Tag Archives: NBA Centers

Shelved and Jinxed: Drew Gooden to miss another 4-6 weeks

Not to detract from matters at hand for the Bucks — salvaging something on their last West Coast swing and the politics of Andrew Bogut’s first All-Star selection — but the Bucks announced today that power forward Drew Gooden will miss the bulk of the 2011 stretch run.

MILWAUKEE (AP)—Bucks forward Drew Gooden will be sidelined four to six weeks because of lingering problems with plantar fasciitis in his left foot.

General manager John Hammond says Gooden will undergo treatment on Wednesday in Los Angeles. The injury has already cost Gooden 21 games this season, including the past six. LINK to story.

So that’s that.  Coach Scott Skiles is free to play Ersan the rest of the way without any pressure to play the GM’s big summer free agent signing.  Ilyasova’s already won the starting power forward job — now he has the opportunity to build on his stake in the battle for a playoff seed.

This officially keeps Gooden out through the Feb. 24 trading deadline and into mid-March.  So much for the trade rumor mills that might have whirled around the Bucks with Ilyasova relegating Gooden to bench duty and the Bucks in need of a backup center.

GM Hammond has effectively killed the Gooden-for-Haywood trade idea with Dallas.

He’s also saved face, should the Bucks fail to make the playoffs with his his 5-yr, $32 million power forward officially sidelined. He can write the failure off on injuries to his key summer acquisition (and others) and “wait ’til next year.”  Gooden’s injury then becomes bad luck, not a monumental mistake that left his team without a backup center.

(Hammond apparently thought he was signing the Drew Gooden who played for the Cavs 4 years ago. This isn’t merely a one-liner as there is something to be said for Hammond’s dogged interest in Gooden dating back to his days in Detroit. Keep in mind that the Bucks jinx at the power forward position from which this blog derives its name may have played a role in the case of mistaken Drew Gooden identities.)

If the Bucks do make the playoffs (and they likely will unless Bogut breaks his left arm — the Bucks have still played the toughest schedule in the East) Gooden should be healthy by then and able to lend a hand in a first round series against the Celtics, Heat or Bulls.  More likely than not, the Bucks would land with a #7 or #8 seed a high profile matchup against the Celitcs or Heat, where they’ll need all the healthy help they can find.

*Note that the Bucks record has been 8 wins – 17 losses in games that Drew Gooden played. (Source LINK).

**Also note that in only two games this season did a big contribution from Gooden come in a Bucks victory:  Home wins against the Warriors and Knicks back in November.  If you should happen to be looking through box scores, pay no attention to the one from the blowout win over Atlanta — the Bucks bench led by Ilyasova and Maggette rolled the Hawks after the Bucks starters had dug a 9-to-22 deficit.

Make of those notes what you will.

**************

ALL STAR SELECTION UPDATE:  Tonight’s the night the reserves are unveiled by Charles, Kenny and Ernie, McHale and C-Web on TNT’s “Inside the NBA.”  None of the NBA’s leading talking heads had Bogut among their reserve picks, largely due to the Bucks disappointing record (Bogut’s name wasn’t even mentioned on last week when they made their picks).

But cooler heads may prevail.  Kelly Dwyer at Ball Don’t Lie puts Bogut in a group of five or six players under consideration for the two wild card spots in the East.  Carlos Boozer, Elton Brand and Josh Smith are among them, with Al Horford and Chris Bosh the favorites.

Not only are Boozer and Bosh more deserving of an All-Star nod than Ray Allen, so too are Josh Smith and (don’t laugh) Elton Brand. Brand might whiff of a millstone to you, but he’s also averaging 15 points and 8.5 rebounds, making more than half his shots with 2.6 combined blocks/steals for a team in the playoff bracket.

And though his offense has been awful this year — a True Shooting Percentage of 49? for a center? — I’m not sure I’ve seen a player with as strong a defensive impact as Andrew Bogut this season.  And I’m well aware that Dwight Howard has played basketball this season.

No, Ball Don’t Lie doesn’t get a vote — but it’s a prominent media opinion that hasn’t been heard in media working directly for the NBA. (That was my bold added to the text).

