The Milwaukee Bucks and big man Larry Sanders are in "the final stages" of negotiations on a contract extension that would pay the shot blocking center more than $10 million per season, according to Marc Stein of ESPN. The deadline for agreeing to an extension is October 31, but Stein suggests that the two sides are already engaged in advanced discussions.
Sanders is coming off an excellent 2012-13 season. He posted career highs in points (9.8), rebounds (9.5), blocks (2.8) and minutes (27.3) per contest, and a career low in personal fouls per 36 minutes (4.3). More importantly, he emerged as a defensive star. Sanders finished second in the NBA in blocks per game and seventh in Defensive Player of the Year voting. He also became a household name when Kirk Goldsberry and Eric Weiss named him a dominant interior defender in a study on defensive value presented at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. He transformed the Bucks into a top defensive unit when he was on the floor last season, as he recorded at least one block in 40-straight games and became the first Bucks player since Elmore Smith in 1975-76 to swat 200-plus shots in a season.
Bucks blog Brew Hoop has noted that Sanders has clearly emerged as the face of the franchise in the wake of a busy offseason for the Bucks. Two thirds of Milwaukee's roster has been turned over this summer, and with Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings now gone, Sanders is the most exciting young player on the team.
If the suggested price tag on the contract extension seems a bit high for player who has never logged more than 30 minutes per game in a season and has struggled to avoid technical fouls (and personal fouls), it's important to remember that big men come at a premium in the NBA. Frank Madden of Brew Hoop looked into the early extensions for big men earlier in the year, and the $10 million-plus figure would likely put Sanders somewhere between DeAndre Jordan's four-year, $43 million deal and Serge Ibaka's four-year, $49.4 million pact with the Thunder.
An extension would be a bet on Sanders building upon his production from the 2012-13, but it's already clear that the big man brings a lot of value on the defensive end. If he is allowed to focus on becoming a defensive star, he can certainly justify a lucrative new deal. Big men don't come cheap.