Phoenix Suns Rumors

Suns Plan Long-Term Deal For Goran Dragic

September 25 at 9:58am CDT By Chuck Myron

One member of Phoenix’s dynamic backcourt has committed to remain for the foreseeable future, with Eric Bledsoe having re-signed for five years and $70MM, and Suns GM Ryan McDonough wants to make sure that’s the case for Goran Dragic, too. McDonough expressed a desire to do what it takes to keep the Slovenian guard, who has said he plans to decline his $7.5MM player option for 2015/16 and hit free agency next summer, as Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic reports.

“We don’t have many long-term commitments,” McDonough said. “We have every intention of keeping Goran in a Suns uniform as long as possible. We know he loves Phoenix. There’s plenty of money for Goran next year or when it comes up. We fully anticipate taking care of him.”

The Suns only have about $31MM tied up for 2015/16, not counting Dragic’s player option, more than $7MM in rookie scale team options for Alex Len, Miles Plumlee and Archie Goodwin, and potential extensions for Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris. That should still leave plenty of room for a lucrative new deal with Dragic, though Phoenix has his Bird rights, as thus the power to exceed the cap to re-sign him, if the Suns deem it necessary.

Dragic caught the eye of many teams around the league last season as he won the NBA’s Most Improved Player award in a year in which he scored 20.3 points per game after never having averaged as many as 15 PPG. The Pacers appeared to have interest in trading for him early this summer, and the Rockets have reportedly been considering a push to sign him in free agency next summer. The Lakers were apparently among the teams likely to make a play for both Bledsoe and Dragic in the hopes that the Suns would be unable to re-sign the two of them if they were to hit unrestricted agency at the same time in 2015, but Bledsoe’s long-term deal undermines any such plans. The Suns are nearing a deal with Zoran Dragic, Goran’s younger brother, and that would presumably give Phoenix another edge in keeping the older Dragic around.

Eric Bledsoe Re-Signs With Suns

September 24 at 10:48pm CDT By Eddie Scarito

10:48pm: The deal is official, the team has announced.

10:45pm: Bledsoe’s first-year salary starts at $13MM and the deal has annual raises of $500K, Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic tweets. Coro also adds that the agreement contains no trade kickers or early termination options, and confirms the earlier information that there are no player or team options.

4:49pm: The Suns and Eric Bledsoe have come to terms on a five-year, $70MM deal, Brian "<strongWindhorst of ESPN.com reports (Twitter link). The deal is fully-guaranteed and contains no options, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports notes. The max that the Suns could have given Bledsoe over five seasons is $84,789,500, so it appears he’s taking significantly less than that, given the reported $70MM figure. Still, it’s more total money than the $62,965,420 over four years that Bledsoe could have received in an offer sheet from another team, so Bledsoe can claim that victory.

This will conclude a Summer-long impasse that began when Bledsoe balked at Phoenix’s initial four-year, $48MM offer, and relayed his unwillingness to re-sign for anything less than superstar money. The former first-rounder out of Kentucky had expressed a willingness to sign the Suns’  $3.7MM qualifying offer rather than settle on a contract below the max. This would have been a dangerous gamble by the Rich Paul client given that he is coming off of a serious knee injury that limited him to 43 games last season.

Bledsoe reportedly hasn’t been in Phoenix since the season ended in April, and team management had relayed that there had not been much direct communication between the player and the team since then. There were concerns that the relationship between the two parties had fractured and the point guard’s departure after this season would be almost assured. This signing puts those concerns to bed, but now Bledsoe has to live up to the figures he will be paid.

The 24-year old was enjoying a breakout season before injuring his meniscus, averaging 17.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG, and 5.5 APG. His slash line was .477/.357/.772. But this was such a small sample size that it’s difficult to predict what Phoenix can expect out of Bledsoe the next five years seeing as his previous best was 8.5 PPG for the Clippers during the 2012/13 season when he was Chris Paul‘s backup.

