There are many of reasons why the Phoenix Suns have started the season off with a surprising 3-2 record, but the one everyone will -- and should -- point to is the play of Eric Bledsoe.
The 23-year-old point guard who was acquired in an offseason deal that sent Jared Dudley to the Los Angeles Clippers is leading the team with 21.0 points, 7.2 assists and 5.0 rebounds per game, and appears to be the very type of player the team has lacked in recent years.
A bona-fide star.
Bledsoe's breakout is surprising only in that no one knew quite what to expect, as this is the first time as an NBA player that he is a full-time starter and focal point of a team's offense.
Heading into this season, though, the Suns had an opportunity to sign the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Bledsoe to a long-term contract extension, but ultimately could not agree to terms. Now, no matter how well he plays, the former Clipper will become a restricted free agent at the conclusion of the season, which has some worried that this may be a one-year rental, so to speak.
Suns GM Ryan McDonough is not one of those people.
"I feel very confident that he's going to be a Sun long-term," he told Burns and Gambo Wednesday. "We negotiated with Eric and his agents. I think the contract situation was handled very professionally on both ends."
McDonough said he feels good about how Bledsoe's agents approached the contract talks and hopes they feel the same way about the team's front office.
But more than anything, the first-year general manager wants fans to know that the "restricted" in "restricted free agency" is a very important word.
"We can match any offer to Eric next summer," he said. "Another advantage would be we have an extra year to play with. Other teams who are making Eric an offer can offer him four years, we can offer him up to five if we chose to do so.
"So there's some inherent advantages that I just mentioned, also we can give higher percentage increases than another team could give Eric in a contract."
In all, the gist seems to be that if the Suns want to keep Bledsoe, chances are they'll be able to do so. And no, McDonough does not regret being unable to come to an agreement before the season.
"The way I generally feel about restricted free agency is if there is a deal that makes sense, that the team thinks makes good financial sense for them and the agent and player feel like it makes financial sense for them, then they reach a deal," he said.
McDonough added that of the 2010 draft class that Bledsoe is a member of, just a handful of players have agreed to contract extensions, and those were "maximum salary guys." As such, many others were in the same boat as the Suns, who were looking to come to terms with a player who had not yet proven to be a maximum contract player.
After all, while Bledsoe had flashed great potential, he had never put it all together and consistently played like a star.
"Any extensions less than the max can be a little bit tricky, but we knew that going into it and we're very confident that Eric's going to be a Sun for a long time."