All hell broke loose a little bit ago on Twitter with the report from Fox10 in Phoenix and then Brian Windhorst from ESPN.com that the Minnesota Timberwolves were making a run at restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe with a max contract offer sheet. Bledsoe has been battling the Phoenix Suns all summer long, waiting for them to show up on his doorstep with a max offer. The problem is Rich Paul, Bledsoe’s agent, never set the market for his client like what happened with Gordon Hayward, so there hasn’t been any push between Bledsoe wanting the max and Phoenix offering four years and $48 million.
With less than two weeks until training camps start and no resolution in sight, someone decided to put some pressure on the Suns in a last ditch effort to force their hands. Windhorst says sources have told him the Wolves are making a push at a sign-and-trade with a max offer sheet on the other side of that transaction rainbow. From ESPN:
With just days before the start of training camp, the Minnesota Timberwolves are making a final push to acquire restricted free-agent guard Eric Bledsoe in a sign-and-trade with the Phoenix Suns, sources told ESPN.com.
The Wolves are offering Bledsoe the four-year, $63 million maximum level contract that he has been seeking, sources said, but because of cap restrictions, the only way he can join the team as currently constructed is through a sign-and-trade deal. Bledsoe and the Suns have been in a stalemate all summer after the team offered him a four-year, $48 million deal in July.
Now let’s talk about why none of this is likely to happen and why it’s being talked about:
1. The Wolves don’t have the cap space — like they don’t have any cap space. The NBA salary cap is just over $63 million and the Wolves have just over $70 million committed. In order to be able to actually offer an offer sheet to Bledsoe, they’d need to clear roughly $21.7 million from their existing commitments to make the offer be a real thing.
2. Because of the cap space issues in this situation, the Suns have to agree to a sign-and-trade for the Wolves to even get a shot at acquiring Eric Bledsoe. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, they don’t want to even discuss a potential trade unless an All-Star is coming back in the deal. I’m sure they’d change their tune for Andrew Wiggins, but the Wolves aren’t even going to pretend to entertain that so it’s a nonstarter. Because of the lack of sign-and-trade possibilities, I could offer Bledsoe a max offer sheet and it would mean the same as Flip Saunders doing it.
3. Even if the Suns did want to entertain a sign-and-trade possibility with the Wolves, there are so many complications in getting a package together the Wolves would be willing to give up and the Suns would even consider accepting (outside of Wiggins, of course). I wrote about it a bit on CBSSports.com:
Secondly, a sign-and-trade between these two teams is also complicated. The Wolves would have to offer up about $10-11 million in returning salary. The Suns aren’t just going to give Bledsoe away to give him away. You’re probably talking a draft pick in return and/orRicky Rubio as the starting point. That’s not impossible by any means but the Suns have Goran Dragic and don’t exactly need a backcourt of Dragic and Rubio together. They wouldn’t play off each other the same way Bledsoe and Dragic did.
The Suns aren’t going to accept Nikola Pekovic’s $47.9 million owed over the next four seasons. They’re probably not thrilled about taking Corey Brewer at $9.6 million over the next two years, Kevin Martin’s $21.2 million over the next three years, or Chase Budinger’s $10 million over the next two years (considering his knee injury). You could maybe package Rubio, J.J. Barea’s expiring deal, and another player plus a pick, but it still doesn’t make a lot of sense with the Rubio-Dragic pairing unless they believe Dragic may leave in free agency too in 2015 if he opts out.
4. There are two reasons why it makes sense for this rumor to be leaked to the press. First, Rich Paul hasn’t been able to get anywhere on his client’s restricted free agency with getting a max offer sheet because he took too long to take it seriously. It turns out when he’s not representing the best player in the world, he’s not a very good agent. Secondly, the Wolves currently need to find a little leverage to keep Ricky Rubio’s contract extension number down.
Dan Fegan wants to leverage Rubio’s potential stardom into a big offer from the Wolves before the October 31 deadline for contract extensions involving the 2011 rookie class. The Wolves having a backup option in a potential Bledsoe deal (if we pretend it’s possible) takes away a lot of leverage. Whether the Wolves or Rich Paul leaked this out to the media, it is theoretically beneficial for both. My money would be on it being Bledsoe’s camp leaking it out. The Wolves have likely called about Bledsoe at some point but it going beyond a courtesy call seems unlikely without Kevin Love there to come back in the trade.
5. I’d put the chances of anything happening being around 2-5% and even that seems high, but I guess anything is possible.