Teams were reluctant to sign Bledsoe to an offer sheet, especially at max money. As the Summer wore on and most teams had used most if not all of their available cap space, the player’s options seemed extremely limited, which makes this signing a coup for Bledsoe’s camp. The Timberwolves were the only team to go on record as being willing to offer Bledsoe max money in a sign-and-trade deal, though Phoenix indicated they had no interest in letting Bledsoe go for anything less than a star player. With Kevin Love already departed for Cleveland, this left the Wolves with little to offer the Suns outside newly acquired Andrew Wiggins, who wouldn’t have made much sense for Minnesota to deal after their marketing campaign for the upcoming season centered around the No. 1 overall pick’s presence on the roster.

The hope in Phoenix is that Bledsoe’s performance wasn’t a contract-year fluke, and that he will regain his pre-injury form that made the starting backcourt of he and Goran Dragic so explosive. Phoenix is stacked in the backcourt with Bledsoe, Dragic, the recently signed Isaiah Thomas, and first-round draftee Tyler Ennis, so Bledsoe’s minutes and production may decline as a result.

Western Notes: Thunder, Clippers, Bledsoe

September 24 at 8:31pm CDT By Eddie Scarito

The Thunder revealed that the name for their new D-League team will be the Oklahoma City Blue in a press release they issued earlier today. As for why that name was chosen, Brian Byrnes, the Thunder’s senior vice president of Sales and Marketing said, “Blue is one of our primary Thunder colors, but it has become more than just a color for us. It has come to represent the passion, loyalty and unity of our fans and our community in their support for our team. Our players wear it proudly on their uniforms, our fans sport Thunder blue shirts, Thunder blue flags fly across Oklahoma and our statewide Blue Alliance fan groups show their connection to our team and what it stands for.”

Here’s more from out west:

  • Clippers president and head coach Doc Rivers praised the offseason addition of Spencer Hawes, and said the center turned down larger offers to come to Los Angeles, Dan Woike of the Orange County Register writes. Rivers said, “I thought he was a great fit. Because of salary and where we’re at, I didn’t think we could get him.” The coach also noted in the article that the franchise getting to the point where players will take less money to play there is a positive sign.
  • Clippers owner Steve Ballmer hopes to have a team president who will handle day-to-day operations of the team in place soon, Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times reports (Twitter link).
  • Ballmer also announced that Eric Miller, former owner Donald Sterling’s son-in-law, has left his position as director of basketball administration, Dan Woike of the Orange County Register tweets.
  • The Suns are reportedly set to re-sign Eric Bledsoe to a five-year, $70MM extension, and Steve Kyler and Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders debate whether it was a mistake on Phoenix’s part.
  • Shareef Abdur-Rahim is no longer with the Kings, Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee reports. Abdur-Rahim was the director of player personnel and GM of of the Reno Bighorns, the Kings’ NBA D-League team.

Bledsoe, Suns Renew Talks

September 24 at 3:30pm CDT By Cray Allred

WEDNESDAY, 3:30pm: Both Bledsoe and his agent, Rich Paul, traveled to Phoenix today to meet with Suns management to discuss a new deal, Wojnarowski reports (Twitter links). No agreement is in place, but significant progress has been made according to Wojnarowski’s sources.

TUESDAY,10:00pm: In his full story, Wojnarowski adds that tomorrow’s round of negotiations are expected to be crucial in determining whether the two sides can come to terms on a contract before training camp. Phoenix has only increased their offer to approximately $50MM, a $500K difference in annual salary and still well below the max, according to Wojnarowski’s sources.

9:01pm: The Suns and Eric Bledsoe have made progress in the last few days on a new contract, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports tweets. The two sides had been in a stalemate since Bledsoe balked at Phoenix’s initial four-year, $48MM offer. The Yahoo! scribe says a deal is not imminent, but that serious progress is being made.

Bledsoe had signaled a willingness to sign the Suns’ qualifying offer rather than settle on a contract below the max. The Rich Paul client had been seeking sign-and-trade opportunities with other teams, but Phoenix hasn’t been eager to facilitate any such move according to the latest reports. The most notable suitor was Minnesota, as the Wolves were reportedly willing to give the point guard a maximum salary had Phoenix been open to dealing for anyone on their roster.

