glenn Robinson III and a future first round draft pick to make it worth Phoenix’s while, since the Suns probably wouldn’t try too hard to re-sign the 28-year-old Teague in free agency.
But that’s a small price to pay for a difference-maker at point guard and would help move the franchise in a more definitive direction. The only problem is, GRIII and a first-rounder with medium value might be too small a price for Bledsoe, especially if the Suns weren’t interested in re-signing Teague.
Now that the Pacers have won eight of their last 11 games, Bird may not be looking to significantly alter the roster this late in the season either.
6. Chicago Bulls
If there’s really nothing to all the trade rumors and the Chicago Bulls aren’t going to move Jimmy Butler, they need to start putting a team around their 27-year-old franchise player. Why not fix the point guard position that’s been so problematic, especially if they can get rid of Rajon Rondo in the process?
The Suns would have no interest in Rondo, a disgruntled player who’s no longer useful on the court and has a long track record of disrupting locker room chemistry off of it. But his salary is non-guaranteed for 2017-18, and Phoenix could simply cut him right away if it had no use for him.
SG – Denzel Valentine
Future 1st round pick
If the Bulls set their sights on Valentine, they’d be hoping the 23-year-old develops his Swiss Army knife potential within the Suns’ youth movement, since his 3.3 points in 11.9 minutes per game so far leave a lot to be desired.
Despite his paltry .320/.313/.875 shooting splits though, Valentine has had his brief flashes of brilliance when he’s actually earned minutes. He’s still only a rookie and would provide the Suns with a Devin Booker backup at the 2.
If that’s not the piece Phoenix wants, they could ask for second-year stretch-4 Bobby Portis, a player the front office liked heading into the 2015 NBA Draft.
PF – Bobby Portis
Future 1st round pick
Portis has seen his minutes and production tail off in his second season under Fred Hoiberg, but he averaged a steady 7.0 points and 5.4 rebounds in 17.8 minutes per game as a rookie, and he’s still shooting 38.5 percent from three-point range this year.
That’s been on a limited number of attempts, but Portis is only 21 and could be a form of long-term insurance for the Suns at the 4 in case Marquese Chriss or Dragan Bender never pan out.
However, a young player and future first-rounder might be more than the Bulls are willing to give up, even if they got Rondo off the roster and added an upgrade over Michael Carter-Williams and Jerian Grant at the point.
5. New Orleans Pelicans
Jrue Holiday has been terrific for the New Orleans Pelicans since he returned to the court, but his status as a free agent this summer complicates his long-term future for a franchise that, outside of Anthony Davis and Buddy Hield, needs to start building a legitimate core.
Bledsoe is still only 27 and alongside Davis, another Kentucky alum, New Orleans would finally start showing signs of building a foundation. They’d have a borderline elite point guard locked in for another two seasons after this one, and they wouldn’t have to worry about overpaying to keep Holiday.
Future 1st round pick
For the Suns, they could either try to re-sign Holiday while they wait for Ulis or an incoming rookie to be groomed into their point guard of the future, or they could let him walk and pocket the first-rounder. If they could make it a 2017 first-rounder with the Pellies currently in the lottery, even better.
However, the make-or-break aspect of this deal would probably be the inclusion of a future first round pick. The Pelicans might value Holiday more than he’s actually worth as an impending free agent, or they may not want to deal him away if it comes at the price of a first-rounder.
For the Suns, a soon-to-be-departing Holiday and a late lottery pick might not be enough value for Bledsoe compared to other offers they might receive if they actually put him on the trade block.
4. Minnesota Timberwolves
The Minnesota Timberwolves have had Ricky Rubio on and off the trade block for years now, and though they view Kris Dunn as his eventual replacement, the simple truth is that he’s nowhere near being ready.
Even with the Wolves fully committing to their youth movement, a more stable option at the point and a veteran leader could really help the team’s Big Three — Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns and Zach LaVine — grow up a little quicker.
