Are Andrew Bogut and David Lee the Best Big Men Passing Duo Ever?


Mar 17, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Golden State Warriors power forward David Lee (10) is congratulated by Andrew Bogut (12) during the fourth quarter against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Golden State Warriors intended started big men, Andrew Bogut and David Lee, played only 31 games and 720 minutes together for the season. The Bogut-Lee frontoucourt has many strengths and many flaws. But amid the rebounding success, transition struggles, and other features of the pair, the unique passing ability stands out.

Of all the Warriors two-man lineups to log over 100 minutes, the Bogut-Lee pairing trailed only the Lee-Jarrett Jack duo in assist percentage. While the assist percentage is team-dependent, both Bogut and Lee are very good passers, and together, form one of the best passing big-men tandems in the league.

Both Lee and Bogut are excellent interior passers, consistently finding cutters and opposite big men for easy layups as defenses rotate, but the tandem’s passing talent expands beyond typical big men skills.

The Warriors’ offense relied on Bogut and Lee’s ability to find shooters out of a pick and roll. Often on the move, Lee and Bogut balanced a scoring threat with the ability to launch a pin-point pass to nearly anywhere on the court at angles and to players unexpected by the defense. Of course, Bogut and Lee’s passing could not be truly enjoyed without the added flair they often provide.

To Bogut especially, this flair is often detrimental. What could be a simple chest pass is often a one handed rocket. To Bogut, a defender just adds an object around which a pass must be thread, and though the point result remains the same, added risk creates an apparent sense of accomplishment. Though many of his passes are as enjoyable as any monster dunk, an unnecessary amount of turnovers are generated by Bogut’s forced passes.

While Bogut is guilty of overpassing, Lee goes through periods of limited court vision, especially with an open driving lane. He makes many impressive passes but often fails to attempt simple ones. On countless occasions, Lee has missed an open Klay Thompson in the strong-side corner as he drives down the lane.

The Bogut-Lee frontcourt faces an inherent weakness as passers. When the Warriors shifted to a small-ball lineup after Lee’s injury, they did not suffer from decreased ball movement despite the removal of Lee, a very good passer, from the lineup.  The presence of two big men constantly within 17 feet of the basket limits spacing. Small-ball lineups are generally known for opening driving opportunities, but the added spacing also creates passing lanes not available with two big men and their defenders clogging the middle of the court.

Along with Al Horford and Josh Smith, Boris Diaw and Tim Duncan, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, and many other big men tandems, Lee and Bogut consistently pressure defenses in ways most players cannot.

Though best ever is a stretch far greater than that into which Bogut and Lee force defenses, the pair may follow Divac-Webber and Pau Gasol-Lamar Odom as the next great west coast passing tandem.