While Bledsoe’s camp has been unwilling to budge, the Suns have been open to upping their offer. If the explosive point guard signs for less than a virtual max contract, however, Phoenix will have gotten the better end of the market this summer. While Chandler Parsons (near max) and Gordon Hayward (full max) were signed to lucrative offer sheets as restricted free agents, Phoenix effectively spooked other teams from inking Bledsoe to the same by insisting they would match any such offer. It’s clear that at least one team would have valued Bledsoe at the max on the open market, but Phoenix is attempting to use the mechanics of restricted free agency to secure him for the long term for substantially less.

Zoran Dragic, Suns Nearing Deal

September 24 at 9:32am CDT By Cray Allred

9:32am: Dragic’s agents have informed the Spanish team that the Suns have a two-year offer on the table and that the guard will buy out his contract, freeing him to head to Phoenix, Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia reports (Twitter link).

THURSDAY, 9:11am: Dragic has told Unicaja Malaga that the Suns have made him an offer, Guerra tweets.

TUESDAY, 7:55am: There’s no October 5th deadline in Dragic’s contract with Unicaja Malaga, so he can leave the team to come to the NBA after that date should he choose to do so, reports Rafael M. Guerra of La Opinión de Málaga (translation via Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia). Goran Dragic would likely pick up part of the tab for the buyout necessary to bring his brother to the Suns, Guerra adds.

SUNDAY, 1:30pm: The Suns have emerged as the frontrunners to sign Dragic, Marc Stein of ESPN.com reports (Twitter links). The guard is likely to land a two year deal, notes Stein.

SATURDAY, 9:21 pm: Zoran Dragic is in advanced discussions with Unicaja Malaga to leave the team and come to the NBA, tweets Shams Charania of RealGM. The Slovenian point guard has a buyout clause of $1.1MM to leave the Euroleague team, so presumably he has an agreement in place with an NBA squad. It’s possible that the team could have relinquished its buyout requirement, or that Dragic is paying for it himself, but it is much more likely that an NBA team is set to foot the bill.

The Suns, Pacers, and Kings have been named as the most aggressive suitors for the younger brother of Goran Dragic, although the Cavs, Heat, Magic, Spurs, Mavs, and Rockets have also registered interest. If Phoenix has struck a deal with the 25-year-old, it could have massive ripple effects around the league. The Suns are at a negotiating standoff with restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe, and adding another Dragic to the already-stacked Phoenix backcourt could signal their willingness to move on from Bledsoe, who Minnesota would bring on with a max contract if they had the room to do so.

Momentum has been building all summer for the younger Dragic, who has until October 5th to exercise the escape clause before becoming locked into another season overseas. At one point, it seemed like a long shot that the point guard would be coming stateside before next season, but he repeatedly stated his desire to find his way to the NBA amid a strong performance in the FIBA tournament spotlight. The hefty buyout payment, which exceeds the $600K max to not count against the cap, could mean that at least one team believes in him as a player who can contribute immediately. If Dragic fetches more than the minimum from a team willing to invest in his services, the Cavs, Heat, and Mavs are unlikely candidates to have snagged him.

And-Ones: Cap, Walker, Bledsoe, Rubio, Wiggins

September 23 at 11:43am CDT By Chuck Myron

Some teams think the salary cap will jump above $70MM for next season, as Grantland’s Zach Lowe reports, though Lowe’s dispatch from a week ago indicated that the league has told clubs not to get carried away with their projections for the time being. Clarity on the matter will be important, especially for clubs with players up for extensions to their rookie-scale contracts before the October 31st deadline. Lowe’s latest piece centers on one such case, as the Hornets face a decision about whether to extend Kemba Walker, whom rival executives often say isn’t a “championship point guard,” according to Lowe. We’ll pass along another tidbit from the Grantland scribe amid the latest from around the league:

