The Warriors announced Friday the signing of veteran center Andrew Bogut to a three-year contract extension. Yahoo! Sports reported that the deal will be worth up to $43 million, while USA Today Sports reported that the incentive-laden deal will begin at $36 million,
The 28-year-old Australian center will make $14 million this season. The extension will carry him through the 2016-17 season.
“This is a great day for the Warriors and we’re very happy to know that Andrew will be our center beyond this season as we continue to progress as a team,” GM Bob Myers said in a statement. “Andrew possesses a wide-ranging skillset that makes him a great fit alongside the other core pieces that we have assembled on our roster. He is still just 28 years old and has established himself as one of the premier centers in the NBA. He is a leader on our team and was a key part of our success during last season’s playoff run.”
Bogut has played just 44 regular season games over the last two seasons due to ankle injuries. In 2012-13, his first year with the Warriors following a March 2012 trade with the Bucks, Bogut averaged 5.8 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 24.6 minutes per game.
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 draft is one of the league's better big men, although that statement requires the "when healthy" proviso. Bogut earned All-NBA Third Team honors in 2010, although he suffered a serious elbow injury near the end of that season. At this best, Bogut is a weapon on offense through his low-post scoring and through his passing, and his seven-foot size and strong frame make him a presence defensively and on the glass. Bogut led the Warriors with a +7.9 net rating during the 2013 playoffs, and Golden State's defensive rating was 7.8 points per 100 possessions better with him on the court than when he was on the bench during the postseason.
“I am so happy to get this deal done and want to personally thank Bob Myers and the Warriors owners, Joe Lacob and Peter Guber, for believing in me as a person and my skills on the court,” Bogut said in a statement. “I absolutely love living in the Bay Area and playing in front of our incredible fans. I’ve said all along that this is where I want to be long term and now I look forward to starting the season and working with my teammates and coaches to continue building on the foundation that we laid last year.”
The extension, even without incentives, will keep Bogut among the league's highest-paid centers. On a per-year basis, this contract is comparable to Charlotte's deal with Al Jefferson (three years, $41 million), Memphis's deal with Marc Gasol (four years, $57 million) and Indiana's deal with Roy Hibbert (four years, $58 million).
Golden State's rationale is straightforward: Without an agreement, Bogut would have one of the biggest name among unrestricted free-agent centers on the 2014 market, a group that also includes the likes of Pau Gasol, Marcin Gortat, Emeka Okafor. Without another starting quality center on the roster and with no ability to create true cap flexibility thanks to big-dollar deals already given to David Lee, Andre Iguodala and Stephen Curry, the Warriors would have been in a precarious leverage position next summer. Their options would have been to pay whatever it took to keep him, which could have potentially pushed them into the luxury tax for multiple seasons, or to let him walk and have a gaping hole in the middle.
Even so, the Warriors' goal of opening a window of championship contention is now totally reliant upon Bogut's health. If the ankle injury is, in fact, behind him, Golden State won't regret this price, which carries Bogut through his prime years. If he should succumb to injury this season or next, the Warriors will be hard-pressed to reach the standards they've set for themselves. In a worst-case scenario, Golden State would potentially be forced to move one or more of its core pieces to replace Bogut if he's lost to another long-term injury. For that reason, this deal is likely to be received in the Bay Area with a combination of light applause and loud gulping.