After spending the first three seasons of his career as a low-profile reserve with the Los Angeles Clippers, Eric Bledsoe progressed and blossomed over the course of the last four seasons as a starter for the Phoenix Suns.
Utilizing his ultra-athletic skill set, Bledsoe had a career year last season, averaging 21.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 6.3 assists in 33.0 minutes per contest for Phoenix.
Heading into this season, he was expected to continue his progression, but through just three games, he simply gave up on the team. In three losses, he averaged 15.7 points, 2.3 boards and 3.0 assists in 27.7 minutes.
On Sunday, a day in advance of his team’s next game, he made headlines by tweeting: “I Don’t wanna be here” hours before the team fired head coach Earl Watson.
After a meeting with general manager Ryan McDonough and interim head coach Jay Triano on Monday, it became evident that Bledsoe will be traded or released in the near future.
Bledsoe "won't be with us going forward," McDonough said, per ESPN’s Chris Haynes.
"He said he was at a hair salon," McDonough told reporters regarding the infamous tweet. "It wasn't about the Suns or anything related to the Suns. He said he was at a hair salon with his girl and that he didn't wanna be there anymore.”
The GM continued, ”I don't believe that to be true. We thought about it and talked about it with [owner] Robert [Sarver] and my staff and Coach Triano and his staff and decided it's what's best for the organization."
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the team is actively engaged with several teams in trade talks for Bledsoe, so naturally the question becomes where the talented combo guard will end up.
Here are four logical and realistic places where he may be headed in the coming days.
For a team with an insane amount of depth, the Nuggets have struggled to receive consistent production from the point guard position in recent seasons.
Jamal Murray, who started the first three games of the year for Denver, is not a traditional point guard and Emmanuel Mudiay has not progressed over his short career despite receiving ample opportunities to prove himself. Mudiay has reportedly already been a subject of discussion between the two clubs.
Matt Moore of CBS Sports explained why the fit for Bledsoe in Denver would be perfect.
"Call this one the Occam's Razor. This is the simplest answer to the Bledsoe debate. Denver has a need at point guard; Emmanuel Mudiay and Jamal Murray were both given opportunities to cry carpe diem in training camp and while neither were awful, neither took the bull by the horns. Bledsoe's athleticism and playmaking would fit with the roster, he's a good enough shooter not to inhibit Nikola Jokic, he can play on and off-ball effectively, and his athleticism would be beneficial,” he wrote.
Via ESPN’s Trade Machine, if the Nuggets sent Mudiay and proven forward Kenneth Faried (who is currently playing a small rotational role in Denver) to Phoenix for Bledsoe, it would work out financially. It would also make sense for both teams involved.
New York Knicks
ESPN’s Ian Begley reported that the Knicks were one of the many teams reaching out about the point guard. According to him, the Suns asked about 2017 first-round pick Frank Ntilikina as well as second-year center Willy Hernangomez, but the Knicks were opposed to trading both of them.
It’s worth mentioning that Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek coached Bledsoe for two-plus seasons in Phoenix. The point guard has spoken fondly of his former coach to the media and after Knicks practice on Monday, Hornacek was asked about his former player.
“Eric’s a great player,” Hornacek told reporters, per Marc Berman of the New York Daily News. “He’s had a lot of success last year, he had success with us. I’m not over there so I don’t know what’s going on.’’
Although the Knicks won’t trade Ntilikina or Hernangomez, there is a chance that they could come up with some kind of deal for Bledsoe, who they would pair with Kristaps Porzingis to create a dynamic and versatile offensive attack.
Per ESPN’s Trade Machine, combining veteran guard Courtney Lee with either Kyle O’Quinn or Mindaugas Kuzminskas and a draft pick or two could possibly do the trick and would work financially.
Los Angeles Clippers
On Sunday afternoon, Clippers center DeAndre Jordan tweeted the following, seemingly to Bledsoe:
While he didn’t mention him by name, it seemed rather obvious who he was referring to. The two were teammates for three seasons and Bledsoe never was able to reach his potential in LA due to a lack of opportunity.
Now, with Chris Paul gone and rookie Milos Teodosic dealing with a plantar fascia injury, the Clippers would undoubtedly benefit from the 27-year-old guard’s abilities.
Unfortunately for the Clippers, they don’t have much to offer. As Adam Fromal of Bleacher Report pointed out, the Clippers can’t offer a first-round pick until the 2021 Draft due to the Stepien Rule and the nature of their roster. They also don’t have any young players who are regarded to have star potential.
According to ESPN’s trade machine, the most logical trade that could work financially would feature Austin Rivers, Brice Johnson and Sindarius Thornwell heading to Phoenix in exchange for Bledsoe. The Clippers could throw in a second-round pick or two or a future first-rounder to sweeten the deal, but that would be contingent upon Doc Rivers being comfortable with the franchise trading away his son.
Therefore, it could happen, but it’s far from a certainty.
According to Tim Montemayor of 1580 The Fanatic radio, the Bucks have offered veteran forward Greg Monroe, young center Thon Maker and a protected pick for Bledsoe.
There is no word on whether or not the Suns are interested in the deal, but it’s worth mentioning that Bledsoe would be an upgrade over reigning Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon. Therefore, not only would a Monroe and Maker trade work financially, but perhaps a Monroe and Brogdon deal would tempt the Suns to pull the trigger.
While Milwaukee luckily has superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo on their squad, no one has stepped up to provide scoring alongside him on a consistent basis. Therefore, Bledsoe could do just that in what would be a huge pickup for a team that might end up surprising some people in the Eastern Conference this year.
Of the four teams, picking up Monroe, a proven low-post scorer, as well as either Maker or Brogdon would perhaps be the most attractive of the four options.
It will be fascinating to see where Bledsoe ends up.
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