Way back in 2013, the Bucks completed a rookie ladder extension with then-24-year-old third-year center Larry Sanders (aka LARRY SANDERS!!!) worth $44 million over 4 years. Coming off a breakout year in which he finished second in the NBA in blocks per game (behind Serge Ibaka, no less) and third in Most Improved Player voting. Sanders was highly regarded by the fan base at the time and with his sensational rim protection, he seemed like a good deal.
However, things went wrong in a matter of months, and that may be an understatement. In the first year of the contract alone (*deep breath*), he missed 25 games as a result of a finger injury sustained in a nightclub brawl, was cited twice for disorderly conduct, cited twice for animal cruelty for leaving his dogs outside in the cold during a road trip, suspended 5 games for marijuana use, and missed more time with a fractured right orbital bone.
The following season, he dressed for 27 games, but after a matchup with Charlotte on December 23, he left the team for 7 games. That would end up being his last appearance with the Bucks because he, coming back from him, he didn’t dress for any games and rumors began to circulate that he wanted to quit basketball. After receiving a 10-game marijuana suspension again in January 2015, the Bucks bought out his contract in late February, and Sanders subsequently announced that he would, in fact, be leaving the sport. Here is our full story broadcast from that moment detailing the Sanders saga.
From his comments at the time of his near-retirement and that long packing list from the previous 12 months, it was abundantly clear that Sanders had some very real mental health issues at the time. He mentioned that he went into rehab and lost his desire to play, something he got to a little later in his teens than most players. Sanders expressed his desire to do more with art (he majored in college) and experiment with music. I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that while we’re disappointed (maybe even upset) that it didn’t work out, we hoped then and now that he’s in a better place.
However, buying Sanders’ stake was not easy. At the time, he was in the first year of the extension and thus had more than three years and about $36 million left on the deal, which meant he played only 8% of its length. However, he ended up receiving almost half of the money he signed for. In order to back out of it, Sanders had to give up around $20 million in the total purchase, which meant the Bucks still owed him roughly $15.2 million. Instead of paying that money in each of the next three seasons, the Bucks used the extension provision to save about $5.1 million annually during that time after the purchase.
Extending his contract after waiving him in February 2015 and after paying him the rest of the money he was owed that season meant the Bucks paid Sanders just under $1.9 million every year since then. That’s six seasons paying a player who wasn’t on the roster and outside of a 5-game, 13-minute season with the Cavs in 2017, he wasn’t playing professional basketball. Although in the grand scheme of NBA salary-cap figures, that’s a pretty small number, it would cover a veteran’s minimum salary in any one of those years. Buy and stretch put about $9 million a year ($11 million a year if he had lived out his contract plus possible incentives) back on the profit sheet for Milwaukee from 2015 to 2018 at least, but all of this isn’t ideal. .
No more! From now on, midnight on July 1st when this article goes live on the site (I’ve had this article up and ready for months on our writer’s board, drawing laughter from my colleagues), the league year 2021- 22 is over. and the Bucks’ salary obligations to Sanders are complete. After $1.9 million of dead money on the books earmarked for him each year, Milwaukee no longer has to pay him. By my calculations, I ended up paying him $13.1 million when all was said and done, so they kind of saved some money on what was originally expected. Very good for Sanders, getting all that money. No to play basketball.
That’s not the only good news regarding the Bucks’ salary-cap books today. They also aren’t required to pay all-time Badgers and former Bucks second-round pick Jon Leuer $3.2 million annually. You may recall that in the summer of 2019, just days before the draft, Milwaukee traded Tony Snell and their 30th overall first-round pick (which later ended up in Cleveland, which took Kevin Porter Jr.) to Detroit in what That amounted to a bad contract trade that could save Milwaukee some money.
Although Snell had some solid years in Milwaukee, he was owed nearly $25.6 million over the remaining two seasons of the 4-year, $46 million rookie-scale extension he signed in July 2017. If you recall, 2019 was a great season. low for the Bucks where they had four very important players in free agency: Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe, Brook Lopez and Malcolm Brogdon. While Bledsoe was extended that spring, the priority was clearing cap space to get new deals for four-fifths (!) of his starting lineup. By then, Snell had been left out of the rotation due to injury and lackluster performance, so he was the obvious guy to pass to free up space.
The cost of making another team take on that unwanted salary, however, was a late first-round pick, and because Detroit didn’t have the cap space to absorb Snell’s contract, they had to return a good portion of the salary to Snell. Milwaukee. . In 2016, the Pistons signed the former Wisconsin star to a $42 million, 4-year deal (isn’t it funny how similar all these contracts I’ve mentioned are?) on the heels of a productive year with the Suns. Leuer played well enough his first year in Detroit, but played only 8 games the following season due to an ankle injury and only 41 in 2018-19.
With one year and $10.5 million left on his contract and no team role, the Pistons shipped him back across Lake Michigan, where the Bucks later waived him. Instead of paying him eight figures, though, they stretched out the remaining salary over the next three seasons to open up more needed salary-cap space for Middleton and Lopez. Leuer never played in the NBA again, but he did gross nearly $3.2 million in each of the past three seasons, meeting the salary he would have made in 2019-20.
That money also just came off the books! After paying more than $5 million to two players who hadn’t been on the roster since the 2019 offseason, the Bucks now finally have no dead money on their salary cap. In some seasons, that was almost worth the taxpayer’s midlevel exception. However, with the Bucks recently over the luxury tax line, they were paying a bit more for these two players due to the multiplier effects of the tax. They weren’t just being paid $5 million: In 2021-22, the team paid about $17.9 million more in tax penalties because of these stretched salaries.
Now free of these balls and chains, the Bucks can siphon off more money to players. actually on the list. Thanks to Pat Connaughton opting out of the final year of his contract at below market price, Bobby Portis’ shiny new extension, Marjon Beauchamp’s long-awaited rookie deal, Joe Ingles’ free-agent signing, plus With the contracts of Wes Matthews and Jevon Carter, the team’s payroll is approximately $172.5 million and one roster spot remains to be filled. However, unlike previous years, everybody that money goes to players who are currently in the NBA, so these savings from eliminated dead money come at just the right time.
Thus ends a very strange chapter in Bucks history.