The NBA season is rapidly approaching with training camp beginning in less than two weeks.
While most NBA teams have finalised rosters, Eric Bledsoe, who became a restricted free agent on July 1, remains unsigned.
The Phoenix Suns offered Bledsoe, who averaged 17.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 5.5 last season, a four-year, $US48 million contract earlier in the summer. The contract would have made Bledsoe one of the top-10 highest-paid point guards in the NBA.
Bledsoe declined, instead hoping for a maximum, five-year, $US84-million contract. But the Suns aren’t willing to give Bledsoe that much because he missed 39 games in the 2013-2014 season because of an injury. The maximum contract would be a big investment in a player who remains somewhat of an unknown.
Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Chris Hayes reported earlier this month that the two sides haven’t spoken in months.
Restricted free agency allows teams to match any offers their free agents receive, and it’s become a hotly contested part of the NBA in recent years. It’s designed to help small-market or capped-out teams keep good, young players on their rosters instead of losing them to bigger, better, or more financially flexible teams.
Restricted free agency is tricky. The free agents’ original teams are often afraid to make the first offer because they don’t want to overpay without seeing what other teams offer. On the other hand, teams with cap space are hesitant to make offers to restricted free agents, because it’s tough to strike a perfect medium. Under-offer, and the original team will match; over-offer, and you’re paying too much for a free agent.
As the season approaches, Bledsoe is running out of options, as Phoenix doesn’t seem likely to budge. LeBron James recently put up an Instagram of he and Bledsoe working out together (they share the same agent, Rich Paul) with the message “break bread,” suggesting Phoenix should give Bledsoe the full max.
If neither side is willing to meet somewhere between $US48 million and $US84 million, Bledsoe’s best option may be taking the qualifying offer of one year, $US3.7 million. He would become an unrestricted free agent next summer and have the ability to go to whichever team he desires. The Detroit Pistons’ Greg Monroe took the same route earlier this summer when he, too, didn’t receive any offers as a restricted free agent.
With training camp around the corner, the Suns may be without one of their best players and Bledsoe may still be unemployed.
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