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The Trail Blazers Should Pass on Eric Bledsoe

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Even if Portland could get him, here’s why they shouldn’t want him.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Eric Bledsoe trade rumors swirled fast and heavy on Monday afternoon as the Phoenix Suns point guard was sent home by his team, certainly evidence of dissatisfaction, perhaps prelude to a deal. It took about 2.2 nanoseconds for the Blazer’s Edge Mailbag inbox to fill up with trade suggestions and queries from readers excited about the possibilities.

Dave Dave Dave!

We missed out on Melo but Bledsoe wants out of Phoenix. He’s already in the west! Could it happen and would that be the most powerhouse guard lineup in the league? It’d make me forget the guys who went to OKC for sure!

Matthew

Though I suspect this is natural to every fan base, the persistent nature of Trail Blazers trade speculation leads me to believe that a large percentage of you carry a latent, perhaps overt, feeling that Portland’s roster isn’t finished yet...that another major player in the fold would be not only desirable, but necessary. If I had to take the temperature of Blazers Nation right now, the thermometer would read, “Optimistic, but not necessarily confident”.

Onward to the possibility of a trade...

Bledsoe passes the contract test with flying colors. He’s owed $14.5 million this year, $15 million next, no options in sight. That’s cheap for a 20 ppg scorer. It’s also a perfect length and amount for a trial in Portland: not so big that it’d overload the tax zone, not so small that it eliminates practical salary exchanges, long enough to be more than a rental, short enough not to mess with future moves. Of all the non-salary-dump, potential-starter-level trades proposed over the summer, Bledsoe’s makes the most sense from a financial perspective.

Neil Olshey traded for Bledsoe once already. It’s hardly conclusive, but once they start coveting a player, the Blazers tend to hold up the boom box for a long time. Olshey was General Manager of the Los Angeles Clippers at the time, but that doesn’t mean the old feelings are gone, right?

But that’s about where it ends for a potential union between Portland and the disaffected Phoenix star. Beyond those two considerations, he fits the roster like a Brussels Sprout in a cheesecake.

Bledsoe’s 21.1 per game scoring average in 2016-17 was legit. It’s not likely he’d keep up that kind of production with the Blazers, however. He commands the ball and stays near the center of the action. Generating high numbers over multiple possessions is a valued trait in starters and stars. He’d be neither in Portland. The Blazers don’t have that many minutes or opportunities to devote to another guard at this point. Bledsoe would not be happy, nor would he look as good, in the role Portland can offer him as a reserve.

Even if he could settle into fewer minutes and fewer dribbles, Bledsoe’s game would throw wrenches into Portland’s system. He’s a career 33% three-point shooter, just barely above Al-Farouq Aminu. He’s at his best when getting to the rim and drawing fouls. If he played in Portland’s second unit, defenses would put a stop to that, recognizing the lack of surrounding shooting and throwing everyone into the lane to frustrate him. If Evan Turner were not sent out in the exchange, he’d wilt next to Bledsoe as they’d demand the same space in which to operate.

There’s more. Jusuf Nurkic stands out as a turnover-prone player in an otherwise-beautiful Portland offense. Bledsoe commits just as many per possession as Nurk...far more than either of Portland’s starting guards. He’s a decent defender but not a game-changer. He’s 27 years old—in his prime—but he failed to reach 70 appearances in four of his seven NBA seasons, playing 66 games last year, only 31 the year before.

In theory, acquiring Bledsoe as a future trade chip would make sense despite the lack of fit. But the same scenarios that argue for a Portland trade—sending out less-talented players—would show that his value isn’t that high if they came to fruition. If the Blazers send out some combination of Meyers Leonard, Moe Harkless, Al-Farouq Aminu, or Noah Vonleh for him, then his role and overall production diminish in Portland, what can they expect to receive in future trades?

A Bledsoe trade only makes sense for Portland if they’re desperate to add talent at any position and/or they can dump salary while doing so. Under those conditions, it’d be a good move. It’s pretty easy to argue that the Blazers would be deeper, and far more imposing on paper, with Bledsoe in the fold than they are currently. On the court and in the locker room, acquiring Bledsoe would likely lead to confusion and frustration for all parties involved. Every scrap of his production would come with corresponding cost to the players around him. Trading for him would look shiny, but let the buyer beware.

You can send your own Mailbag question to blazersub@gmail.com or @DaveDeckard!

—Dave / @davedeckard / @blazersedge / blazersub@gmail.com