Since the Warriors acquired Andrew Bogut prior to the 2012 trade deadline, the veteran center has appeared in just 32 of 109 games for the team, having been sidelined extensively with ankle and back issues throughout the last season and a half. But Bogut reportedly looks good this fall, and recently told Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News that his goal is to play a full 82-game slate for Golden State this season.
Bogut's health is no guarantee, but if he manages to avoid further injuries over the next few months, the timing would be fortuitous. After all, the Australian is heading into the final season of a five-year, $60MM contract, making him eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer.
As I've written before, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement has significantly reduced the number of veteran contract extensions signed. Except in a few specific scenarios, there simply isn't much incentive for teams or players to extend a contract during the season rather than waiting for free agency. Nonetheless, Bogut is extension-eligible and isn't ruling out that possibility, telling Kawakami in the article linked above that he'd like to stay with the Warriors beyond this season.
"There haven’t been (extension talks)," Bogut said. "But I want to stay here, if I can. I like the organization, I like the direction, I like the owners, I love the coaches, I love the players. I honestly want to stay here. But I’m not (overlooking) that I’ve been hurt, so my value has been diminished a little bit. And obviously I want to have a good year.
"If I get an extension, I get it," Bogut continued. "If I don’t, I don’t. But we’re not really talking about it right now. The focus is training camp. And I think a big fella on the open market isn’t all so bad, either, judging by the last (offseason)."
Kawakami writes in his piece that the Warriors have "pretty clearly" indicated they'd like to keep Bogut long-term, so there seems to be mutual interest in working something out, whether that happens next July or earlier. Marcus Thompson II of the Bay Area News Group recently wrote that the club is taking a "wait-and-see" approach on extension talks, which suggests a new deal in the near future is probably unlikely. Still, we saw a year ago when Golden State locked up Stephen Curry to a long-term deal that the team is willing to roll the dice on players coming off injuries if there's an opportunity to get a bargain on premium talent.
So let's assume that the two sides at least discuss the topic in the next few weeks or months. What might a new deal for Bogut look like? Well, as he suggested himself, his injury history will hurt his value a little, meaning he's not likely to replicate the $14MM salary he'll earn in 2013/14. Still, as a former first overall pick with plenty left in the tank, he's definitely worth more than mid-level money. If we split the difference, that would mean an annual average value in the neighborhood of $9-10MM.
Would that be affordable enough for the Warriors? Although the team shed a ton of short-term salary by trading Andris Biedrins, Richard Jefferson, and Brandon Rush to the Jazz, that swap didn't improve the club's long-term cap flexibility. Golden State is still in fairly good shape for now, with only about $50MM in guaranteed salaries on its books for each of the next two seasons (2014/15 and 2015/16). There should definitely be room to pay Bogut a sizable salary in at least '14/15, but things could start to get tricky after that.
Klay Thompson will be eligible for restricted free agency in 2015, and Harrison Barnes could hit the market in 2016. Keeping both of those guys around, with Bogut still earning close to $10MM, could push team salary into tax territory. On the other hand, David Lee's big contract finally comes off the books in 2016, and this summer's cost-cutting trade with Utah showed that the Warriors can get creative when it comes to making room for their core players.
If we assume that the Warriors would be on board with a three-year extension worth $25MM+ for Bogut, what about the big man himself? If he plays anything close to the 82 games he's aiming for, and remains productive, he may be in line for a larger payday. But Andrew Bynum's free agency should be a cautionary tale — a year after he appeared to be headed for a max contract, Bynum only received $6MM in guaranteed money due to health concerns.
Given all the variables in play here, I doubt we'll see the two sides reach any sort of agreement until next July. The Warriors have enough cap flexibility that they can afford to wait and see how this season plays out, rather than risking committing long-term money to a player whose health is a question mark. As for Bogut, the incentive of rebuilding his value in a contract year likely looks more appealing than settling for a discount. I wouldn't be surprised if Bogut eventually remains in Golden State beyond 2014, but I expect to see him hit the open market next summer.