Larry Sanders and the Bucks are closing in on a contract extension, according to ESPN.com's Marc Stein. The Bucks and Sanders have until October 31 to reach an agreement, but it appears that the team doesn't want to push the deadline to ink its big man, and probable face of the franchise, to an extension.
After two seasons of inconsistent play and minutes, Sanders became a cult hero in Milwaukee last year, averaging 9.8 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 2.8 (!) blocks in under 30 minutes a game last season. He even impressed so far as to garner an invite to the Team USA Mini-Camp in Vegas this past July. That, of course, ended prematurely when Sanders came down on Chandler Parsons's foot and sprained his left ankle.
While Sanders and the Bucks have until Halloween to come to terms on an extension, Stein's sources have said that the deal is already in its final stages. Potential terms of the deal are not being disclosed at the moment, but Stein surmises that it will be somewhere in excess of $10 million annually. Without an extension, Sanders would become a restricted free agent in the summer of 2014. For a positional reference point, Sanders' deal will likely end up somewhere in the neighborhood of Serge Ibaka, Javale McGee, and Deandre Jordan, each of whom signed new four-year deals averaging between $11 and $12 million annually. The incentive for signing Sanders now is to avoid seeing another team make him a huge offer next summer, a scenario the Pacers found themselves in with Roy Hibbert a year ago. Portland was prepared to make HIbbert a max offer sheet last July before the Pacers ponied up $58 million over four years to keep him in Indiana. Jordan was in a similar boat, though he actually signed his $43 million offer sheet with the Warriors before the Clippers eventually matched in December 2011.
Sanders finished third in Most Improved Player voting and seventh in Defensive Player of Year voting, though he was the second best shot-blocker in the league while holding opponents to the lowest field-goal percentage around the basket. Despite these accolades, Sanders was left off any first or second All-Defensive teams (read: he's pretty darn valuable, even if he's not properly decorated for it).
Sanders is one of the five remaining carryovers from last year's Bucks squad, and he's already taking an active role in becoming a leader on this overhauled roster as the face of the "new" Bucks. He also says really cool things about wanting to stay in Milwaukee that make you feel all warm and fuzzy and never want to let him go.
Time will tell what the final details of the extension will be and whether Larry can meet those expectations, but for now it's nice to see the Bucks get proactive and lock down what they see is a vital building block to something better than the past product.
[In case you forgot what Larry Sanders playing basketball looked like, here's a little morsel for you]
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