Giannis is worth more than you...
So what do we make of Larry Sanders? Is he still the guy who finished the 2012-2013 season as the presumptive heir to the Face of the Franchise throne and a promising enough player to warrant an 8-figure contract extension? Or is he now the guy who can't even stay on the court because of his actions off it?
Judging from our poll results, Bucks fans are still optimistic that Sanders can return to his pre-nightmare (this Metallica tie-in is perfect) form, when he was one of the top young defensive big men in the entire NBA and at least decent on offense. Because if he can't, he's an $11 million cap albatross and potentially disruptive locker-room presence on a young and impressionable team. There's not a whole lot of value in the latter.
Do we know which is the real Sanders? Last season was basically the perfect storm of bad choices and bad luck for Larry, who absolutely should certainly be held accountable for losing his cool in a bar fight that left him injured in both body and reputation. Similarly, he has nobody to blame but himself for a drug charge stemming from apparent marijuana usage. Those were decisions Sanders made with full knowledge of the consequences, and he deserves most of the criticism that comes with them.
But there is at least a little hope that Bucks fans aren't being overly optimistic. While there's no accounting for personality or bad habits, it's fair to expect Sanders has wised up a bit after when he went through over the past year. And perhaps more encouraging is this: within a few weeks of returning from his initial injury, Sanders was starting to play quite well again. All the meaningful trends looked like they were continuing: Sanders was shooting almost exclusively easy shots near the hoop (even if his finishing was a little sluggish), he was racing down the court with his fellow burners, and he was playing excellent interior defense. When the perfect storm's final squall finally hit in the form of a James Harden elbow, it was a legitimate loss for the Bucks, not an eye-roll-inducing "Here we go again" moment. Of course, the next news we heard was in regards to his suspension, so right back into the dumps we all went.
Still, the teaser was there, and if Sanders can avoid the off-court troubles that doomed him last season, there's no reason to think he can't once again be a productive player. He still needs to continue the upward trajectory he was on if his $11 million salary is going to be a good value for Milwaukee, but at least he's not a lost cause.
Milwaukee Bucks Roster Asset Rankings
18. O.J. Mayo
17. Chris Wright
16. Zaza Pachulia
15. Jerryd Bayless
14. Johnny O`Bryant III
13. Ersan Ilyasova
12. Nate Wolters
11. Jared Dudley
10. Clippers' 2017 first-round pick
9. Kendall Marshall
8. Damien Inglis
7. Khris Middleton
6. John Henson
5. Larry Sanders