Going from Bledsoe to Minnesota’s current point guard is clearly a downgrade, and we can’t ignore that Rubio is also on the books through the 2018-19 season. But he’s on a perfectly manageable contract, and if the Timberwolves threw in a future first round pick, it’d be hard to turn that kind of offer down — especially if it were in the near future before that core is ready to contend.
Future 1st round pick
Though he’s only averaging 8.7 points and 8.1 assists per game on ugly .384/.289/.871 shooting splits, Rubio is the defense-first, pass-first kind of point guard the Suns need with so many young players. If the front office wanted to give more time to Ulis and a top point guard in this year’s draft, they could always flip Rubio to another team that needed his services.
Unfortunately, the Timberwolves might prefer to hold onto Rubio if it means keeping all of their future first-rounders.
After all, they’re heading for another appearance in the NBA Draft Lottery this year, and the inevitable switch to Dunn won’t make their path back to the postseason any easier. With LaVine’s season-ending injury dooming their fading playoff hopes, the Wolves will also be less likely to make a trade for a difference-maker at this year’s deadline.
The Suns also might not want to take on Rubio when he’d be on the books for the same amount of time as Bledsoe. Unless getting another first-rounder was a high priority for McDonough, it’d make more sense to just keep the superior player between the two.
3. Philadelphia 76ers
Thanks to T.J. McConnell playing so well as the starting point guard, Nerlens Noel slowly reviving his value ahead of Jahlil Okafor, and the imminent return of point forward Ben Simmons, it’s unlikely the Philadelphia 76ers will be in the market for a high-profile point guard like Bledsoe.
However, if they stay within close enough range of a playoff spot, perhaps the Sixers will keep their eye on a potential gem like Bledsoe who could make them more competitive, form a dynamic duo alongside Joel Embiid and help accelerate “The Process” a bit.
The Suns should have no interest in trading for Jahlil Okafor and his defensive flaws, but if Philly is okay with clearing their center logjam by moving Noel instead, a Bledsoe trade would make some sense.
Future 1st round pick
With Alex Len still being an enigma and heading for restricted free agency, the Suns could take an alternative path and go all in on the restricted free agency of a more defensively inclined big man. Noel is more injury-prone than Len, but his ceiling is also much higher at this point.
If McDonough could swindle the Sixers into giving up a future first-round pick as well, that’d be even more reassuring, since Noel’s injury history and regressive numbers this season (8.3 PPG, 4.8 RPG and 0.9 BPG in 18.0 MPG) don’t exactly make him a sure thing.
However, the Sixers would probably rather wait it out with McConnell and see how Simmons handles his point forward role, especially since trading Okafor should be the priority over trading Noel. Under that line of reasoning, including a future first-rounder would be borderline insanity for a player Philly might not actually want.
2. Sacramento Kings
The Sacramento Kings desperately need an upgrade at the point guard position, they’re trying in vain to sneak into the playoffs and DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe are still really good friends from their college days at Kentucky. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to see why Sacramento would be interested.
The question is, would the Kings have the assets to appeal to the Suns?
If they’re willing to offer the misused Willie Cauley-Stein and their 2017 first round pick, the two sides could see eye-to-eye on a Bledsoe swap.
C – Willie Cauley-Stein
2017 1st round pick
Arron Afflalo would be included to match salaries, but his $12.5 million contract for next season is non-guaranteed, so the Suns wouldn’t need to keep him beyond this season unless they wanted an additional locker room veteran around.
WCS has only recently cracked Dave Joerger’s rotation, averaging a meager 5.3 points, 2.5 rebounds and 0.5 blocks in 12.4 minutes per game on the season. But he’s still only 23 years old, in his second season, and has Defensive Player of the Year potential.
In Phoenix, he could either supplant Alex Len in the lineup or replace him outright depending on what unfolds with Len’s restricted free agency. WCS would give the Suns a young defensive anchor at center who’s on the same development timeline as Booker, Chriss and Bender.
