By GENARO C. ARMAS, AP Sports Writer
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Eric Bledsoe will get a fresh start in Milwaukee. The Phoenix Suns get a chance to speed up their rebuilding project.
The Suns traded their disgruntled guard to the Bucks for big man Greg Monroe and two 2018 draft picks on Tuesday, hours before Milwaukee played in Cleveland.
The 27-year-old Bledsoe had not been with the Suns since Oct. 22 when he posted “I Don’t wanna be here” on Twitter, the same day the Suns fired coach Earl Watson. He had been averaging 15.7 points per game, second behind Devin Booker, and was the team’s on-court leader.
He was sent home by the Suns after the tweet, reducing the team’s leverage because everyone in the league knew Phoenix was trying to trade him. Bledsoe had asked to be traded before the season, Suns general manager Ryan McDonough has said. The NBA fined the eight-year NBA veteran $10,000 for the tweet.
Adding Bledsoe will take some of the focus off of do-it-all All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is the Bucks’ primary ball-handler. Milwaukee had lost four of its last five games before visiting the Cavaliers, but adding Bledsoe’s scoring ability alongside Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton on a team that also includes rising guard Malcolm Brogdon could help.
“Eric is a dynamic player who brings scoring and toughness to the court while enhancing our young and talented core,” Bucks general manager Jon Horst said.
Bledsoe averaged more than 20.0 points and 6.0 assists per game in each of the last two seasons with the Suns, including career highs in points (21.1) and assists (6.3) per game last season. Bledsoe spent the past five seasons in Phoenix after his first three years with the Clippers.
The 27-year-old Monroe, who joined the team as a free agent in 2015 after five years in Detroit, has been sidelined recently because of a left calf strain. Over three seasons with the Bucks, he averaged 13.3 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists over 165 games.
Without him, Milwaukee will likely consolidate the center position and look ahead to early next year when the front line should get a boost with the return of injured forward Jabari Parker.
The 6-11 Monroe has an expiring contract, which means even more room for a Suns team with loads off cap space. They also could have as many as three first-round picks next season.
Milwaukee’s first-round pick will belong to the Suns in 2018 if in the range of 11-16 overall; in 2019 if in the range of 4-16; in 2020 if in the range of 8-30; and in 2021 it will be unprotected. The Suns get Milwaukee’s second-round pick next year if in the range of 48-60 overall.
Phoenix, rebuilding with an extremely young roster featuring Booker and T.J. Warren, has not made the playoffs in six years.
AP Sports Writers Bob Baum in Phoenix and Tom Withers in Cleveland contributed to this report.
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