Bogut is definitely in the conversation, and there is a lot of support out there among coaches in the East.  Perhaps this is as much because he was snubbed last year. Perhaps it’s because he’s played through injuries where others haven’t, and still had a major impact.  His team in the hunt for a playoff spot, his defense has been superlative — Defensive Player of the Year worthy.

Boozer, Ball Don’t Lie’s selection, has missed 18 games for Chicago. That’s almost half the first half.

Coaches notice that stuff.  For them, making Bogut the center pick on the reserve ballot requires much less debate than picking Al Horford over his teammate, Smith, who, like Bogut deserves first time All-Star recognition.

Actually, everyone notices that stuff except Bulls fans, which is why a Boozer selection over Bogut or Josh Smith doesn’t make much sense.

A number of coaches, Avery Johnson, Stan Van Gundy, Doc Rivers are very likely to vote Bogut as the reserve center — they’re not blind to the fact that Horford isn’t the Hawks starting center against them.  Doug Gollins from Philly, according to recent comments, is also very likely to vote for Bogut.

This might be the year, and don’t be surprised if Bogut’s name is called despite the lack of support from the TNT hosts who’ll be calling it.

Needless to say, I’ll be watching with interest tonight.

NBA All-defensive team: Andrew Bogut snubbed again

16th in the All-Defensive voting, Andrew Bogut was snubbed again.Bucks center Andrew Bogut missed the cut for the 2010 NBA All-Defensive teams despite being 2nd in the league only to Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard in blocked shots and defensive rating.  The two All-D teams are selected by position in a vote of the league’s 30 head coaches.

What’s defensive rating? That’s the all-important stat that shows how many points per 100 possessions a team allows when a player is on the floor.  Howard, as usual, had no peer with a 95.4 rating, while Bogut was all alone at #2 in the 98.0 range. The rest of the league leader board picks up at #3 with Bobcats forward Gerald Wallace (99.7).

Howard led the league in blocked shots (228 total, 2.8 per game) with Bogut (175, 2.5) right behind him despite missing 13 games and being hampered with injuries early in the season.  Josh Smith was a distant third with 2.1 blocks per game.

The Bucks were the #3 defensive team in the NBA, right there with Howard’s Magic and Larry Brown’s Bobocats (Wallace).  The Bucks were the only team in the NBA’s top 5 that did not have a player voted all-NBA defensive. Recognition for Bogut and the Bucks was a no-brainer here.

It sucks to be an NBA center not named Dwight Howard.

Howard, the Defensive Player of the Year, took his rightful place as 1st-team All-D center. Out of 29 possible votes (coaches can’t vote for their own players), Howard received 28 1st-team votes.

Naming the #2 center should have been easy enough in a position by position vote, which is what the NBA says the All-defensive vote is supposed to be. So where did those backup center votes go?   To Clippers-Trailblazers ageless wonder Marcus Camby (10 votes) and Bogut (8).  Bulls center Joakim Noah (4) and the Celtics’ Kendrick Perkins (2) also received 2nd-team votes, with Perkins and Camby lucking into a 1st-team vote apiece.

Centers receiving votes: 1) Dwight Howard;  2) Marcus Camby; 3) Andrew Bogut; 4) Joakim Noah; 5) Kendrick Perkins.

Wild cards: Tim Duncan and Andy Varejao

OK, so Camby was the selection as All-defensive 2nd team center, correct?

Nope. It was Tim Duncan, who was on 13 ballots — mostly as a forward.  I haven’t seen the ballots but if Howard’s the #1 center on every ballot but two, then at least six of Duncan’s 8 1st team votes are as a forward. I’m assuming most of Duncan’s five 2nd-team votes were in the  forward slot as well.  Varejao played a fair amount of center in the absences of Shaquille O’Neal and Zydrunas Ilgauskas in Cleveland, so it’s fair to say that a couple of Andy’s 2nd team votes may have been center votes. A couple.

The NBA obviously didn’t stick to its position-by-position results with the center spot and Duncan, who does actually play center in San Antonio (this is the opposite of the “Duncan as forward” All-Star ballot thing). Here Duncan gets most of his points as a 1st-team forward. Doesn’t it seem that the obvious thing would be to bump a forward (Varejao in this case) off this list?   It makes more sense than snubbing the centers.

