Suns guard Eric Bledsoe doesn’t want to be in Phoenix. Would he want to be in Orlando?
And perhaps more importantly, would Orlando even want him? (Spoiler alert: Trade proposals below)
On Sunday, Bledsoe tweeted, “I don’t wanna be here.” Many in the media have called it a cryptic tweet, yet the message seemed perfectly clear and direct. The 27-year-old point guard wants out of the desert.
Suns GM Ryan McDonough told reporters that Bledsoe “won’t be with us going forward” and that the team will explore a trade. So the disgruntled guard might get his wish, though with little leverage in trade negotiations and with it being so early in the season, the Suns may not get the return they are hoping for.
Would it make sense for the Magic, an organization longing for a return to the postseason and a face of the franchise, to give the Suns a call? Perhaps even make an offer?
Part of the answer to that questions lies in the Magic’s faith long-term in current point guard Elfrid Payton, who failed to reach an early extension with Orlando prior to the season and will become a restricted free agent in the summer. Payton – with his nightly triple-double potential – is a better distributor and playmaker than Bledsoe, and may actually have a better all-around game. Not to mention he is also four years younger. But Bledsoe is the more explosive of the two, a more dynamic scorer, and a better shooter.
Career assists per 100 possessions: Bledsoe 8.5; Payton 10.9
Career three-point field goal percentage: Bledsoe, 33.4 percent on 2.6 attempts per game; Payton, 29.1 percent on 1.2 attempts per game
Career true shooting percentage: Bledsoe 54.5 percent; Payton 48.7 percent
These days in the NBA, with a premium on outside shooting and spacing, it’s rare to find a starting point guard with range as limited as Payton’s. Perhaps it is no coincidence that with Payton missing the Magic’s 114-93 win over Cleveland and a bulk of the 126-121 loss to the Nets, Orlando has been shooting and making three-pointers at a record clip. Adding a more traditional point guard like Bledsoe could help the Magic further establish themselves as a legitimate three-point shooting team.
Complicating a potential trade this early in the season is that, three games in, the Magic have greatly exceeded expectations. Even with such a small sample size, the front office may not want to disrupt the continuity the Magic have developed after returning the same starting lineup and head coach from last season.
Making a trade work would also be complex due to the disparity in salaries between Bledsoe, who is making $14.5 million this season and $15 million next season, and Payton, who is making $3.3 million in the final year of his rookie contract.
And how much would adding Bledsoe truly improve the Magic? Now in his seventh NBA season, Bledsoe has never made an All-Star team, never had a starring role in the postseason. He’s been stuck on a rebuilding Suns team for four years, and because of injury (or a tanking-motivated shutdown) played in 221 of 328 games prior to this season. The upgrade might be marginal at best.
But, just for fun, here are some trade proposals that would work, according to ESPN.com’s Trade Machine:
Suns get: Elfird Payton and Terrence Ross
Magic get: Eric Bledsoe
Analysis: Magic lose Payton’s playmaking and Ross’ shooting. Too much to give up for the oft-injured Bledsoe, who would be under the Magic’s control for only two years, barring an extension.
Suns get: Elfrid Payton, D.J. Augustin, Mario Hezonja
Magic get: Eric Bledsoe
Analysis: Of all the potential deals between the Magic and Suns, this might make the most sense for both. The Magic get a point guard capable of scoring 20 points per game and spacing the floor and also rid themselves of Augustin’s contract and the disappointment of Hezonja. The Suns get a playmaker that would complement Devin Booker well and gamble on helping Hezonja reach his potential.
Suns get: Aaron Gordon, D.J. Augustin
Magic get: Eric Bledsoe
Analysis: The Magic’s face of the franchise by default, Gordon, would get shipped out of town. This opens up more playing time for rookie Jonathan Isaac, who would start along with Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier, Ross and Bledsoe. The benefit? All five starters have three-point shooting ability. Payton becomes the back-up point guard, or part of a two-point guard set with Bledsoe when the Magic go small, until Orlando decides if they want to retain him in free agency. It’s hard to see the Magic unloading Gordon, even with him approaching restricted free agency and with the added incentive of unloading Augustin’s contract.
As a Magic fan, do you want Bledsoe? Would you part with Payton, or even Gordon, to get him?