Though the Kings are still chasing a playoff spot, and Bledsoe would make them better to make Sacramento’s first-rounder less valuable, they could very well finish in the lottery, giving Phoenix another valuable first-rounder to add more youth to the roster.
However, the Kings may not want to sacrifice all of that for Bledsoe, and as attractive as that trade package might seem, an unproven player who struggles to earn minutes in Sacramento might not be the most stable foundation for a deal involving such a prominent point guard.
1. Orlando Magic
Add the Orlando Magic to the Sacramento Kings on the list of playoff-desperate teams who probably don’t have enough talent to get there.
Nearly every player on Orlando’s roster has been mentioned in trade rumors recently, and no one’s certain if general manager Rob Hennigan is still fighting to keep his job with a return to the playoffs, or will be restructuring the roster for another rebuild.
To that end, there are several avenues the Suns could explore for a Bledsoe trade to bring in youth. If they could somehow swindle the Magic into including Aaron Gordon (with Jeff Green included to match salaries), that’d be a no-brainer.
PF – Aaron Gordon
Orlando fans are probably laughing right now (as they should be), since Gordon is the closest thing this roster has to an untouchable franchise cornerstone. But don’t forget, this is the same front office that traded Tobias Harris without getting anything of value in return, and it also dealt Victor Oladipo and a lottery pick for Serge Ibaka…only to place him on the trade block months later.
It’d be ill-advised to trade a guy who’s been averaging 11.3 points and 4.6 rebounds per game while largely playing out of position, but with the Magic, you can never rule anything out.
The Suns would get a versatile defender in the process, bolstering the 4-spot in addition to more unproven projects like Chriss and Bender. Gordon is only 21 years old and in addition to his high-flying athleticism, he possesses star potential if he’s played at his true position.
But if the Magic are smart and make Gordon off limits, one alternative would be replacing him with Elfrid Payton and a future first round pick.
PG – Elfrid Payton
Future 1st round pick
It’s up in the air whether McDonough could talk the Magic into giving up this year’s first-rounder if Payton is included, but the Suns would get a new point guard — and more importantly, a defensively oriented one — to groom along with Ulis.
Payton is only 22 years old, averaging 12.5 points, 5.8 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game. His 27.5 percent shooting from deep is concerning, but he’s still young and is still shooting a career-high 45.5 percent from the field.
However, since the Suns might prefer to hand-pick their next point guard with their high pick in this year’s draft, another alternative would be Mario Hezonja as a backup to Booker, along with Orlando’s 2017 first round pick.
SG – Mario Hezonja
2017 1st round pick
In this scenario, Hezonja’s raw nature and lack of minutes would give McDonough some leverage to ask for the Magic’s 2017 first-rounder, which would most likely be a lottery pick even with Bledsoe making Orlando better.
If the Magic are still desperate to get in the playoffs and believe Bledsoe could get them back in the hunt, they might be willing to part with a pick currently slated to be the seventh overall pick.
Another alternative proposed by ESPN’s Zach Lowe would be Nikola Vucevic, Mario Hezonja and Orlando’s 2017 first-rounder for Bledsoe and Alex Len.
SG – Mario Hezonja
2017 1st round pick
C – Alex Len
Hezonja is only averaging 3.5 points in 10.0 minutes per game on appalling .346/.292/.765 shooting splits, but it’s far too soon to give up on this 21-year-old just because head coach Frank Vogel has tethered him to the bench. Give him opportunity and perhaps his reputation as a sharpshooter will eventually shine through.
Even if it didn’t, the 2017 first-rounder would more than make it worth the Suns’ while. However, if the Magic decide to attempt another rebuild rather than continue a failed pursuit for a playoff spot, Bledsoe would have no interest to them, especially at the cost of Gordon, Payton, Hezonja or a first round pick.