It gets a little more complicated when you realize that Duncan actually plays more center than Camby, a Clippers forward for most of this season.  So here you have a guy who plays mostly center (Duncan), voted in as a forward, bumping a guy voted as a center who mostly played forward (Camby).  When it’s time for the year-end accolades, it sucks to be a center not named Dwight Howard

I realize that the Milwaukee Bucks aren’t the first NBA team that comes to mind for media vote awards like Rookie of the Year, but it’s a problem when the coaches can’t even remember the Bucks. And it’s a problem when  the league’s 2nd-best defensive center, the anchor of the #3 defense in the league, #2 in blocked shots and defensive rating, can’t get recognized.

For anybody that thinks I’m overstating the issue (who cares about 2nd-team defensive awards, right?), Bogut would have missed the 3rd team, too, had the league stuck to its voting results  …

— Camby was 11th with 12 pts. Bogut was 16th, tied with teammate Luc Mbah a Moute (8 pts each).  Guard Jason Kidd, Camby, forward Ron Artest, point guard Deron Williams and guard Kirk Hinrich finished just ahead of Bogues and Mbah a Moute.

Ranking Bogut and his contract – The top ten (or 13) NBA centers and their money

MILWAUKEE - APRIL 08: Andrew Bogut #6 of the Milwaukee Bucks wears a mask over a broken nose suffered earlier in the season during a game against the Boston Celtics on April 8, 2008 at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Celtics defeated the Bucks 107-104 in overtime. From Getty Images.Is Andrew Bogut the best center named Andrew drafted in the 2005 lottery? Is Bogut a Top 10 NBA center? What does Mehmet Okur, the center for the Utah Jazz, get paid?

These are things Bucks fans need to know as Bogut last week inked the five-year contract extension he more or less demanded from the Bucks. The agreement reportedly guarantees $60 million to Bogut over five years. Add Bogut’s $6.3 million salary, which is not part of the extension, and Bogut will be under contract for a guaranteed $66.3 million over six years, through the 2013-14 season. 

As projected back in April on the BBJ (almost to the dollar) that’s a fairly good deal for the Bucks, in line with the contracts of Sixers center Sam Dalembert, New Orleans’ Tyson Chandler and the Cavs’ Zydrunas Ilgauskas.

But what about these “incentives” that could add $12.5 million to the guaranteed money, bringing the potential worth of the extension up to $72.5 million? That’s nearly the “Yao money” that the Bucks, as a lottery team, needed avoid paying a 23-year-old center with a lot left to prove. Sure, he can “prove it” earning those incentives, but why not just make all-star getting $12 mill a year? What more incentive is needed?” The incentives are “team-based and individual” according to Journal Sentinel, which didn’t cite a source for those details. Bogut’s agent later told Brewhoop that the incentives were along the lines of “play like Dwight Howard get paid like Dwight Howard.” Or, All-NBA pay.

But enough about the contract. Without further ado, meet the inaugural Bob Boozer Jinx 2008 NBA center rankings.

Dwight Howard can touch his chin to the rim1) Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic. First team All-Pro; 2nd team All-Defensive; leading rebounder in the NBA three years running (14.2 avg. last season); 4th in blocked shots. Only 22-years-old and has not missed a game in his four-year career since being the 1st pick overall in the 2004 draft. Shot 60% from the floor last season (3rd in the NBA), but only 59% from the line, which hurt the Magic as Howard led the league in free throw attempts. “Hack-a-Dwight” is the new “Hack-a-Shaq” defense. Howard was 6-15 from the stripe against the Pistons in decisive game five against Detroit in the playoffs, which the Magic lost by five. Coulda made the difference.

Howard this season starts year one of his five-year $85 million extension ($17mill avg), the max extension (CP3 got a similar max extension). He’ll earn $13.76 mill 2008-09.