  • The Suns haven’t shown much interest in sign-and-trades involving Eric Bledsoe, Lowe hears, advancing Friday’s report from Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports that threw cold water on the idea that Bledsoe would end up with the Wolves.
  • The Wolves and Ricky Rubio‘s camp remain in a stalemate in extension negotiations in part because agents Dan Fegan and Jarinn Akana know that the Knicks and Lakers can open cap space next summer, writes Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities (Twitter links).
  • Rumors as late as the eve of the draft suggested that the Cavs were conflicted about whom to take No. 1 overall, but coach David Blatt insists the team had settled on Andrew Wiggins long before making him the top pick, as Blatt tells Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer. Cleveland didn’t hold on to Wiggins for long, of course, shipping him to the Wolves in the Kevin Love trade.
  • Nazr Mohammed‘s contract with the Bulls is non-guaranteed for the minimum salary and covers just one season, reports Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders (Twitter link).
  • Clippers signee Jared Cunningham rejected a deal from Serbia’s KK Partizan to instead try his hand at making the opening-night roster in L.A. on his non-guaranteed contract, tweets David Pick of Eurobasket.com.

Pacific Notes: Bledsoe, Lakers, Griffin, Redick

September 22 at 7:05pm CDT By Charlie Adams

When the Suns made it clear they weren’t interested in working out a sign-and-trade that would send Eric Bledsoe to the Wolves, teams around the league started presenting Phoenix with offers of their own for the restricted free agent, writes David Aldridge of NBA.com. Bledsoe and the Suns have until October 1st to work out a new deal, or else the talented young guard is reportedly poised to sign the team’s qualifying offer which would otherwise expire that day. Here’s more from the Pacific Division..

  • The Lakers would be a logical destination for Bledsoe, writes Aldridge in the same piece. Steve Nash‘s old age and the club’s cap flexibility next summer help make Los Angeles a realistic landing spot for the 24-year-old, opines Aldridge.
  • Blake Griffin opposed the idea that he and his Clippers teammates should mount a protest last spring in the immediate wake of the Donald Sterling controversy, believing that any such action would lend undue influence to Sterling, as Griffin explains to Zach Baron of GQ. Griffin added that he’s satisfied with the league’s response.
  • J.J. Redick never foresaw a boycott taking place, either, as he tells Jeff Caplan of NBA.com.I always felt we were going to play,” Redick said. “Doc’s [coach Doc Rivers] leadership during the entire situation was outstanding. We followed his lead. He felt we should play. I also was confident that [NBA commissioner] Adam Silver would take the correct course of action before any sort of league-wide protest took place. And Adam did.”

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

Western Notes: McCalebb, Ayon, Bledsoe, Mavs

September 20 at 8:22pm CDT By Cray Allred

Kobe Bryant may not retire following the last two years on his contract with the Lakers, but he is eyeing an ownership stake in the Italian soccer team Bologna FC 1909, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport (translation via Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times). Here’s more from around the West:

  • Bo McCalebb is in discussions with two teams in the Western Conference, a source tells David Pick of Eurobasket.com (Twitter link). This isn’t the first we’ve heard of interest in the 29-year-old Euroleague star point guard. McCalebb is a free agent and wouldn’t require a buyout to join an NBA team for training camp or beyond.
  • The Spurs had offered Gustavo Ayon the veteran’s minimum of $981,084 before the big man chose to sign overseas, Pick tells Hoops Rumors.
  • In a reader chat response, Jabari Davis of Basketball Insiders wonders whether the Wolves will seek a third team to facilitate a sign-and-trade for Eric Bledsoe. Minnesota offered a max deal to the Suns restricted free agent, but Phoenix is reportedly uninterested in shipping him out for anyone on Minnesota’s roster.
  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News takes a look at the Mavericks‘ suddenly crowded backcourt, with incoming veterans in Jameer Nelson and Raymond Felton joining a roster already featuring Monta Ellis and Devin Harris. The team believes the players can coexist without any drama in coach Rick Carlisle‘s system. “A team can never have too many playmakers,” Carlisle said. “They can all play with or without the ball, so in my mind, they aren’t just point guards, they’re basketball players.” 

Western Notes: Bledsoe, Wolves, Warriors

September 19 at 8:35pm CDT By Eddie Scarito

If Eric Bledsoe doesn’t end up with a different team and he ends up signing a qualifying offer from the Suns, then Phoenix is the best possible place to play out the season, Joel Brigham of Basketball Insiders writes. Brigham notes that the Suns have the best training staff in the league, which significantly reduces the risk of Bledsoe incurring an injury that would impact his earning potential next Summer.

