Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe is out indefinitely and will require a surgical repair on his right knee according to ESPN’s Marc Stein via twitter.
According to Stein, the severity of the injury is not yet specified, but it’s suspected to be some sort of damage to his meniscus. It’s potentially a season-ending injury for Bledsoe, which would be an absolutely devastating blow for the Suns and their playoff hopes. The 24-year-old was averaging 18.0 PPG, 5.3 APG, 4.3 RPG this season for Phoenix.
Life without Bledsoe will be extremely difficult for the Suns, especially since they only have one other playmaker on their roster in Goran Dragic. The Suns are the feel-good story of the year and many would love to see this team in a playoff series to see what they could do. The question is, can they make it there without him? If Bledsoe opts to remove his meniscus then the typical timetable for a return would be 6-8 weeks. If he choses to repair the meniscus then that would undoubtably end his season. The long term risk of removing the meniscus is probably what will steer Bledsoe’s camp to opt for the repair rather than the removal.
What it means for Phoenix
The Suns are 16-8 in games that Bledsoe has played. In the 10 games that Bledsoe has missed they are 5-5. The good news is that Phoenix plays the Eastern Conference more than any other team in the Western Conference for the remainder of their season. The obvious bad news is that Bledsoe, their second-best player, will be out for a while. If the Suns can play slightly above .500 basketball from here on out then they could sneak in as an 8 seed in the West, but it may be too tall of a task without one of their best playmakers.
Playing .500 ball without Bledsoe would project them to finish with about 45 wins on the season. That’s about the seasonal average in recent years to make the playoffs as an 8 seed in the West. The teams to they will be competing with for those final two spots in the West will be the Mavericks, Nuggets, Timberwolves and possibly the Pelicans. If playing .500 ball means making the playoffs, then I think the Suns have a decent shot at sneaking in.
How it impacts Bledsoe’s contract
Eric Bledsoe will be a restricted free agent this summer. Before the injury, Bledsoe was almost guaranteed to get a max contract from Phoenix, but now things may change. If he indeed misses the remainder of the season then I find it hard to believe that he will command a max-deal from any team out there. We will see how things play out once we get a more clear diagnosis on his injury.
Adding Leandro Barbosa will help, but the only other “true” PG on their roster other than Dragic is Ish Smith. Nothing against Smith, but if you want to make the playoffs then you cannot have him playing heavy minutes.
It will be interesting to see what the Suns do around the trade deadline. If they are indeed buyers as they claimed to be before the injury, then they could possibly look to add a solid backup PG and a proven forward. If they decide to keep their assets and just play out the season with what they got then they will be a borderline playoff team. Don’t panic just yet Suns fans, the future is still bright despite this horrible news.