Duncan slams on Richard Jefferson2) Tim Duncan and his Spurs were tough enough in the paint to beat the Suns, and there’s nothing like Duncan magically transforming into Dirk Nowitzki to hit a game-tying three to demoralize the Suns in Game 1 of that series. Is Duncan a center? If Pau Gasol, who was pushed around all over the NBA Finals, is a center, so is Duncan, who plays the 5 much of the time in the Spurs dangerous small lineups, and is usually guarded by the opponents’ centers, such as Shaq. Duncan anchors the Spurs D in the paint and was first-team All-Defensive 2007 and 2008. Sounds like a center to me. At 7′ 0″ 248 lbs, Duncan is one of the best big men in NBA history. Averaged 19.3 pts and 11.3 rbs per game last season, 1.9 blocks, 7th in the league. Four championships. 31-years-old and plenty of gas left in the tank.

Duncan’s salary is $20.6 mill this season. He’s set to make $62.2 mill over the following three years.

Stoudemire vs. Duncan3) Amare Stoudemire/Shaquille O’Neal  Stoudemire is no longer the Phoenix center now that Shaq is in the paint, but he’ll be called on to play the low post during the stretches of the season that Shaq is bound to miss. Phoenix acquired Shaq and fired coach Mike D’Antoni partly because of the lack of defensive toughness from Stoudemire and others (two straight playoff losses to Duncan Spurs didn’t help). Amare’s still one of the best scorers in the NBA around the basket.  Averaged 26.7 points and  9.7 rebounds last season, earning 2nd-team All-NBA alongside Duncan as Yao slipped due to injuries.

Soudemire’s contract extension was 5 years $72.6 million, $14.5 million per year avg. He’ll be only 28 years-old when he’s done playing out the remaining three years. Bogut can earn current “Amare money” if he makes the incentives in his contract. By the time Bogut’s extension is in effect, however, Stoudemire will be in the backloaded years of his contract, at $15-16 mill per.

ShaqShaq at age 36, is a part time player unless he comes roaring back next season to his 2006 form, which didn’t seem likely at the outset of 2008-09 but is beginning to occur now that he has days off. Shaq utterly dominated Bogut in a Nov. 8 Suns win in Milwaukee. doesn’t seem likely. Combining Shaq and Stoudemire at #3 may be cheating, but it’s as though Phoenix has a center-and-a-half. Few teams in the West are tough enough to compete with the Suns in the paint (Spurs, Rockets, Jazz). Shaq has lost a step but he’s still Shaq. No center who follows Shaq on this list has proven that he is indeed better than a well-rested 36-year-old Shaq.

Shaq’s salary is $21 million per year through 2009-10.

Yao4) Yao Ming. 3rd-team All-NBA last season despite missing 27 games. Six-time All-Star and 4-time All-NBA selection. Yao’s a 22 pts, 10 rbs per game center who is, however, at 7′ 6″, 310lbs, not proving very durable. He’s missed 86 games over the last three years. Best free throw shooter among the centers at nearly 86% over the last three seasons. Not a shotblocker or a charge-taker, and could rebound more than he does for a 7′ 6″ guy. His Rocket teams win — 107 wins over the last two seasons — but his Rocket teams win just as much without him.

Yao, 27 or so, starts year three of a 5-year $75 million deal – $15 million avg. per year. I hope that if the Bucks are willing to pay Bogut near-Yao money with these reported incentives that one of them is based on improved free throw shooting. Bogut shoots better than Shaq from the line but even Howard outshoots the Bucks center from the stripe. (I take that back – no one in the NBA should be offered a contract incentive to make free throws.)

Pau Gasol traveling5) Pau Gasol/Andrew Bynum* Gasol is a gifted offensive player, but you’d almost have to put Kendrick Perkins on the list ahead of him after the Lakers were shoved around all over the NBA Finals by the Celtics. Still the Lakers went on a tear after acquiring Gasol last year and Gasol (18 pts, 7.8 rbs) will have Bynum to help him out in the paint next season. But really, Gasol is a lot more like big forward Dirk Nowitzki than he is like center Tim Duncan.

