5 NBA Teams Who Should Buy Low on Larry Sanders This Offseason
To say that Larry Sanders had a rough season would be quite the understatement. Perhaps no player in league history has ever put forth a worse season after signing a long-term contract worth over $10 million a year annually. It was that bad.
And there are teams out there that will (and should) covet Sanders. Even though there are character concerns, Sanders is an elite shot-blocker and rim protector, and those aren’t easy to find.
From Milwaukee’s perspective, however, Sanders might already be out of chances. With John Henson and Zaza Pachulia able to hold down the 5 spot, and with the chance that Joel Embiid could be the selection with the second pick in the draft, Sanders might not be worth the trouble for Milwaukee any longer.
If that ends up being the case, which teams should make a bid for Sanders? Here are five potential suitors that could buy low on the Bucks big man.
We know that Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban isn’t afraid to take risks, and so long as Rick Carlisle is on the sidelines and Dirk Nowitzki is on the floor, the Mavs can afford to do just that. Here’s Marc Stein at ESPN.com with more:
On the subject of using their cap space to upgrade via trade as opposed to outright signings, Milwaukee's Larry Sanders remains another potential target after an absolute nightmare season. Monta has never been better since the Mavs imported him from Milwaukee; could life with Nowitzki, Carlisle and Cuban have a similar effect on Sanders?
Ellis turned out to be quite the pull in free agency just last year after many teams treated him like poison. Ellis hasn’t been in quite the same type of incidents Sanders has recently, but there’s some precedent for Dallas bringing in a castoff and making it work.
Most importantly, the Mavericks desperately need someone who can protect the rim at the 5. The trio of Samuel Dalembert, Brandan Wright and DeJuan Blair just isn’t going to cut it again next year, and Sanders should be available for a pretty low price considering his long-term deal and failure to contribute last year.
With Sanders taking care of the paint and Nowitzki doing his usual bit, the Mavericks could instantly vault into contender status next season so long as they secured more talent in addition to Sanders. He’s not a guy you necessarily want to cast all your hopes on at this point, but for a team with cap room like Dallas and a big hole in the middle, it’s worth a shot.
Sanders could be the younger version of Tyson Chandler, the center Nowitzki won his only title with. As opposed to just renting Chandler, though, who has just one more year on his deal, the Mavs could get a long-term solution at the 5 in Sanders.
Probably the biggest issue for the Cleveland Cavaliers in past years other than having a dysfunctional front office, was not being able to get any stops on the defensive end. Anderson Varejao is a really good defensive big man, but he’s not suited to stop the flood of penetration the Cavs allow on the perimeter.
Sanders would be better suited for that type of role, even though there would be some definite concerns that Cleveland’s shaky culture and locker room couldn’t give him the direction or support he needed. If things got bad and the team started off piling up losses, it’s hard to say how Sanders would react in another losing environment.
Still, we’ve seen that Cleveland is willing to take risks for talented but mercurial big men (Andrew Bynum), even if they’ve backfired. Sanders still wants to play and can perform at a high level, but his long-term contract is indeed a little bit scary.
You wouldn’t be able to deny the talent on Cleveland’s roster, however. With Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, possibly Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao, the Cavs would have some nice pieces to play with.
Sanders would fill a need, although there may be some concern about adding substantial salary before the 2015 offseason when LeBron James and a host of other players could hit free agency. If Cleveland still has high hopes for landing a star, they may have to pass on adding Sanders for cheap.
Would the Bucks consider a swap of athletic big men by trading Larry Sanders for JaVale McGee? While I’m not sure either team would view this as a potential gain or as necessary, perhaps both would rather deal with a new problem instead of an old one.
McGee and Sanders seemingly have a lot in common, as both dealt with serious injuries last year that curbed their seasons before they even started. Both McGee and Sanders have displayed elite potential over the years, but McGee’s mistakes have been more of the goofy, harmless variety.
Trading Sanders to Denver would be interesting from a different perspective as well. Sanders has spoken out as a proponent of marijuana, as he explained to Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinal and to NBA.com:
It's something I feel strongly about, just to let you know something personal about me. I will deal with the consequences from it. It's a banned substance in my league. But I believe in marijuana and the medical side of it. I know what it is if I'm going to use it.
I study it and I know the benefits it has. In a lot of ways we've been deprived. You can't really label it with so many other drugs that people can be addicted to and have so many negative effects on your body and your family and your relationships and impairment. This is not the same thing.
The stigma is that it's illegal. I hate that. Once this becomes legal, this all will go away. But I understand for my work it's a banned substance. I will deal with the consequences and I apologize again to my fans for that.
Colorado is one of the few states where marijuana has been legalized, and so the NBA would seemingly have an interesting situation on their hands with one of the league’s most outspoken proponents playing in a city where it’s legal. Would there be a groundswell of support for Sanders? Would the drug testing get a little less random, if you catch my drift? It would be something to watch for sure.
But back to basketball. The only real benefit for Milwaukee here would be cutting a year off the money owed to Sanders by swapping for McGee, and Denver would have to justify it by thinking Sanders is capable of playing at a higher level than McGee, which is probably true based on what we've seen in the past.
San Antonio Spurs
While part of me thinks the San Antonio Spurs would treat the prospect of handling Sanders with the same enthusiasm someone does when dealing with toxic waste, there might be the faith in his ability and the system to take him in and provide a winning environment that could change everything.
A lot, obviously, will depend on what happens with guys like Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili first, as one would imagine they’d retire if the Spurs won the title this year. The same could be said for Gregg Popovich, which might make the prospect of bringing in a guy like Sanders a lot less appealing.
Is Sanders’ talent so much better than Tiago Splitter’s that he’s worth the potential issues and downside? Probably not. Splitter doesn’t get much credit as he doesn’t really pass the eye test when you see him on the court, but he’s a pretty strong defender and a good passer. Sanders could be those things as well, but he could also blow up the next era of basketball for the Spurs.
Chances are, this just wouldn’t be worth the risk, even if the cost was pretty low. The Spurs created a dynasty by building around high character guys who were willing to be held accountable at every step, and it’s definitely not a slam dunk that Sanders could be one of those players.
Let’s say the Wizards lose Marcin Gortat in free agency, which could very well happen. All of a sudden, Washington would be faced with the prospect of going into next year with an injury prone guy in Nene as the only real frontcourt talent on the team.
That’s enough to scare any general manager, especially when a return appearance to the playoffs is expected. While Sanders isn’t anywhere near as solid or dependable as Gortat, the potential Sanders could bring alongside the young backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal might be too great to pass up.
More likely than not, the Wizards will have the positional need and the cap space to absorb a guy like Sanders via trade.
This would be a potentially great landing spot as well, as Nene is versatile enough to mesh with Sanders on both ends while the Wizards could get out and run even more with a shot-blocker and an athletic big triggering and finishing lots of fast breaks. John Wall’s eyes would light up if Sanders played to his full capabilities.
Ultimately, a risk like this for Washington is probably worth taking. While guys like Gortat and Trevor Ariza were solid and helped the Wizards have some success in the playoffs, it’s hard to say that returning that exact same core will result in any serious playoff runs. Wall and Beal are great, but the ceiling for the rest of the roster needs to be higher.
Sanders could certainly provide that, as he’s far from a finished product himself, particularly on the offensive end. Out of all the potential landing spots for Sanders, this one probably makes the most sense.