Options are limited for small market teams. Milwaukee somehow made it to the playoffs despite being one of the smaller markets and therefore, not a prime destination for superstar free agents.
With this established fact, the Bucks have had lucky picks. The problem is they can’t retain him. While the jury’s still out on Brandon Jennings (half the other teams would not hesitate to sign Jennings despite the publicized problems), the Bucks breakout star Larry Sanders, who emerged as a defensive anchor (a la Ben Wallace) is on the board.
A monster rebounder and a menacing shotblocker, the comparisons to Wallace are on point. If the Bucks also let this one go, it’s fair to question the team’s commitment to win.
Extend or wait and see: Larry Sanders
Ham: Extend. Like Cousins, Sanders is still trying to put it all together both in performance and decorum. Cousins’ ceiling is much higher, but Sanders is still a shot-blocking, rebounding center and those don’t grow on trees. Besides, the Bucks aren’t exactly a huge draw for free agents. If they think they can ink him to a long-term deal at an affordable clip, then lock him up.
Katz: Extend, extend, extend. Sanders turned into an excellent rebounder last year and is one of the best rim protectors in the NBA. We’ve learned in today’s NBA a dominant defensive big man can carry a defense. The Bucks can’t let one of those slip through their hooves.
Sunnergren: Extend. Sanders is the most prolific swatter of shots in the Association, one of the sport’s dozen or so best defensive players, and, in 2012-13, improved in nearly every meaningful statistical category. The Bucks are paying Zaza Pachulia and O.J. Mayo $13 million next season — they could probably put a few shekels aside for Sanders.
Tynan: Extend. A 24-year-old pogo stick with that kind of defensive impact? In Milwaukee? Lock him up. The Bucks were 6.8 points per 100 possessions better defensively when he was on the court. And in a market that must depend on homegrown talent as a building block, it’s a no-brainer to secure this Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
Wallace: Extend. Surely, there will be plenty of times when the volatile Sanders’ attitude and antics will remind new coach Larry Drew of Josh Smith. But Sanders is a rare breed of NBA big man. His athleticism is rare, and he’s shown triple-double ability. He’s not a feature player, but he’s certainly a keeper.