*Andrew BynumBynum averaged 13.1 pts and 10.2 rbs until he hurt his knee (before the Gasol trade). After surgery this summer, he’s is a bit of a question mark (hence the asterisk and the double entry here at #5). Still, the Lakers should have few worries about the inside game next season. Bynum, the 10th pick in the 2005 draft, played strong against Bogut in their head-to-heads last season, with Bynum coming out on top. He’s considered by many around the league to be the best center from the 2005 draft.

*Bynum has reportedly asked for a five-year $85 million extension, which would put him in the Howard $17 mill per year level. Good luck with that Andrew, as it looks like Chris Paul is the only player from the 2005 draft who’ll get Howard money. The Lakers will look to keep Bynum as close to Bogut’s $12 mill deal as possible, though Bynum still hasn’t proven that he can stay as healthy as Bogut. With the season underway, Bynum does not yet have his extension and will earn $2.8 mill 2008-09.

Gasol’s contract is a guaranteed 6 years $86 million, a max contract that puts him in Stoudemire’s neighborhood. Like the Bucks max Redd contract, Gasol’s is backloaded – three years and $49.3 mill left to play out, a situation Bucks GM John Hammond was wise to avoid by keeping Bogut’s annual increases relatively flat.

Marcus Camby about to swat one6) Marcus Camby has never had much of an offensive game but has been one of those rare players who thrives on the defensive end. The Nuggets center last season led the league in blocked shots, was 2nd in rebounding to Howard and made 1st team All-NBA Defensive. Trouble is that after the playoffs, it’s difficult to tell where the Nuggets and Camby are at, or where coach George Karl’s head is at. Camby, for one, has been upbeat about next season. The oft-injured center outplayed his contract incentives for the first time, earning his full $11.2 million salary, with career highs in games played, minutes, assists, blocks and rebounds at age 33. I’d rank him ahead of Gasol but for that sweep business in the playoffs.

Camby was traded to the LA Clippers last July. Camby’s guaranteed $19.65 million this season and next.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas7) Zydrunas Ilgauskas. A tough spot to pick, as a combination of a good offensive-defensive game becomes a rare find in NBA centerville, which brings us to Cleveland, the best rebounding team in the NBA for a few seasons. The Cavs’ toughness starts with their 7′ 3″ center. After missing the better part of two seasons early in his career with injuries, Z has been a remarkably consistent scorer, rebounder and defender in the paint for Lebron James’ entire career-and-one. Ilgauskas can score 15 in his sleep off his rainbow set shot, still the most effective offensive weapon the Cavs have outside of Lebron. The James-Z offensive combo was probably not used as much as it should have been in the Cavs-Celtics series, but the Cavs showed that a championship is much more within their reach than many NBA wags had thought. (C’mon, the NBA wags had all but handed the title to the Lakers).

At age 33, Z may only have a good year or two left, but experience counts. Bogut and many other younger centers haven’t distinguished themselves enough (or in Bogut’s case, have not outplayed Z head-to-head) to be ranked ahead of him.

Ilgauskas took a pay cut in 2005 to stay in Cleveland, and this season enters year four of a five year $50.6 million contract. The final two years pay $22.3 mill.

Mehmet Okur8) Mehmet Okur began his career in Detroit but the Pistons couldn’t afford to keep him after winning the 2004 championship. No skin off then-coach Larry Brown’s nose as Brown often left 24-year-old Okur on the bench to keep Darko Milicic company during the Pistons playoff run. In Utah, Okur replaced big Greg Ostertag, still around from the Stockton-Malone years, and teamed with power forward Carlos Boozer — also acquired that offseason — to give the Jazz toughness inside to build around. By 2006 Okur was averaging 18 pts, 9 rbs per game. By 2007 the Jazz were back to the 50-win level and Okur was in the All-Star game.

Okur and his incredibly hot wife, Yelez OkurThe knock on Okur is that he’s no shot blocker or great athlete; and who wants a center who shoots threes even if he is the best three-point shooting center in the league? (.388% last season, better than any Buck.) Utah coach Jerry Sloan, however, has played to Okur’s strengths — and there’s no denying Okur and Boozer’s toughness inside. Over the last two regular seasons, the duo has averaged about 20 rebounds per game. In the playoffs this year against the Rockets and the Lakers, they cleaned an average of 24.1 boards off the glass (Okur had 11.8 per game). They’re tough and it’s put the Jazz right on the Lakers’ heels in the West.

