If the Phoenix Suns trade 27-year-old guard Eric Bledsoe, there is a decent amount of talent available on the market that they can receive.
Bledsoe has reportedly wanted out for awhile, so it’s possible Phoenix has been feeling the temperature of the room from other executives for weeks now. Although few franchises need a point guard, there are “several teams” in the league with interest in making a move.
Jeff Hornacek, the head coach of the Knicks, was the head coach in Phoenix before he took the new job in New York. However, while the team may have interest in Bledsoe, it’s unlikely they part with their top prospects (via ESPN):
“The Suns have asked about young Knicks such as Frank Ntilikina and Willy Hernangomez in trade talks about guard Eric Bledsoe, sources confirm. But New York have been opposed to trading either young player, sources told ESPN.”
As such, based on current reports, who are the top players that the Suns can receive in exchange for Bledsoe?
Emmanuel Mudiay, Denver Nuggets
Denver recently waived Jameer Nelson, a capable starting point guard, to make room for Richard Jefferson. Moving forward for the Nuggets, Jamal Murray and Emmanuel Mudiay will compete for the starting point guard position.
But if they wanted to make a push for the postseason, Bledsoe is more ready for contention than either option. Denver could offer Mudiay, with the 20-year-old Murray on the bench for another season or two, while Bledsoe is a win-now option to pair with Gary Harris in the backcourt.
Meanwhile, the Suns would get a 21-year-old point guard who could offer immediate relief as a guard alongside Devin Booker. Mudiay has shown flashes of potential and may be the best available player for Phoenix.
They would need to take on the salaries of either Kenneth Faried (who may want out of the organization anyway), Wilson Chandler or Darrell Arthur.
Austin Rivers, Los Angeles Clippers
Many have connected the dots of Bledsoe to Los Angeles, especially as he was already on their roster. The trade also makes sense because rookie point guard Milos Teodosic is out indefinitely.
The most fascinating part of a potential deal is that the player whose contract makes the most sense is Austin Rivers. His father, Doc Rivers, remains the coach of the team but lost control of the front office in the recent offseason.
USA TODAY’s Sam Amick believes the team won’t make a deal because they already have capable ball-handlers with Rivers, Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams on the roster.
However, if the Clippers received word that the Suns would take Rivers, they would be wise to accept and bring Bledsoe back to the squad. He could help them contend for the Western Conference even after losing Chris Paul.
John Henson, Milwaukee Bucks
Milwaukee currently has a logjam in their frontcourt with players like Thon Maker, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Greg Monroe and Mirza Teletovic all serviceable.
This leaves very little room for 26-year-old John Henson to see the floor, as he has played just 16.7 minutes per game to start the season for the Bucks so far. Last season, he played 19.4 minutes per game and Henson eclipsed the twenty-minute just once during the first five seasons of his career.
But his 7-foot frame has legitimate value for an NBA franchise, especially considering the unclear future of league veteran Tyson Chandler in Phoenix.
If the Bucks would throw in a first-round pick, it seems they could hold onto 2017 Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon and still have Bledsoe.
Bobby Portis, Chicago Bulls
Portis likely has a questionable future with Chicago after his recent altercation with Nikola Mirotic. While both players have two years remaining on their contracts, it’s unclear if they’ll be able to co-exist.
During the 2017 NBA Draft, the Bulls used their first-round pick to select Lauri Markannen. He plays the same position as Portis, but Markannen can help spread the floor as an outside shooter.
Even though the contract does not match up well, Chicago has both surplus cap space as well as a trade exception worth $11.4 million from the Jimmy Butler deal acquired in the offseason.
This would be a smart way for the Bulls to build their backcourt with Zach LaVine and Bledsoe, though the Suns would also need to be willing to take a chance on the 22-year-old Portis.
The 6-foot-11 power forward was a first-round pick in 2015 and if he was on the team, rookie Josh Jackson could play his natural position as their small forward for the young core.
Jahlil Okafor, Philadelphia 76ers
Because the Philadelphia 76ers have surplus cap space, they can trade a cheaper contract like Jahlil Okafor and still receive Bledsoe without any other pieces in the mix.
Okafor, 21, is still a project worth trusting even though he does not seem to be part of the process in Philadelphia. However, that may be more because of the fact that Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons and Dario Saric have so much potential for the future of their frontcourt.
Charles Curtis explained why this move could be smart for Phoenix (via For The Win):
Phoenix doesn’t have is a scorer in the middle or among their big men yet — Marquese Chriss looks like he needs more time, as does Dragan Bender. The Suns would get a player two years removed from averaging 17.5 ppg, one who was also a top lottery pick just three years ago. It’s another young asset for a roster filled with them.
While this may be the most exciting option for both parties, all of the other aforementioned deals have trusted reports that link the possibility. This one is pure speculation, though it makes sense and the front office in Philadelphia could open up their hearts to the possibility.
Both teams have surplus cap flexibility, other players can be added on either side.
DunkWire, Austin Rivers, Bobby Portis, Emmanuel Mudiay, Eric Bledsoe, Jahlil Okafor, John Henson, Chicago Bulls, Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns