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 Windhorst 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.