The Golden State Warriors are dark horse candidates for a deep playoff run in 2014. Going up against the likes of the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs, the Warriors have a puncher’s chance at making the Finals. How will Andre Iguodala fill the holes left by the departure of Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry? Will Stephen Curry and David Lee remain healthy enough to repeat their All Star level performances? These are the questions Warriors fans are asking themselves months before the season is even set to begin. Still, when it comes to the Warriors’ playoff hopes for 2014, there is no bigger concern than the health of Andrew Bogut.
Bogut only played in 32 games during the 2012-13 regular season and averaged 5.8 points, 7,7 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.7 blocks in 24.6 minutes per game. After a thoroughly disappointing regular season from Bogut, the Warriors all but gave up their playoff aspirations when David Lee went down during the opening series of the playoffs.
Fortunately the Warriors found new life in a rejuvenated Bogut. In 12 playoff games, Bogut averaged 7.2 points, 10.9 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.5 blocks in 27.3 minutes per game. Though the numbers may not reflect it, Andrew patrolled the paint dominantly and altered countless shots. Next to Curry, Bogut was the player the Warriors absolutely depended on for success; they would only go as far as Bogut would take them.
Even with the additions of Iguodala, Marreese Speights and Jermaine O’Neal, an injury to Bogut would completely derail the Warriors’ hopes of making a deep playoff run.
The only true centers behind Bogut are O’Neal and Festus Ezeli. O’Neal is a 17 year veteran whose best days are far behind him. Last year in Phoenix, O’Neal averaged 8.3 points and 5.3 rebounds in 18.7 minutes. Those are the most effective numbers O’Neal has put up in several seasons, but a center playing significantly limited minutes is the last thing a Warriors team shallow at the center position needs.
Ezeli, himself, is recovering from surgery on his right knee and is expected to be out until at least December. Ezeli had a successful rookie season, but his progress will likely stall during his sophomore year. The lack of an offseason to spend on basketball will be detrimental to Ezeli’s growth as a center and his success on a Warriors team desperate for interior presence.
Big men in the NBA are paid big money because they are valuable commodities. If Bogut goes down with injury, the Warriors have little options available on the bench to replace him. A Bogut-less Golden State is undersized and not strong enough to match up with some of the more physical teams in the league like Indiana or Memphis.
The Warriors experienced some success with their small ball lineup during last year’s playoffs, but they do not have the personnel to use it successfully on a consistent basis. Miami used their small ball lineup all the way to an NBA championship, but their combined talent, experience and pure physical ability outmatches any other team in the league. The Warriors are not strong or experienced enough to take that lineup to the NBA Finals.
Even with an overall improved roster, the Warriors need Bogut to perform optimally to make a deep playoff run. If Bogut fails to stay healthy, Golden State will find themselves making an early exit in the 2014 playoffs and effectively deeming the Andrew Bogut experiment a failure.