In signing Andrew Bogut to a three-year extension, the Warriors have tried to tie down a quality player to a price representative of his skills and impact while mitigating the injury factor that now accompanies him everywhere. But the new contract also represents a risk that didn't need to be taken.
However unconnected and unfortunate most of them may be, Bogut nevertheless has a lengthy history of injures to various parts of his body. If someone thing has happened enough times in the past, it is fair to assume it is likely to happen again. It is certainly something to protect against.
It is being reported that Bogut's deal with pay $36 million over three years, an amount descending annually over the life of the contract, and that it can rise to $42 million if performance incentives are met. The concept of performance incentives is simple and correct: the more you play, and the better you play, the more we pay. The NBA does not allow for this to any great degree; performance bonuses are limited to being a maximum of 15 percent of regular salary, and if the reported figures are true, they align with this. This is not like baseball or football, where guarantees and levels of compensation can increase hugely via performance milestones. Nevertheless, the concept is somewhat accounted for in the NBA, and the Bogut deal features it. Indeed, it is dependent on it.
Aside from incentives, the other means a team has of protecting itself in this scenario is to make large portions of the base salary unguaranteed. This is what Cleveland has done with Andrew Bynum, whose $12,250,000 salary this season is only $6 million guaranteed until the league-wide guarantee date of January 10th, and whose $12,540,000 salary for next season is fully unguaranteed. It is unknown at the time whether any of Bogut's salary is unguaranteed, but it seems unlikely.
Golden State, then, have only managed to insure themselves a bit against further significant injury with the 15 percent bonus quota. In an absolute worst-case hypothetical scenario, whereby Bogut is again injured and never plays again, he's still getting his $36 million. This is the most Golden State could protect themselves.
Given that this is effectively scant little protection at all, it must lead us to question whether the extension was necessary. More pertinent than the amount of time Bogut is able to take the floor is the declining effectiveness he has when he's on it.
The thinking behind the extension is that Bogut, in his prime, was a defensive anchor the caliber of Dwight Howard and an effective offensive player through his passing, screening and thinly-veiled left-handedness. The healthy. productive Andrew Bogut was very, very good, arguably the second best center in the NBA at the time. If ever fully healthy, we like to imagine, he could be again.
Yet there is little evidence for this. Only hope.
It must be of grave concern that the phrase "in his prime" is perfectly acceptable to use about a 28-year-old. THIS should be Bogut's prime, and yet it isn't. Despite retaining much of the defensive effectiveness that made him as good as he did, Bogut's individual shot-making talent has declined considerably. And while shotmaking is only part of one half of the game, it significantly affects both player and team if the player cannot be relied upon to score or look for his own. This, plus the injuries, plus the age, affects the price. And the whole point of the extension was to dictate the price.
This is a market where centers earn maximum or near-maximum salary contracts with remarkable ease. For every Al Horford, Joakim Noah or Larry Sanders good value deal, there's one for DeAndre Jordan or JaVale McGee that sees the center position retain its eternal place at the top of the salary spectrum. In recent years, Marc Gasol, Brook Lopez and Roy Hibbert have all commanded maximum salary contracts, and only one of them had definitely earned it at the time of the deal. The other two were the cost of doing business, and business for good centers is expensive.
But it doesn't automatically follow from there that Bogut is in any of those price ranges. To be so, he'll have to be of that caliber as a player both now and in the future. Right now, and for the last two seasons, he has not been.
Why the rush?
The theory that Bogut would command a salary larger than this after a season of healthy and productive play, and thus needed to be secured early, is a pessimistic one not sufficiently considerate of his injuries and declined production. Bogut, in his prime, wasn't worth the max, and the new Bogut definitely isn't. Nor is he especially close to it. Barring a resurgence he still hasn't demonstrated is possible, there is nothing to pay $12 million for.
The threat of Golden State being outbid for his services is further nullified given that most teams already have high-priced options or young players destined to be once their rookie scale deals run out at the position, and thus would not need him. Extensions are means of protecting both player and team from the volatility of the free market, but the Warriors seemed to have little to fear. Even without the incentives, what has Bogut done to command a guaranteed $12 million per season?
The Warriors have given security to a player who has given them scant little of it. It's no one's fault this is how it's been; things just work out that way. And maybe this is finally the time for his luck to chance. We surely all hope so. But it was not the percentage play. It was unnecessary. They had ample opportunity to let him prove himself first.
This could all have been done in April. The only deadline on a non-rookie scale extension is the final day of the original contract. Why could this not have waited until later, when Bogut's ability and durability going forward are better established? Is the risk of him signing elsewhere, despite Golden State having both full Bird rights and the lure of being a good team in a familiar place, so sufficient to merit this? How do we know that Bogut is won't be a 66 game, 27 minute, seven-point, eight-rebound guy from here on out? Is that worth even the base $36 million? For all we know, the former Andrew Bogut is gone for good. This would be a shame and is in no way certain, but it could happen.
Golden State wanted to buy low on a quality, reliable veteran with an incredibly valuable skill set. But for that to be the case, everything needs to change.