The first (recognizable) NBA free agent signed was not LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer, Joe Johnson, David Lee, or even Dirk Nowitzki.
The kick off signing of the 2010-11 NBA Summer of Free Agent Love belonged to the Milwaukee Bucks and power forward/center Drew Gooden, who will come to Brew City on a five year, $32 million deal. Raise your hand if you saw that one coming.
By Jake McCormickWhen you consider the pace at which Hammond has wheeled and dealed before the draft, it’s not surprising to see the Bucks pull the trigger on signing a much needed big man barely nine hours after the free agent market opened.
Disregarding the eerie contract similarities to that of the recently departed Dan Gadzuric (six years, $36 million), Gooden is a perfect fit in Milwaukee. He’s been on Hammond’s radar since last summer, and has said he would be happy to play for the Bucks under Scott Skiles.
The journeyman is a consistent defensive presence under the basket, can play both power forward and center as needed, and is a better basketball player than Danny Gadz, who averaged at least one trip over his own feet per game in 2009-10. Gooden also is guaranteed to put up 12-14 points and 8-10 rebounds a night, and will serve as a veteran stopgap as a starter until rookies Larry Sanders and Tiny Gallon are NBA-ready.
All in all, Hammond reeled in a starting player he coveted that it immediately makes the Bucks a deeper, more talented team on paper. That leaves the other piece of paper raising the most concerns among fans.
The full contract details have yet to be released, but on first glance, it’s hard to justify giving a 28-year-old big man on his ninth team in eight years that much money over half a decade, especially with a plethora of young talent at the four. It’s also a bit curious that Milwaukee is using its full mid-level exception on Gooden (the average NBA salary), but that will be made clearer once the rest of the roster is filled.
Part of the contract had to be based on Gooden’s ability to immediately upgrade the Bucks inside presence, but it also may serve as a foreshadowing of events to come. This summer’s free agent class has been discussed and anticipated for at least two years, and a build up of that magnitude will undoubtedly drive up price value of the available players on the market.
Hammond could be taking a preemptive approach knowing things are going to get expensive fast, but again, Gooden is the newest member of the Fear the Deer movement and the only thing the populous can do is wait for the rest of the dominoes to fall before passing too much judgment on a move even the most hardcore fan would have to call intriguing.
Milwaukee has been extremely active so far this offseason, and most of the decisions have been met with questions from fans and writers alike. But Hammond’s moves last year elicited similar reactions, and the Executive of the Year deserves a little rope to make a decision most would consider crazy.
Bringing in Gooden was a great basketball move for Hammond and the Bucks, but it remains to be seen if the financial constraints of his contract will offset any on-court improvement. As a Zen master once said, “We’ll see.”Follow paulmbanks