Here’s where Eric Bledsoe should go next season as a restricted NBA free agent

August 29

(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Phoenix Suns firecracker Eric Bledsoe and Detroit Pistons big man Greg Monroe are the final two bodies remaining after a smoldering NBA free agency period (we’ve basically made it, guys). They both entered the summer as restricted free agents, have demanded significantly more money than they likely deserve and have been in virtual stalemates since August.

Bledsoe has made it abundantly clear he wants a five-year max contract, or $84 million over five years. Phoenix won’t go anywhere north of four years, $48 million. That gap’s parallel is like me demanding a nonfat Frappuccino with a double shot of espresso and soy milk, and receiving black coffee from a local Denny’s.

Sure, Bledsoe was one of 12 players a season ago to average more than 15 points, five assists and four rebounds per game. But he played in a sliver more than 50 percent of Phoenix’s games and has had injuries derail his production in two of his four years in the league. In the two seasons he’s played more than 70 games and averaged more than 20 minutes played, he’s numbers are bleak: 7.6 points, 3.35 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game.


(Source: Basketball Reference)

The suitors that have emerged for the 24-year-old point guard are Phoenix (if they can get him to seriously lower his asking price), Milwaukee (because why not after what they’ve done this offseason?), Houston (get that rejected Chris Bosh money!) and Sacramento (no more Isaiah Thomas).

Suns Coach Jeff Hornacek is an ardent devotee of a two-guard system, but he has a stockpile of guards on next season’s roster. Playing the absolute smallest of ball seems a touch redundant and ineffective, so if Bledsoe wants to excel, we should take a look at where he can do so, though he very well could play another great couple of seasons with running man Goran Dragic.

Houston has the most developed team nucleus of the suitor pool, having made the postseason in 2014 and shipped backup point guard Jeremy Lin to the Lakers, creating a void and giving Bledsoe the potential to be an offensive upgrade to the defensively savvy Patrick Beverley and a final musketeer to join James Harden and Dwight Howard.

The Kings provide the opportunity to play alongside fellow Kentucky Wildcat and elite centerpiece DeMarcus Cousins and have a need at the point position now that Thomas is no longer on the roster.

Milwaukee has a team with no expectations, a small market, seemingly 400 lengthy power forwards and Jabari Parker.

Playing 10 games against the Southwest Division, seven against the Pacific Division without Sacramento included, nine against the Pacific Division with Sacramento included and two against the Central Division will give us our sample size. This is exclusively taking into account how effective Bledsoe was last season, and despite the hedged petri dish, will give us the most up-to-date analytics with respect to his season splits.

Though his numbers are Southwest-Central comparable, he played eight more games against the Southwest Division. If the Rockets are still bitter about the Bosh ordeal, then they should open their eyes and buy-in on Bledsoe.

Josh Planos has had his work featured at the Wall Street Journal’s The Daily Fix, Chicago Tribune’s RedEye Chicago, Rivals, Bleacher Report, Denver Post Sports, CBS Sports Radio, Fox Sports Radio and ESPN Radio, the ESPN TrueHoop Network, Swish Analytics and The Cauldron. He loves interacting with readers via Twitter (@JPlanos).

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