Bledsoe’s numbers are solid, but he has never been the leader of a team, never been the full-time point guard for a team, and has yet to prove that he can stay healthy on a consistent basis.
With Derrick Rose, Greg Oden, and Brandon Roy fresh in our heads as players who have had their careers hindered or ended by knee injuries, Bledsoe having torn his meniscus twice in the same knee is more than enough to give me a pause. But just as disturbing is how Bledsoe has handled this free agency situation.
I am all for players trying to get their money in free agency, but a refusal of anything but a maximum contract and not even negotiating after a 43 game sample is mind boggling. Stephen Curry, Rajon Rondo, Ty Lawson, and Kyle Lowry all had either equal or superior accomplishments when negotiating new contracts, and all will be making $12 million or less this year.
The Lakers must be very careful about how they choose to spend their money as they try to assemble this team heading into the post-Kobe era. They must resist the temptation of overspending on players who aren’t deserving of that type of money as it could turn a two-year rebuilding project into a five-year project.
There could be six excellent point guard options in free agency next summer and quite frankly, the gap in potential between Bledsoe and everyone else isn’t big at all — surely not enough to pay him significantly more than the rest.
If the Lakers feel like they have to bring in a maximum contract point guard, bringing Rajon Rondo from the dark side into the light is the easy decision. He’s only 28 years old, has championship experience, and makes his teammates better. You know what you’re getting in Rondo and he could be perfect to bridge the gap from Kobe to the Lakers’ next superstar.
If the Lakers insist on going a little younger, there are a couple of restricted free agents who may be had. Reggie Jackson has put up similar per-36 numbers as Bledsoe. He faces the same questions as Bledsoe about running a team full-time, but the Thunder may not be able to bring him back since they with have so much money tied into Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka.
Jackson also has playoff experience and showed the ability to step up when it matters most with a 32 point, nine rebound performance in a crucial first-round game against the Memphis Grizzlies. Add in the fact that he could come $3-4 million cheaper than Bledsoe and it’s a no-brainer.
A little more qualified, but a lot less likely would be Kemba Walker. Someone else who put up similar numbers to Bledsoe, but has been the full-time starter for the last two seasons and improved his numbers in the playoffs despite the Charlotte Hornets’ best player, Al Jefferson, being less than 100 percent for the series.
With another full season ahead of us, things could always change. Lin-sanity could be re-created in Los Angeles or Jordan Clarkson could wind up being a Gilbert Arenas-like find in the second-round. Bledsoe could become an All-Star or Rondo could struggle to return from his injury from two years ago.
But one thing is for sure, the Lakers need to find their point guard of the future. At the end of the day, there are too many injuries and good options available for the Lakers to throw a max contract at Eric Bledsoe.[divide]
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