Playing Pluses and Minuses with the Drew Gooden Signing

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.

Categories: The Off Season



  1. Yeah, I would agree with every point, as well as the fact that one risk makes sense, two seems a bit desperate. But if they can re-sign Ridnour as well, you have to at least admit they could be very interesting this year.

    Also, since nothing’s actually been signed yet (they can’t till the 8th, right?), maybe those rumors of team options on the last two years have some truth to them. Given how well Hammond and Skiles did their jobs last year, you have to at least give them the benefit of the doubt going into it. They’ve certainlt increased the talent level, now let’s see if they can get it to mesh on the court.

  2. Very bad deal for Bucks,but very good deal for Gooden.After this deal Ersan has to go a different team,because he is a All-star caliber player.He doesn’t want to be a bench player for 20 minutes per game anymore.

  3. @Ali
    Much as we wish this were true, Ersan is still a bit of a tweener — not really a 3 or a 4. And he’s nowhere near all-star caliber yet, though if he gets stronger, who knows? And he needs to be more consistent offensively. Not just shooting, but using touches well. How many awkward drives did we see from him, especially early in the year. But I hope he does take it as a challenge and earn more minutes.

    It seems to me that Gooden is essentially replacing Thomas and Magette Stackhouse. So Gooden is the backup center. But he will take minutes at the 4 as well, so it will be interesting to see how the minutes get distributed. It may be a bit like last season, when Skiles let players show him how many minutes they deserved. Or maybe Trader John isn’t done yet…

  4. Jeremy Schmidt

    I’d say Ersan is a pretty clear stretch four. He didn’t play any three for Milwaukee last year and I actually asked Coach Skiles about that once and he scoffed at the notion of Ersan at the three. He should be getting stronger the next few years too. I like Ersan and I think he could potentially be a lot better than Drew Gooden in the next few years. It does seem like there is a jam now at the four. Something will have to happen eventually.

    But curak, I do agree that they can alleviate some problems by throwing Gooden in there at the five now and then. Ideally, Gooden should be a front court reserve, I’m just not sure his contract calls for that. Gooden and Maggette replacing KT and Stack does seem like an upgrade though.

    • I know Ersan hasnt played 3 since he came back, but he is still a bit overmatched playing inside against many 4’s in the NBA. But agree that he can be better than Gooden soon. So let’s hope his minutes aren’t too constrained by Gooden’s arrival.

  5. Hollinger’s piece really talked me off the ledge. You look at the depth this year: Jennings Salmons Magette, Delfino, Goodon, Ersan, Bogut, LRBAM. this will be a veristile team. Redd’s contract goes from albatross to asset and MKE is on the right path. Plus, Skiles knows Gooden and wanted him back. Says something to me.

  6. From what I understand, Gooden’s contract comes with options for year 4 and 5. I do believe it’s broken down like this:

    1: 5Mil
    2: 5Mil
    3: 6Mil
    4: 8Mil (option)
    5: 8Mil (option)

    If you ask me – that’s a pretty good deal. Even with the ‘questionable’ status of this deal – Gooden is a solid player. If we would have heard this deal at 3 years and $16Mil, I think we would have been pretty excited.

    Salmons was not known for his defense when he was signed, but he sure played pretty tough D near the end of the season if you ask me. I think Skiles can get these guys to play the game that we need from them.

    With the talk of Salmons resigning with the Bucks, this team just became extremely deep. Yes, there will be fighting for minutes, but hopefully that just makes them work that much harder!

    I’m pretty excited to see what goes down this season!

    • That would change everything, it’d essentially be a three year deal, also known as a logical deal for Drew Gooden. I’ve heard otherwise on the specifics on the contract, do you have a link or anything on the matter? Or is this just more word of mouth stuff? Thanks for the information regardless.

      • Yeah – unfortunately, I have no proof of this. I originally heard it via radio, which intrigued me. Looking into it further, there are a lot of posts on blogs stating this as well. But no one can really confirm.
        So it seems the details are lacking.
        All in all, I think I trust Hammonds. The the CBA stuff being talked about, it may get pretty interesting over the next few months and possibly into next year.

  7. When you look at what guys like Amir Johnson (34 million), Darko (20 million) and Channing Frye are pulling down, it makes sense the Bucks would need to overpay to get Drew Gooden. That’s OK in my book. He’s essentially a 4th option on offense (Salmons/Bogut/Jennings/Magette). And can bang a little bit with the bigger PFs and small C’s in the league. He should help a lot on rebounding as well. He also can be a nice 2nd team center, with offense that Kurt Thomas/Gadz couldn’t offer. That was a huge issue last year when Bogut was on bench (healthy or hurt) that we didn’t have an interior presence on offense. Push comes to shove, the Bucks have some depth, and we just have to hope Skiles can help with the IQ thing.

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