Are big men always worth big money in NBA?

They have a nickname for Ryan Anderson in the Orlando locker

room.

 

“We call him Baby Brinks Truck,” Magic teammate Quentin Richardson

said.

 

One reason Anderson received that nickname is his averages of 15.9 points and

7.6 rebounds as he prepares to become a restricted free agent this summer. But want

to know what else really helps?

 

Anderson is 6-foot-10.

 

“Big guys don’t grow on trees,” Richardson said.

 

NBA owners might have played hardball last year when their resolve to cut

salaries resulted in a lockout that ended up shortening this season to 66

games. But when the dust settled after the late November end to the work

stoppage, one thing didn’t change. Big men kept getting paid.

 

Nene, who has since been traded to Washington, received a five-year, $67

million contract from Denver. Four-year deals went to Memphis’ Marc Gasol for

$58 million, New York’s Tyson Chandler for $56 million and the Clippers’

DeAndre Jordan for $43 million. Two-year contract recipients included David

West from Indiana for $20 million and Samuel Dalembert from Houston for $13.7

million.

 

Then there were the one-year guys. New Orleans gave Carl Landry $9 million.

Kris Humphries received $8 million from New Jersey. Kwame Brown, who since has

been lost for the rest of the regular season with an injury and been traded to

Milwaukee, scored $7 million out of Golden State.

 

Kwame Brown? Well, at last measurement he was 6-11.

 

“People say they’re paid by the inch in the NBA,” said the 6-9

Humphries, a power forward who at least has been a bright spot on the woeful

Nets with averages of 13.5 points and 11.0 rebounds.

 

It’s the most basic law of supply and demand. NBA teams need big guys, and they

aren’t exactly hanging out at the bus stop in front of the arena.

 

“We all dream of being a 7-footer one day,” said New Orleans point

guard Jarrett Jack, who is making $5.2 million this season with a 15.6 scoring

average, higher than three big-men teammates all earning $9 million or more,

Landry, Chris Kaman ($14 million) and Emeka Okafor ($12.5 million). “But

now I’m just going to deal with this 6-3 I got and make it work.”

 

Centers are the ones who really get paid. The four most lucrative deals handed

out to free agents before the start of the season all went to guys at that

position, the recipients being Nene, Gasol, Chandler and Jordan.

 

“If you’re a center and you can walk and chew gum in this league, you make

$10 million (a year),” said 6-11 Kim Hughes, a former NBA center and

Clippers head coach.

 

When he was with the Clippers, Hughes tutored Jordan, a raw 6-11 prospect. But Hughes

had to do a double take when he saw the offer sheet Golden State tendered

Jordan and was matched by the Clippers.

 

“DeAndre Jordan found Golden State, and he is overpaid, no question,”

Hughes said. “But I love DeAndre. I’m happy for him. He’s worked so

hard.”

 

After losing out on Jordan, who had averaged 7.1 points and 7.2 rebounds for

the Clippers last season, the Warriors then threw money at the next big guy who

walked by. That was Brown, who had averaged 7.9 points and 6.8 rebounds with

Charlotte last season.

 

While the stories are legendary about crazy deals being thrown at centers

(read: Jim McIlvaine, Calvin Booth, Jerome James), power forwards have to work

a little harder for their money. But there’s no doubt Orlando’s power forward

is on track to live up to his nickname.

 

There were talks in January about Anderson signing a contract extension. But no

deal was reached because of the uncertainty at the time about Magic center

Dwight Howard staying with the team and because agent Jeff Austin believed his

client could get better “value” by waiting.

 

Well, Howard is still with the Magic. And, judging from what his teammates say,

Anderson should have plenty of value this summer.

“I haven’t really looked into that stuff a ton. Obviously it’s always on TV,

you hear about it,” Anderson said of all the big guys who received big contracts

this season. “Obviously, the better I play the better the contract, but

I’m not really thinking about that. … But it definitely is a benefit being

tall.”

 

Anderson, dubbed a stretch four in basketball lingo, has the added benefit of

being able to shoot. He’s firing away at 40.8 percent from 3-point range while

leading the NBA in attempts and makes.

 

A Brinks truck is being gassed up.

 

Some other 2012 free-agent big men in line for big deals are aging Kevin

Garnett of Boston and Tim Duncan of San Antonio, who still should be worth

something even if it’s much less than the $21 million each is getting this

season. There’s Kaman, who also might have to take a pay cut, one-year contract

guys Landry and Humphries and restricted free agents Roy Hibbert of Indiana,

Brook Lopez of New Jersey, JaVale McGee of Denver and Jason Thompson of

Sacramento.

 

Thompson sure has been helping himself lately after a slow start to the season.

With J.J. Hickson having been waived, Thompson has played more. He averaged

17.6 points and 13.6 rebounds his past five games.

 

“It’s great because you can’t teach height and you can’t teach talent for

someone with size and length,” the 6-11 power forward said about inches

translating into dollars. “It’s good to see bigs get rewarded, and that

makes a guy like me smile and get ready as well for it.”

 

Thompson’s tall teammate, 6-11 center DeMarcus Cousins, isn’t smiling because

well, he never really smiles. But Cousins, averaging 16.9 points and 11.0

rebounds, just might manage a grin when he becomes eligible for a contract

extension in the summer of 2013 and he’s likely offered maximum dollars.

 

“Big guys do get paid in this league,” Cousins said when asked about

all the money that went to tall guys this season. “I don’t really

understand them numbers. You got some bigs, you average 6 and 6 and you get

these crazy contracts.”

 

If Cousins was referring to Jordan, six points and six rebounds is nearly

identical to his career averages. Then again, this season he’s putting up more

than 7.0 and 8.0 for his $10 million.

 

Chris Tomasson can be reached at christomasson@hotmail.com

or on Twitter@christomasson