Emotional reactions are common when a team makes the first signing of free agency. If you feel more comfortable, add the word questionable before the word signing in the previous sentence. Go ahead, I know you want to.
Good. Now that that is out of the way, I say we put emotions aside and try and look at the Drew Gooden signing with as much rational thought as possible, through pluses and minuses, despite not having all the facts or the Bucks side of the story quite yet. But I promise, when we get those things, we’ll examine them.
+ Plus: Drew Gooden is actually pretty good.
He’s a little goofy. But overall, Gooden puts up very good numbers year after year. His career PER of 16.5 is better than any player who manned the power forward spot for the Bucks last season was able to put up. He’s also grabbed 10.8% of the offensive rebounds available while he’s been out on the court for his career, a number better than any Buck that’s currently on the roster produced last season. And I haven’t even gotten to Gooden’s offense yet, possibly the strongest part of his game. In every season of his career Gooden has averaged double figures in scoring and he appears a lock to finish between 55-60% from around the rim.
- Minus: Five years? For Drew Gooden?
Not only am I listing this as a minus, but I’m going to point out that nearly everyone had this exact reaction upon hearing about this deal. Whether or not their is an option on the last year or two of this deal appears up in the air, some are saying there is while others haven’t mentioned it, but five years would be a lot of Drew Gooden. Gooden has played for eight teams in his eight years in the league and will be signing his third contract since his rookie deal expired. The Cavs initially signed him to a three year $23 million extension in 2006 and he received a one year $4.5 million ($5 million with incentives) deal from the Mavericks before last season. Gooden didn’t play bad last season, 10.9/7.7, but he didn’t significantly outplay his career numbers or anything like that.
That’s what strikes me as so curious about giving Gooden more money than he made last season and a long term contract. Hasn’t Gooden more or less established himself as a journeyman? Shouldn’t he be taking less money to get more years? Again, it’s not that I don’t think Drew Gooden is talented, he clearly is, but if the Bucks are really serious about winning a title, their focus should be on getting good value out of their deals. Ersan Ilyasova made just over $2 million last season to put up a season that was very close to Gooden’s. So why bother giving Gooden extra years if Ilyasova can give Milwaukee the same production when factoring in improvements in Ilyasova’s game? Well that’s where our next plus comes in.
+ Plus: Milwaukee found a backup center in it’s new power forward
Gooden is flexible. Perhaps he’s not a gymnast, but he can play two positions and that’s a good thing. After Andrew Bogut went down for the season last year, the Bucks were left with a gaping hole in the middle of their offense. Kurt Thomas filled in admirably, but was often over matched offensively against larger centers who lived with him spotting up from the short corners and elbows. Gooden cannot be left alone on offense if Bogut goes down and he fills in. Gooden posted PER’s of 18.3 and 18.0 while playing the center position last year for Dallas and Los Angeles.
- Minus: Defense is not something Gooden is Good(en) at
Remember when I trotted out those nifty PER’s to support Gooden’s case as a center? Well there is a bit of a problem with that. The players he was left to defend at the center position did even better. With the Mavs, opposing centers put up a PER of 18.9 against Gooden, while that number jumps to 23.6 while he was on the Clippers. Despite his rebounding prowess, Gooden has never been much of a shot-blocker, averaging less than one per game for his career. In addition, Corey Maggette is not the only new Buck who has a problem with awareness on defense, as Gooden has a reputation for having breaking plays and falling asleep on defense that precedes his arrival in Milwaukee.
Milwaukee’s high IQ, defensively fundamentally sound squad last season was doing a lot of damage by the end of the season. They took a gamble and added Corey Maggette for the sake of becoming a better offensive team, one that could get to the free throw line even. I got that. With just three years left on Maggette’s deal (with one of those being those always attractive contract years) it seemed like a risk worth taking when factoring in that the Bucks would have gotten virtually no return on how Maggette’s first year salary was originally earmarked (Charlie Bell and Dan Gadzuric). That makes sense.
But with Gooden, Milwaukee is now adding two offensive players who aren’t known as being very competent defensively or having high basketball IQ’s. It’s as if the organization is throwing caution to the wind, like they are completely certain these new players will mesh wonderfully with the holdovers from last season. That’s a gamble that is probably not too unwise if it’s a one or two year gamble. But the Buck aren’t making a one or two year gamble. Milwaukee isn’t going to be able to easily dispatch Maggette or Gooden if things don’t work out. Things HAVE to work out with them. They are Milwaukee’s guys now, for good or for bad, for the next few years.
And mostly, people are left wondering why. Why was there a need to lock up Gooden for so long and so quickly? Wouldn’t two or three years have sufficed just fine for him? Is his production significant enough that it outweighs the risk of a long term deal, especially when Ilyasova’s on the roster and statistically similar? Was there secretly a very strong market for a player who has received one moderately long contract in his career and has been traded five times? Did Milwaukee just want another crazy hairstyle guy to balance out John Salmons’ beard? Questions, questions.
For the next week and likely much longer than that, Milwaukee is going to have many more questions than answers. Something surely no one saw coming at the end of the season. That, my friends, is a minus.