Okur, 29, is a bargain in the center market with a 6-year $50 million contract. He’s set to make an average of $8.75 per year in the final two years of the contract, but the final year 2009-10 is a player option. With the Boguts, Dalemberts and Chandlers of the NBA making $11 million-plus by then, expect Okur to look for a nice raise.

Sam the man9) Sam Dalembert was drafted by Philly in 2001, at the height of the Allen Iverson/Larry Brown era, when the Sixers beat the Big Three Bucks in the East Finals and went on to play the Lakers for the title. After not playing much behind Dikembe Mutumbo his first year, he missed his entire second year with injuries, then came back to join the Sixers decline after Brown jumped to Detroit. He has yet to develop much of an offensive game to go with his sometimes dominating defense, yet it’s the defense and rebounding that has been pivotal in the Sixers turnaround, which was in the rest of the NBA’s face in the second half of last season. As a team, the Sixers can be defensive demons. Dalembert, 27, is entering his prime and hasn’t missed a start in two years, averaging 10.5 pts and 10.4 rbs (7th in total rebounds) last season. He was 3rd in the league in total blocked shots (2.3 per game).

Dalembert’s D can be stifling. He handed Bogut his two most humiliating games last season, outplaying him in three of the four Bucks-Sixers matchups. The game logs ain’t pretty. Dalembert had 22 pts, 8 rbs, 3 blks in the first matchup, a Sixers win in Milwaukee (Bogut had 6 points). The Bucks took game two, with Bogut playing well, though Dalembert had 16 pts, 16 rbs. The third matchup was a Sixers blowout with Bogut held to 5 pts, 4 rbs, turning the ball over five times. Game four was another wipeout of the Bucks, with Dalembert getting 18 and 10, while Bogut failed to score a hoop, got just two rebounds and called it “the worst game of my career.”

Dalembert has three years left on a backloaded six-year $64 million deal, and will be paid $36.4 mill in those years. This avg. $12 mill pay keeps him about $1 mill ahead of Bogut’s pay, though that narrows 2009-10 season. That might seem like a lot for centers who have never been all-stars and whose teams have not won a playoff series. But that’s the inflated market value that is the NBA. Sam hasn’t been the most popular player in Philly, and neither has his contract. Now that the Sixers have Elton Brand and could be contenders in the East, however, don’t expect many complaints about the center.

Tyson Chandler10) Tyson Chandler (Tie) came into the league out of high school and spent the first two years of his career looking absolutely lost on the court in Chicago, which had obtained his rights in a trade for Elton Brand. This was bad mojo in the post-Jordan Bulls era. Along came coach Scott Skiles and Chandler often found himself on the bench, counting his millions and taking on criticism that athleticism had been wasted on him. The Bulls signed declining veteran free agent Big Ben Wallace in 2006 and sent Chandler packing to the Hornets. In New Orleans, Chandler’s found a home and a role — dunking the ball off Chris Paul and Peja Stojakovic passes and tearing it up on the offensive boards. Chandler led the NBA in offensive rebounding the last two seasons; 2nd only to Howard last season in field goal percentage and 3rd behind Howard and Camby in overall rebounding (11.6 per game).

So why is the ultra-athletic Chandler ranked behind Dalembert, Okur and Ilgauksus?  First, he’s nowhere near the defensive presence Dalembert is, nor is he as mean in the paint as Sam; and he’s no shotblocker. Second, Ty’s got no offensive game to speak of, other than the aforementioned dunking. To his credit, Chandler is a hustle player who kills lazy rebounding teams and has thrived playing with CP3 in the West. But Hornets coach Baron Davis runs little or no offense for Chandler — no coach would. Against the Bucks last year Chandler averaged 17.5 pts, 15.5 rebounds in two Hornets wins. In a stretch last March, however, playing against the better teams in the East (plus Chicago and Indiana) Chandler averaged 11.6 pts (on his season avg of 11.8) but his rebounding was down three boards a game to 8.6. Still, the Hornets went 6-2 and split with the Celtics.

