Few centers can match a healthy Andrew Bogut.
A strong defender and efficient threat around the rim, players of Bogut’s size and caliber are a rare commodity. Unfortunately, the Golden State Warriors have yet to capitalize since Bogut’s return to the lineup. In fact, they may be playing worse.
Despite his reputation as lane-clogging defensive stopper, the Warriors actually surrender more points with Bogut on the floor than when he sits. Floor units that include Bogut give up 108.4 points per 100 possessions, compared to the 107.4 points allowed by those that do not, according to 82games.com (which tracks the effectiveness of five-man units).
This isn’t necessarily Bogut’s fault. As a team, the Warriors defense struggled in the weeks leading up to the All Star break. Some attributed this to fatigue, though I suspect Golden State’s perimeter players have also grown lazy with the added presence of Bogut, a renowned help defender.
Bogut recently lambasted his teammates’ reliance on his help, telling reporters that the Warriors’ defensive effort had fallen to “sh*t” since his return.
“At the end of the day, you’ve got to stop your man. We have a great shell team defense. But I think at the end of the day, it’s you one-on-one in a battle with the guy you’re guarding, you know?” he said, according to a San Jose Mercury News report. “Our defense one-on-one is horrendous, 1 through 5, not just one or two guys. 1 through 5. We get beat it’s like, ‘Oh help, someone help me’.”
The Warriors’ recent troubles on the defensive end are exacerbated by Bogut’s impact on their offense. That is not to say Bogut is a poor offensive player – quite the opposite, in fact – he’s averaged 9 points per game on .556 shooting since his return. He’s also shown flashes of his trademark creativity, sinking a pretty left-handed mini-hook over Marc Gasol in the first quarter of the February 8 Memphis Grizzlies game.
However, those offensive capabilities disguise the ugly truth that the team averages almost five points less per 100 possessions when Bogut is on the court (102.2 points per 100 possessions with Bogut and 107.1 without).
Prior to Bogut’s return, Golden State relied on backup centers Festus Ezeli and Andris Biedrins, whose shared deficiencies on the offensive end reflect their usage rates; 11.4 percent and 4.1 percent, respectively. Those usage rates translate into fewer field goal attempts – the Ezeli/Biedrins combination averages 2.9 attempts in 24.5 minutes per game. Bogut, who is used on 16 percent of team plays, averages 6.5 shot attempts in only 22.5 minutes per game this season.
Offensively, Bogut is leaps and bounds above what the Ezeli/Biedrins combination bring to the table, which explains why he averages 3.6 more attempts per game. Unfortunately, Bogut’s attempts around the rim have come at the expense of players who shoot from beyond the arc. Golden State’s offense relies on consistent production from high-volume sharpshooters (namely, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson), which is why the team averages 19.79 three-point attempts per game. That average slips to 17.67 attempts when Bogut is in the starting lineup.
Given the team’s efficiency from three point land – they convert a league-leading 39.3 percent of their shots – trading three points for two could be one reason the offense stalls when Bogut is on the floor.
The concerns raised by Bogut’s return come with a few caveats. For one, his 2012-2013 stats are limited – the Australian has only played in 10 games this season, four of which were while he was still recovering from left ankle microfracture surgery. This hardly constitutes an adequate sample size.
Furthermore, his on/off floor stats are skewed by the February 5 140-109 loss to the Houston Rockets. Houston shot 23-of-40 from three-point land that night; a testament to the quality of Rocket shooters as much as it is the holes in Golden State’s defense.
Andrew Bogut has the potential to be one of the most effective centers in the NBA and has played well since returning to the starting lineup. With 30 games to go, the Warriors need to learn how to play well with him.