POSTED: Sep 24, 2014 6:47 PM ET
UPDATED: Sep 24, 2014 8:27 PM ET
The Phoenix Suns and restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe ended their months-long dance around one another Wednesday by reaching agreement on a new five-year, $70 million deal that will give the Suns one of the best, if not the best, three-guard rotations in the NBA.
Bledsoe had rejected the club's four-year, $48 million offer it made earlier this summer, looking for a max deal. Phoenix rejected that notion out of hand, starting a staredown that lasted most of the summer and threatened to carry over into the start of training camp this weekend. But the club moved off its $12 million per year stance and now will pay Bledsoe $14 million annually through 2019, a higher per-year average than several of the league's top point guards have on their current deals, including Golden State's Stephen Curry, Denver's Ty Lawson and Toronto's Kyle Lowry, who signed a four-year, $48 million deal this summer.
There is no early termination clause in Bledsoe's deal, according to a source.
Phoenix acquired Bledsoe, 24, from the Clippers, where he'd spent his first three seasons after leaving Kentucky after one year there. Long thought of as one of the quickest and best defensive young guards in the league, Bledsoe wanted a chance at more minutes, which he would have never gotten if he'd stayed in Los Angeles behind Chris Paul.
Bledsoe averaged 17.7 points and 5.5 assists last season for Phoenix, teaming with Goran Dragic to lead the Suns to an improbable run at the playoffs which only ended the final week of the regular season. Phoenix strengthened its backcourt further (and also got some insurance in case it couldn't re-sign Bledsoe) by getting guard Isaiah Thomas from Sacramento in a sign-and-trade deal in July.
Given Bledsoe's injury history -- he missed two months last season following knee surgery, and was injured for large chunks of his time with the Clippers -- the new deal may seem a risk. But it's a reasonable gamble for the Suns, given that the new television deal the NBA is likely to strike in the coming months with its national television partners (including Turner Sports, which operates NBA.com) is likely to inject billions more dollars in revenues to the teams.
That, in turn, will lead to significant raises for players who can command max salaries, which can run up to 30 percent of a team's salary cap in a given year. In that climate, $14 million per year for a player who's likely entering the prime of his career is a fair compromise, both for the Suns and Bledsoe.
With the days dwindling before the start of camp, Bledsoe was left with few options if he and the team couldn't agree on a deal. All that was left was signing the one-year, $3.7 million qualifying offer which would have made him an unrestricted free agent next summer, but run the risk of having nothing further guaranteed if he'd suffered an injury this coming season. While some teams had expressed interest in doing a sign-and-trade with Phoenix for Bledsoe, none of their offers impressed the Suns enough to pull the trigger.
Yahoo! Sports first reported the completed deal.