Why the Suns want to ship out Eric Bledsoe is, in a tweet, obvious. The guard tweeted “I don’t wanna be here” the day after a 42-point loss to the Clippers, leaving Phoenix with little choice but to remove the potential locker room contagion. But why Detroit would want to be on the receiving end of the trade—especially if, as Basketball Insiders’ Michael Scotto reported Thursday, that means giving up Reggie Jackson and a first-round pick—raises a lot of questions.
Bledsoe holds the edge over Jackson when it comes to defensive ability and contract flexibility. Jackson is still owed about $51 million over the next three years of the five-year, $80 million deal he signed in 2015. Bledsoe, on the other hand, will enter free agency in 2019 and will make about $2 million less per year in the meantime. Both guards are often injured, both are 27 years old, and both aren’t big offensive threats from the outside, and their career scoring (13.1 for Bledsoe, 12.3 for Jackson) and assist (4.6, 4.4) averages are similar. Both also began their careers backing up two of the NBA’s best point guards before being traded away and getting chances to run (lesser) teams.
So why give up a first-rounder? Bledsoe is not the sort of point guard who can take the 5-3 Pistons much further than Jackson, who admittedly has played well to start this season, can. If the offer is what has been reported, the biggest benefit would seem to be more addition by subtraction.
Stan Van Gundy is notoriously outspoken. When it comes to displeasure with Jackson, he’s not alone. After the Pistons went on a losing streak last season that coincided with Jackson’s return from injury, Van Gundy told ESPN in so many words — eight, to be exact — that Jackson was to blame. “Reggie came back, and we’ve struggled ever since,” Van Gundy said.
After denying persistent trade rumors last season, Van Gundy even admitted that the front office is “always seeing what’s out there.” Jackson has looked rejuvenated this season (and the Pistons have, too, along with him), but his millstone contract still looms. Any deal involving the Pistons’ starting guard might be more about a fresh start for SVG. Although the Suns’ front office is only losing value the longer it keeps Bledsoe homebound, Jackson’s contract might be enough to turn its attention elsewhere.