For the casual fan who didn’t watch a lot of Bucks basketball last season, the four-year, $44 million extension Larry Sanders got from the Milwaukee Bucks was head scratching. Who was he and why give him that much money?
Because he is one of the up-and-coming best shot blocking, defensive bigs in the game and you can build something good around that.
Bucks GM John Hammond as well as Sanders himself talked about the contract and the rebuilding Bucks with the Boston Globe.
“(Sanders is) one of the key, if not the key, piece for us moving forward,” Hammond said. “Larry is one of the top shot-blockers in our business. And I think he’s only going to get better defensively. We’re really excited to have him part of our organization, moving forward long term…”
“This organization has put so much faith and trust in me, and I put that on myself also,” said Sanders. “Since I got there the organization has done nothing but push me and help me in that direction. We’ve been working in this direction for a long time.”
Putting the pressure on him to be a leader is a smart thing and could help with the perception Sanders didn’t bring his best every night. And help him control his temper.
The Bucks are once again going to be a borderline playoff team in the East. Yes, they lost Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, but this is now the team’s likely starting five:
Brandon Knight, O.J. Mayo, Caron Butler, Ersan Ilyasova, and Sanders. They have some solid guys like Gary Neal, Luke Ridnour, and Carlos Delfino. That’s not a roster putting any fear in the Heat, but it is a roster that could grab the 7 or 8 seed in the East if things break their way.
And Sanders will be at the heart of it all.
Tristan Thompson is a man without a contract. By not signing the qualifying offer with the Cleveland Cavaliers he put himself in limbo, the rare NBA holdout. Right now his options are to sign the deal on the table (the Cavs still have the five-year, $80 million offer out there), get the Sixers or Blazers to offer him a max contract (which neither team has shown any interest in doing), or hold out and hope the Cavaliers make a better offer. If he holds out for the entire season he becomes a restricted free agent again next summer — exactly like he is right now.
Without signing the qualifying offer and the threat of leaving, Thompson hurt his leverage.
But he has a little leverage. He and his agent Rich Paul had one other card, and it got played Saturday.
LeBron James and Thompson share an agent in Paul. LeBron has largely remained silent through this process but if he wants something in the Cleveland organization, he usually gets it. And he wants Thompson back at practices.
LeBron’s leverage is going to be put to the test. The Cavaliers have let it leak they are not that concerned about LeBron leaving them next summer over this — and they’re right. The damage to LeBron’s brand if he broke the hearts of Cleveland fans again would be crushing, unless he leaves for a very good reason. Overpaying Thompson is not that reason.
However, LeBron’s comment could push the Cavaliers to try to find a compromise.
For the Cavaliers, a lot of how they view all this comes down to their tax bill. The Cavaliers already have $94.9 million in guaranteed salary on the books, putting them $10.2 million over the luxury tax line, at a cost of more than $16.25 million. What this means if (or when) they sign Thompson is his first $10 million in salary would cost them $28.75 million in tax and every dollar above that for the next $5 million costs them $3.75-to-$1. Look at it this way, by my count $14 million this year to Thompson would cost $43.75 million in tax — the total for Thompson at that price is $58 million. While that’s not all on Thompson it’s a lot of cash, and Thompson wants a max deal that starts at more than $16 million a year.
Owner Dan Gilbert is already going to pay the highest tax bill in the NBA this season, but if he balks at those figures it’s hard to blame him.
Mario Hezonja, the No. 5 pick in this year’s draft, has never lacked for confidence. The Croatian guard made his pro debut in the Magic’s preseason game against the Hornets on Saturday and did this:
Between Hezonja, Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo and Aaron Gordon, the Magic have a nucleus of young players that has the potential to be a lot of fun. Even if they’re still a few years away from contending, they’re definitely going to be a League Pass favorite this year.