Eric Bledsoe is out of action while he recovers from a torn meniscus in his right knee, and while the point guard has left open the possibility he could miss the rest of the season, Suns owner Robert Sarver says it won’t affect negotiations this summer. Bledsoe will be a restricted free agent, and while any team can offer him a four-year deal with a starting salary up to 25% of the salary cap, Sarver appears ready to exercise his right to match any such offer, as the owner tells Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic.
“I think we had a pretty good idea of who Eric was when we traded for him,” Sarver said. “So I wouldn’t say we need to see more of him to match any offer. Obviously, we’d like to see more of him because our team plays better when he’s playing. And we’re competing (now), we’re making a playoff run this year. And I think if we can get him back, not only can we make a playoff run, we have a chance to be a team that can win in the playoffs, too.”
Sarver’s comments echo those of GM Ryan McDonough, who said at the beginning of the month that the Suns would do “whatever it takes” to keep the 24-year-old. Other teams could offer Bledsoe four-year contracts worth a total of approximately $60MM, depending on next year’s cap figure, while the Suns could sign the Rich Paul client outright to a five-year deal for between $75MM and $80MM. McDonough noted the team’s relatively clean books in the years ahead, so apparently the team is willing to turn over a sizable chunk of its cap space to the former 18th overall pick it acquired via trade from the Clippers this summer.
McDonough and coach Jeff Hornacek have said Bledsoe will definitely be back on the court this season, and Bickley thinks Bledsoe’s slightly less optimistic tone may simply be a matter of semantics. Regardless, it appears Sarver has already made his decision, based on Bledsoe’s performance so far this year in his first crack as a full-time starter. He’s put up 18.0 points and 5.8 assists per game with a career-high 20.0 PER.