Last month, Bryan outlined a strategy that a cap-savvy/healthy team like the Sixers could utilize in restricted free agency: offering a hefty contract in the hopes of either landing a borderline all-star, or as a consolation prize, driving up his price for a competitor.
As we’ve seen with the Mavericks signing of Chandler Parsons (three years, $46 million) and the Hornets attempt to pry away Gordon Hayward from the Jazz (4/63), the restricted free-agency market is a dicey game. The Sixers, in spite of their cap room, have chosen to avoid it thus far, but there are still a few RFAs, including Greg Monroe and Eric Bledsoe, that they could go after. The latter is reportedly far apart in contract talks with Phoenix and Philly, with more than $30 million in cap room, is in a unique position to make a play for the talented combo-guard.
Following up on @AminESPN‘s comments on Eric Bledsoe’s market drying up, Sixers only team I see with room to make max offer to him now.
— Kevin Pelton (@kpelton) July 15, 2014
@kpelton value-wise, it would be worth it (rising cap will make it a bargain in two years). But then he makes them too good!
— Amin Elhassan (@AminESPN) July 15, 2014
So, the Sixers are the only team not from Phoenix with the flexibility to jump in and make Ryan McDonough sweat.
Sources: Suns offered Eric Bledsoe 4-year, $48 million contract. Bledsoe wants max of 5 years, $80 million. Sides far apart
— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) July 17, 2014
This puts the Suns in a predicament. While Bledsoe is a dynamic, two-way player, a max contract could restrict their spending in the near- and possibly long-term.1 Losing Bledsoe would hurt, but with Goran Dragic and the newly acquired Isaiah Thomas already in the backcourt they have replacements. The Suns proved last year that they could get by without Bledsoe, going 20-19 in the competitive Western Conference while their second-leading scorer sat out with shin and knee injuries.
The Sixers, meanwhile, would be in a better position to take on Bledsoe’s max without inhibiting their long-term plans. In the next year or two, they’d lose some of their coveted flexibility, but would still possess more than enough cap space to facilitate trades and do Hinkie things. (Keep in mind that with a new TV deal kicking in, the cap is expected to raise as high as $80 million, something that the Suns, Sixers and Bledsoe are keenly aware of. In other words, a max contract this summer could very well be a bargain two years from now.)
The fit could be interesting too. The Sixers were rumored to have spoken to Exum about running a two-point guard lineup, and Bledsoe is coming from the same double-alpha dog system in Phoenix. A lineup that includes Bledsoe, MCW, Nerlens Noel, and Joel Embiid has all the makings of a lock-down defense.
There are cons as well. For one, he’s injury prone; he’s missed 87 games over the past three seasons. While his defense is strong, his offense is questionable. He’s turnover prone (3.3 a game last season) and he’s a poor, albeit improving shooter, as he converted about 36 percent of his 140 three-point attempts last season to up his career rate to just below 33 percent. Not exactly the ideal lights-out off-ball guard to place next to MCW and the twin towers, if and when they take the floor.
That said, fit and injury history certainly haven’t scared Hinkie off before, and 24 year-old talents like Bledsoe don’t come along often. He’s an intriguing option, one to keep in mind while his camp and Phoenix’s continue their negotiations.
1. ShamSports has Phoenix with $34,878,911 on the books for next season, plus the cap holds for Bledsoe, the newly drafted Tyler Ennis, restricted free agent PJ Tucker and Leandro Barbosa. Throw in max money for Bledsoe, Tucker’s new three-year. $16.5 million contract, Ennis’ deal for what is likely to be 120 percent of the rookie scale and whatever happens to Barbosa and Phoenix only has around $5 million to add anyone else this season to upgrade their fringe playoff team in the loaded West.