Grantland's Zach Lowe weighed in on Andrew Bogut's three-year $36 million extension earlier today, breaking down the "enormously complex situation" in terms of best- and worst-case scenarios and arriving at the following conclusion.
The most likely scenario involves Bogut playing 60-some games, looking gimpy at times and fantastic at others, but generally playing solid two-way basketball and very good defense. That Bogut will still have the remnants of microfracture ankle surgery, which generally carries negative long-term effects. (One can presume from this extension that Golden State's doctors, who know Bogut's health best, are confident those long-term effects will only manifest themselves far in the future. The Dubs have to hope they are right.) Given that injury history, is that 60-game version of Bogut really getting that four-year, $60 million contract the Warriors worked to avoid? I'm skeptical.
I fully understand the skepticism - the chances of Bogut having the type of season that would warrant a lucrative contract that elsewhere might not be high. It's hard to put a number on that, but Lowe's skepticism isn't unfounded. And he's not alone: SB Nation's Tom Ziller expressed the same skepticism prior to the deal being made and ESPN's Kevin Pelton has made the argument that there's little upside to the deal.
Is saving an average of $3 million per year over the course of the deal reason for a parade? No. But NBA teams don't get banners for saving money - they get banners for building championship teams. The problem really comes down to opportunity cost: What are the Warriors passing on by committing to Bogut at $36 million for three years if he doesn't meet the incentives?
In a previous piece outlining Bogut's contract situation, Lowe looked at some of those other options:
Depending on how high the cap jumps for the 2014-15 season, the Warriors could in theory have about $8 million of cap space this summer, perhaps enough to lure a lesser light who doesn't carry Bogut's injury baggage - someone like Marcin Gortat, Emeka Okafor, Chris Kaman, Elton Brand, and old friends Ekpe Udoh (more of a power forward type) and Andris Biedrins (just kidding!). But free agency is no guarantee, even with Golden State's new sex appeal.
In the end, I'd rather take the gamble of Bogut "looking gimpy at times and fantastic at others" instead of potentially missing out on the best of that bunch (and being without a 2014 draft pick, which we're all expecting to be a low pick anyway) and being left with a hole at the five spot. If this is the center we believe can help the team get closer to its championship goal, there's no point in messing with that if we can get him at three-years and $36 million. It's like paying a bit more a bit early for something you really need - you save yourself the risk of not getting it.
Putting the financial issues aside, it would be difficult to find a player who fits as well as Bogut with this team in that $36 million range. As Lowe pointed out in that October 17 piece, the Warriors allowed 8 points per 100 possessions less with Bogut on the floor during the playoffs. Offensively, you can't say enough about what his passing ability and ability to set screens (even if they verge on the illegal) mean for an offense that revolves around getting its star shooters open. He's not a dynamic scorer, but the Warriors don't need that with the roster they've put together.
In a sense, the Warriors' extension of Bogut is not so much about market value as it is about the value of getting a unique fit for their roster based on what's available now and when he hypothetically would have become a free agent next year. In theory, one could argue that creates added value to the Warriors that Bogut might not necessarily have on the open market.
Even if Bogut's best-case scenario comes to fruition - meaning he plays well enough to earn his incentives and increase the cost of the contract - the Warriors got him at a bargain; if he doesn't meet the best-case, he's still quite clearly a big enough defensive presence and a good enough fit offensively that the contract won't exactly be considered an albatross.
Of course, I'll readily admit that my feelings on the deal have a lot to do with the very fact of being a Warriors fan: decades following this team breeds insecurity about opportunities to add anything resembling a decent center. Remember, just two short years ago, we were discussing whether DeAndre Jordan might be the gamble worth making and there was a similar sentiment: that the opportunity to get someone with his potential (which he still hasn't reached) comes along so infrequently that it's a risk worth taking.
If you're old enough to remember the days of Joe Barely Cares, Erick Dampier, Adonal Foyle, BIG VIC, Felton Spencer, or Rony Seikaly - who is forgotten as one of the better posts the franchise has seen in recent history - then you probably fully understand where I'm coming from on this. If you're not old enough to remember the assortment of unserviceable centers and out-of-position forwards the Warriors have trotted out to match up with the NBA's centers, consider yourself lucky.
You shouldn't base these decisions on emotion, which is why they don't poll fans during negotiations. But this franchise of all franchises should know that you don't move up in the hierarchy of this league by playing it safe - you have to get lucky (i.e. have lottery balls bounce your way) or take a risk, whether it be financial or shuffling personnel. Bogut's deal isn't nearly the bargain that Stephen Curry's will end up being, but in the past two years the Warriors have also now locked up a center-point guard combination for enough years to give themselves a shot at moving into contender range. It's really hard to quibble with that.