Here’s more from out west:

  • Brigham also notes that Bledsoe might not have the same opportunity this year as he did  last season to showcase his talents since the Suns are so deep at the point guard position with Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas, and Tyler Ennis all potentially cutting into Bledsoe’s minutes.
  • The Timberwolves have a tough decision on their hands when it comes to Ricky Rubio, writes Lang Greene of Basketball Insiders. Minnesota is a team in transition and Rubio has proven to be an effective, but not spectacular, floor general. The T’Wolves could either invest in Rubio’s upside or wait for next summer where another franchise could choose to overpay and put pressure on Minnesota to match a max deal.
  • With versatile guard Shaun Livingston in the fold, the Warriors may be closer to title contention than anyone thinks, writes Moke Hamilton in Basketball Insiders‘ season preview of the Warriors. Golden State has one of the league’s very best starting fives (if healthy) and the bench is strong too, but Hamilton’s chief concern is first-year coach Steve Kerr. In his estimation, the effectiveness of Kerr will be one of the most compelling storylines of the year.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Wolves Offer Eric Bledsoe Max Deal

September 19 at 4:53pm CDT By Zach Links

4:53pm: The Suns have no interest in a sign-and-trade deal with Minnesota, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports. According to Wojnarowski’s sources the Suns are only interested in trading Bledsoe for an All-Star, or a potential All-Star player, and had only considered Kevin Love in a possible sign-and-trade scenario with the Wolves.

3:53pm: The Suns own the Wolves’ 2015 first-round pick but it’s top-12 protected.  Removing or reducing the protection could be a part of the Bledsoe talks, tweets Windhorst.

3:25pm: The Wolves are offering Eric Bledsoe a four-year, $63MM maximum level contract, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com.  The offer turns up the heat on the Suns, who have offered the restricted free agent a four-year, $48MM deal.  The Wolves don’t have the necessary cap room to sign the guard outright, so they’d have to swing a sign-and-trade deal with Phoenix.

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Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN reported yesterday that the Wolves were still in talks with the Suns on a sign-and-trade deal even after the completion of the Kevin Love deal.  The possibility of the Wolves making a play for the 24-year-old seemed somewhat remote after Love was shipped to the Cavs, but it’s now very much a reality.

While the Suns and the Rich Paul client have been in a stalemate this summer, Phoenix was reportedly willing to dial up their offer if necessary.  An increase of roughly $15MM probably wasn’t what they had in mind, however.  Bledsoe’s camp made it known to Phoenix and every other team that he was only interested in signing a max contract.  Otherwise, he said he was prepared to sign a one-year, $3.7MM qualifying offer with the Suns that would enable him to become an unencumbered free agent next summer.  Fellow restricted free agent Greg Monroe made the same threat to the Pistons and made good on his promise earlier this summer.

In a sign-and-trade deal, the Suns would want Andrew Wiggins, according to Wolfson (on Twitter).  That’s less-than-preferable for the Wolves, however, and that wouldn’t be a match, according to Wolfson.  This is purely speculative, but since the Wolves were entertaining a Love-for-Bledsoe swap and Wiggins was the primary haul of the Love deal with Cleveland, it’s seems possible that the Wolves would consider including the No. 1 overall pick.

The Suns obviously want to keep Bledsoe (at the right price) but they would still have a very strong backcourt without the Kentucky product.  The Suns have a highly-talented guard in Goran Dragic and the addition of free agent guard Isaiah Thomas on a four-year, $27MM deal would also lessen the sting.  Phoenix also has first-round guard Tyler Ennis in reserve.

Bledsoe averaged 17.7 points and 5.5 assists across 43 games for the Suns last season after being traded from the Clippers.  Unfortunately, he suffered a knee injury which cost him a good chunk of his 2013/14 campaign.

Jude LaCava of FOX 10 in Phoenix (on Twitter) first reported that the Wolves were prepared to offer Bledsoe a max deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.