Bucks center Andrew Bogut wants a long-term contract extension, up to five more years, and his agent this week said the Bucks and new GM John Hammond seem positive about getting a deal done. Bogut’s improved play and 38 double-double games being the bright spot in another dismal season, this qualifies as good news.
So what is the 23-year-old Bogut — the 12th leading rebounder in the NBA, and an improved post player both offensively and defensively (9th in the league in blocked shots; 3rd in offensive charges drawn) — worth after three seasons? How much can the Bucks afford?
The latter question is hardly complicated: the Bucks can’t afford much in the next two years given the salaries on the current roster. The Bucks have already picked up the fourth year options of Bogut’s and Charlie Villanueva’s 2005 rookie contracts. Paying them both will bring the Bucks right up to next year’s salary cap, with about $9 million or so to play with before hitting the league’s luxury tax limit, likely to be about $70 million. The tax is $1 dollar tax for every $1 dollar over the limit.
Slickless Larry Harris had this all worked out. The Bucks were supposed to win this year and next year with the current roster, and Larry didn’t schedule in any of that “salary cap flexibility” GM’s desire. This means that there’s very little chance the Bucks will tear up the $6.3 million agreement for next season (they could). There will be no cap room in July to pay him more — unless Bobby Simmons suddenly quits to go play in Albania, which would free up $10 million. Or if Hammond trades Michael Redd for Miami’s lottery balls which would free up $15 million or so.
Now to the question: What’s Bogut worth?
Let’s start by looking at the top salaries in the NBA this season.
As you can see, the All-Star, All-NBA centers and big forward/center types (Amare Stoudamire, Yao Ming, Paul Gasol, Rasheed Wallace, Chris Bosh) are grouped 20th-30th on the list, making between $13.1 (Bosh) and $13.8 million (Stoudamire). (Yes, they will all make less money this year than Michael Redd, believe it or not).
Veteran champions like Shaq, Tim Duncan and Ben Wallace have much more lucrative deals, but their contracts won’t tell us much about Bogut. A center not on the list who will be next season: Dwight Howard of Orlando, the league’s leading rebounder for three years running and a near sure-thing 1st Team All-NBA selection. Howard made $6 million this year in his fourth year. Before this season, he was in Bogut’s contract situation, and the Magic extended his contract five years beyond this one for an additional $85 million.
Howard, the #1 pick in the 2004 draft, creates a long shadow for Bogut (#1 in 2005) in this extension game. So does Yao Ming, who signed an extension with Houston for 5 years and $75 million in 2005.
Howard at an average of $17 million per year for five years,
Yao at $15 million per year for five set the standard for young NBA centers in the extension era. Bogut doesn’t play at their All-NBA heights (among centers, only Stoudamire does and he’s moved to power forward on the Suns), nor to the level of the big men currently in the $13-$14 million range (Stoudamire again), nor can the Bucks assume he will be playing like a $13 million dollar star even in two years. As well as Bogut has played at times, would you want to bring the Bucks 54-110 record over the last two years to the bargaining table?
Bogut’s agent can point to a bad contract, like the one center Eric Dampier signed with Dallas ($10.5 million this year) and say, “Andrew should be paid more than Dampier now.”
The Bucks can look at New Orleans’ Tyson Chandler’s $10.5 million in 2008 and say, “Chandler’s the 3rd-leading rebounder in the league, and the Hornets are winning in the playoffs.” It’s arguable whether Bogut is underpaid.
Where does the league’s 12th leading rebounder on a losing team fit in? Because of his young age, Somewhere in line with Chandler’s six-year $63 million deal, which, only two years ago was considered a glorious waste of money in Chicago.
Cleveland Center Zydrunus Ilgauskus will make $10.1 million this year. At 32, Ilgauskus may be on the down side in his career, but he outplayed Bogut two of three games this year (the game logs at basketball-reference.com ain’t pretty). Bogut should surpass Ilgauskus soon, but next year? Or the year after?
Philadelphia’s Sam Dalembert, who dominated Bogut defensively in three of four games this year, has a six-year $64 million deal. At $10.25 million this year Dalembert’s right where he should be in the Ilgauskus-Chandler range — though many in Philly view him as overpaid. And Dalembert’s a much better defender than Bogut.
Bogut has improved each year, true, but he’s only recently moved up among the Top Ten centers’ in the league, and he’s much closer to #10 than to Howard at #1. Like it or not, Dalembert and Ilgauskus are Bogut’s peers in the Eastern Conference paint. If the Bucks can keep the first three years of the contract extension in the $10-12 million per range, they’ve got a good deal. Over five years — what Bogut wants — the Bucks should look to keep it around $60 million.
At five years, $65 million, a Bogut contract begins to look too lavish for what he’s accomplished. Sure, if Bogut’s a mutliple-time All-Star by 2011 and 2012 when Bogut is 26-27, in his prime — and the Bucks are winning — $13-14 million a year won’t look so gaudy. But that’s a big “if.” Sign Bogut at $70 million for five years now and fans will ask why he’s getting a contract in Yao’s neighborhood.
With next year scheduled to be $6.3 million, adding 5 years and $60-63 million to it would bring Bogut’s six-year terms into the $66-69 million range, which is where the Bucks should keep it. (The more I think about it, six years – $68 million sounds more than fair, but why do I have this feeling it will be more? Just a feeling.)
There’s no reason for Hammond to break the bank, not now with a player who still has much to prove on a team that is still so incomplete. The Bucks will need plenty of salary cap space to grow in the years-to-come; it’s a good time to find out how serious our 23-year-old center is when he says his goal is to win in Milwaukee.
Some unabashed hype is needed in these not-so-private negotiations, and that’s what agents are for. This is what they’re saying in Melbourne, Australia, verbatim from the text of the press release put out by Bogut’s supremely confident agent, David Bauman:
“In 226 career NBA games, the Melbourne, Australia native has improved
in each season and demonstrated that he is one of the top young Centers in
the NBA. In fact, Bogut’s improvement has made it a near certainty that the
Milwaukee Bucks will seek to sign the center to a long-term extension, on
July 1, in order to secure one of the key foundations of their team for the
next six years. Bogut, along with Chris Paul and Deron Williams, are the
star players from the 2005 NBA Draft class.”
Leave it to the sports agent to start an argument, especially with CP3’s MVP-like season, Deron’s All-NBA year and Laker fans talking up injured Andrew Bynum as the best center of the 2005 draft (and worried whether he’ll ask for a $75 million-plus extension this offseason). It’ll be interesting to see how Bynum and Bogut’s contract extensions pan out.
And leave it Foxsports-australia to ramp up Bogut’s contact numbers. In its coverage of this story, fox-aussie pegged Bogut’s new contract “in the region of $63-79 million.” The headline? “Bogut to earn the Big Bucks” … Fox does realize Larry Harris was fired, don’t they?