On March 14, 2012, the Golden State Warriors made a franchise changing deal, trading their best and most popular player, Monta Ellis to the Milwaukee Bucks for an often-injured center Andrew Bogut.
Bogut had been a beast for Milwaukee for six seasons, averaging a double-double in points and rebounds. But two tragic injuries to Bogut made Milwaukee think he was expendable, suffering a dislocated elbow in 2010 and a broken ankle in 2012.
This trade was probably most unpopular trade for the Warriors in recent memory. They were trading an exciting and explosive shooting guard for an unreliable center, whose best days were behind him. Many Warriors fans thought Stephen Curry should been involved in this trade instead of Ellis since they saw Ellis as the face of the franchise not Curry.
This has gone from the most unpopular trade to the best acquisition since Baron Davis in 2005. After sitting out the rest of the 2012 season and 50 games in the 2012-13 season, Bogut has been a force in the middle. It started in the postseason against the Denver Nuggets where he showed glimpses of his early years in Milwaukee. In the clinching victory in Game 6, he had his best game of his Warriors’ career, scoring 14 points, grabbing 21 rebounds and blocking four shots, completely dominating Denver’s big men.
With his huge contributions in the postseason, Warriors fans were looking more of the same this season but they also knew his injury history. Could Bogut play at the level he played during the postseason or would he riddled by injuries this season? If the Warriors were going to be contender this season, they needed Bogut to perform at a high level, especially with Festus Ezeli out for an indefinite amount of time and the uncertainty of Jermiane O’Neal. Expectations were that Bogut would be a force in the middle but a liability on offense since the Warriors played small ball for most of last season, but as we have seen this season, Bogut’s game has risen to a completely different level.
Unlike last season, Bogut has produced in the regular season this year, scoring eight points and grabbing almost eleven rebounds per game, looking completely healthy. Last season, he was bothered by his ankle all season, including the playoffs but this season, he has only missed one game and that was due to a suspension.
His health has allowed him to play more freely on the offensive end, throwing down dunks on lobs and driving down the lane with reckless abandon. As a result, Bogut is second in the NBA in field goal percentage at 64 percent with most of his shots being rim-rattling slams and jump hooks with either hand.
The offensive numbers are great, but where Bogut has impacted the Warriors the most has been on the defensive end. In addition to pulling down 11 rebounds per game, he is blocking two shots as well and changing countless others. Point guards and wing players are afraid to penetrate the Warriors’ defense because the Warriors finally have a big man that is an absolute force in the paint. He is the anchor of this defense and with two great wing defenders in Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala, the Warriors are one of the best defensive teams in this league.
Bogut does have his flaws — free-throw shooting and committing lots of fouls — but for the most part, he has having an unbelievable season, something even the most diehard Warriors fans were not expecting. Bogut will always struggle at the foul line because of his dislocated elbow, not having the ability to extend his arms and follow through, but he has developed a nice eight-foot push shot that has been very effective.
It is clear that Bogut has exceeded expectations, not missing a game to injury and being a force on the offensive and defensive ends of the court. With O’Neal and Ezeli returning in the near future, it will just make Bogut that more effective.
The scary thing for opponents is he appears to be getting stronger and stronger with every game. His last game may have been his best of the season, scoring 16 points, grabbing 17 rebounds and dealing out five assists in a win over Utah. If he continues at this pace, the Warriors will have a balanced offense, scoring from outside with Curry and Thompson and dominating in the low post with Lee and Bogut.
If the Warriors achieve this and continue their stout defensive play, no team will want to play them in the postseason and Andrew Bogut exceeding expectations may make them a legit championship contender.