Chandler, 26 next season, has a 6-year $63 million deal that he signed with the Bulls; it pays him $34.6 mill over the next three years just above Bogut’s guaranteed avg. salary over the next six. 

Andrew Bogut 200610) Andrew Bogut (Tie). Bucks coach Scott Skiles would likely object to having his 23-year-old center in the same club with a guy who spent years in and out of his doghouse in Chicago. But that was then, this is now. Other NBA fans might whistle homerism and question whether Bogut should be ranked this high — his 14.3 pts, 9.8 rbs averages last season are no better than those of Kings center Brad Miller or Bobcats center Emeka Okafor, and short of Clippers center Chris Kaman’s; and Kaman blocked more shots than Bogut despite playing in only 55 games.

But here’s where Bogut gets credit for toiling away on Michael Redd’s hapless Bucks; respect vs. West players for playing in the increasingly clogged paints of the slower-paced East; and where his passing skills earn some props. Tim Duncan and Paul Gasol may be the only centers on this list who pass as well as Bogut — Dalembert and Chandler certainly don’t. Bogut is tough to rate because his development and production have been hurt playing with uncoachable ballhogs his entire career. What he’s done is focus on one-on-one matchups with other centers, and worked to take care of business in the paint regardless of all the wrong play going on around him. (Look out Sam Dalembert — Bogut’s looking for a few rematches.) Skiles, of course, is out to fix the wrong that has been the Milwaukee Bucks. The team has only won 94 games since drafting Bogut #1 in 2005.

“I’ve got to tell you,” Skiles said Friday at Bogut’s contract-signing press conference, “In watching almost every minute of every game (on film), I got a little tired of seeing when Andrew did run the floor and seal his man under the basket, a three-point shot going up. It’s not brain surgery. If you have big guys that run the floor and cover their man up right by the basket, they oughta get the ball.”

Unlike Kaman, Dalembert, Okur and Chandler, players older than Bogut, there’s still plenty of upside left to Bogut’s game. Last season he finally had a head coach, Larry Krystkowiak, in his corner and made the biggest strides of his career, showing that the Bucks could run low post offense through him and win games (hence the tie with Chandler of whom the same cannot be said). In fact, the Bucks often struggled most when Bogut’s teammates freelanced away from the low post game plan. Defensively, Bogut made his biggest strides and a concerted effort to block shots (9th in the NBA); and was 3rd in offensive charges taken. The new “no flopping” rule shouldn’t effect Bogut because he doesn’t flop. He has taken a beating from opponents driving at will against the Bucks weak perimeter defenders. A big flaw in Bogut’s game has been his Shaq-like free throw shooting and lack of an outside shot – but then those are Howard’s big flaws too.

Howard, Bogut, Bynum, Atlanta’s Al Horford and Portland’s Greg Oden (yet to play an NBA game) are the young centers to watch in the NBA next season. I’d keep an eye on Shaq in Phoenix, too.

*Bogut’s guaranteed extension is 5 years $60 million, bringing his six-year total to $66.3 million. It seems that both sides in the Bogut negotiations came to the table understanding that Chandler and Dalembert money — $12 million in 2009-10 — was the fair and equitable base for Bogut. The $12.5m in incentives? It’s still not clear what those are but Bogut’s agent David Bauman mentioned Dwight Howard in saying that the incentives are, in part, based on all-star achievement. That’s misleading because the incentives don’t reach “Howard money.” They make Bogut’s possible avg. earnings $14.5 million per year — currently Yao-Gasol-Stoudemire money. Howard’s avg salary, $17 million, is the All-NBA standard for an extension these days. Should Bogut make 1st, 2nd or 3rd Team All-NBA in the next few years, that would mean the Bucks are winning a lot — and that the contract is indeed a very good deal for Milwaukee.

Overall, I like the contract — it’s right in line with the market, including the incentives. In fact, I predicted the figures back in April. Then why does it still feel that the Bucks paid too much for their young center, steadily improving as he is, but with so much left to prove in the NBA?


Long-term deal for Bogut: What’s it worth?

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?