Throw this one in the garbage bin and move on. That's what Larry Sanders is doing with the 2013-14 season, one filled with controversy, off-the-court issues and injury.
The Milwaukee Bucks' big man will be shut down for the rest of the year, not only to recover from an orbital bone fracture in his right eye, but to shed a disappointing year and move forward.
A quick review of the season:
- August 20: The Bucks and Sandersagree to a four-year, $44 million contract that seems appropriate compared to other rim-protecting big men in their early-to-mid 20s.
- Nov. 4: Just three games into the 2013-14 season, Sanders complains about how he's being used by new Bucks head coach Larry Drew.
- Nov. 6: Sanders suffers a ligament injury in his thumb and requires surgery. The off-court injury was suffered in a fight at a Milwaukee club.
- Dec. 27: Sanders returns from his thumb injury after missing 25 games.
- Jan. 5: After a 116-100 loss to the Phoenix Suns, Sanders and teammate Gary Neal get into a shouting match in front of media members.
- Feb. 4 - Present: A blow to Sanders' right eye required surgery to repair orbital bone fractures that will keep him out for the rest of the year.
All in all, Sanders appeared in 23 games this year, averaging 7.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. His four-year, $44 million contract extension signed this past summer begins next year, and Sanders told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Charles F. Gardner he knows what needs to be done to earn his pay.
"I want to put on a lot of weight," he said. "At least 15 pounds. I want to get to 240, 245, a good running weight. I want to be really strong. I want to feel unmovable out there.
"I just see it being the hardest-working summer since back when I was in college, maybe when I was going out for the draft (in 2010). That will be the only one I could probably compare to this one."
Sanders regressed from a season ago, but of course it matters to consider his production contextually. Playing with Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings in 2012-13, the center averaged 9.8 points, 9.5 blocks and 2.8 blocks per game. With capable pick-and-roll partners, he was a threat rolling to the rim and individually had an offensive rating of 100.7 to compliment his defensive rating of 98.8. That net rating of 1.9 was the best of the Bucks' regular rotation players.
But Sanders' offensive limitations paired with few playmaking options in the pick-and-roll destroyed his offensive rating in 2013-14. It fell to 95.4, and meanwhile, his defensive rating climbed to 104.7, making for a -9.3 net.
Essentially, he's putting up similar rebounding and shot-blocking numbers as power forward John Henson, but his offense is much less efficient. He shoots six percent worse from the floor and hits just 47 percent from the foul stripe. A true shooting percentage of 47.8 is poor for a big man, and that comes down to strength for finishing at the rim and getting any easy opportunities playing off teammates.
This year, Sanders was used as a pick-and-roll roll man just 30 times but scored 1.10 points per possession, according to MySynergySports.
Coincidentally or not, Milwaukee's offense has found itself since Sanders' eye injury in early February.
|OFF Rating||DEF Rating||NET|
|Thumb injury recovery (Nov. 5-Dec. 26)||95.6||104.5||-8.9|
|With Sanders (Dec. 27 - Feb. 3)||97.4||109.6||-12.2|
|After eye injury (Feb. 4-Present)||106.2||112.4||-6.1|
This chart is most damning toward Sanders' value this season. When he returned from his thumb injury, the Bucks' defensive efficiency actually decreased. When he left with his eye injury, the defense did get a little uglier, but the offensive improvements more than made up for the loss there.
All that should be taken with a grain of salt, of course. Drew hasn't had a healthy roster all year long, and perhaps the Bucks are finally grasping his concepts. Whatever the case may be, the losing has been consistent, and nothing is on Sanders when considering how poor the roster was constructed.
Sanders will get his money starting next season, and he's saying all the right things about learning from his experiences. Maybe he can't become an offensive juggernaut, but he'll at least have to get back to the rebounding and rim-protecting specialties that earned him $44 million. He can do that with or without talent around him.
All stats from NBA.com/stats.