Analyzing the Golden State Warriors’ Center Position Battle

May 14, 2013; San Antonio, TX, USA; Golden State Warriors center Andrew Bogut (12) and San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan (behind) battle for position during the second half in game five of the second round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at the AT

In order to sign Andre Iguodala, the Golden State Warriors had to orchestrate a trade with the Utah Jazz. The trade ridded the team of the bloated contracts of Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson, but it also sent away Brandon Rush, first-round picks in 2014 and 2017, and two second-round picks.

It was a lot to give up, but the trade gave the Warriors a great opportunity to improve the team.  The question now is what will happen with the center position. Andrew Bogut is the obvious starter, but, due to his injury history, it will be important to have a solid backup.

The problem with that is Festus Ezeli, a second-year player, had surgery on his right knee that will keep him out anywhere from six-to-nine months. Ezeli started for a good portion of last season while Bogut rehabbed his ankle. He is still very raw offensively, but he was able to contribute by playing solid defense and working for tough rebounds.

Other than Bogut and Ezeli, there are no other “true” centers on the roster, as Jermaine O’Neal is more of a power forward. Biedrins, who was overpaid and afraid to shoot, didn’t offer much help when he was in the game. However, he was a body that could clog the lane and he often gave the other centers some much needed rest.

April 11, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors center Festus Ezeli (31) grabs a rebound during the second quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Oracle Arena. The City Thunder defeated the Warriors 116-97. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Warriors were able to make the playoffs without great play from a center; the offense ran mostly through players like Curry and David Lee. But, when the playoffs started, having a capable center was very important.  Bogut was able to body big men like JaVale McGee and Tim Duncan by himself, which allowed the Warriors to focus on shutting down other players.

A healthy Bogut is a great option at center, but he can’t be expected to play the whole game. With Ezeli out, the Warriors are going to have to use Lee and O’Neal in that spot.  At this point, the biggest battle for centers will be getting another one on the team.

The Warriors are also quite thin at power forward.  After Lee, Draymond Green is the only real option. Last season, Carl Landry was able to come off the bench and help the team down low. His presence allowed the team to play “small ball,” meaning there was no center on the court.

According to Marcus Thompson, the trade with Utah gave the Warriors a few Traded Player Exceptions (TPEs).  If a team has a contract they would like to get rid of, they could send him to the Warriors, who would take on that player’s salary. This is of they don’t want O’Neal to play center.

Thompson says it is possible, but unlikely, for the Warriors to get a free agent through a Traded Player Exception. This is because it would require another team to sign the free agent and then give him to the Warriors without receiving anything in return.

The lack of depth at center is the most pressing worry for the team. Unless something unexpected happens, the Bogut will be the starter and any new additions will be fighting Ezeli for the backup spot once he comes back from his injury.

Topics: Andre Iguodala, Andrew Bogut, Carl Landry, David Lee, Festus Ezeli, Golden State, Golden State Warriors, NBA Free Agency, Richard Jefferson, Warriors

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  • Mpro 99

    Hello? Speights!

  • RJS77

    Let’s not forget Mareese Speights looks to be a good back up player at power forward and sometimes at center. His points(.55), rebounds(.27) and blocks(.04) per minute from last year look quite good, and hopefully he can continue to improve in a healthy, supportive team environment with the Warriors. For comparison, during the regular season, Landry’s per minute stats were points (.47), rebounds (.26) and blocks (.02).