What Makes Andrew Bogut So Important to the Warriors?


Andrew Bogut has been forced to constantly appease doubters ever since being aquired by the Golden State Warriors. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Andrew Bogut has been forced to constantly appease doubters ever since being aquired by the Golden State Warriors.

Usually, when a player is the main acquisition of a trade, it is helpful for his psyche to be greeted with cheers instead of a collective “boo” from a fan base. Remember that Monta Ellis, fan-favorite and infamous scooter crasher, was abruptly traded for an injured Bogut during the beginning of the new ownership’s regime.

Fans, regardless of basketball knowledge, were extremely angry and felt betrayed by management. They made their feelings known by erupting in boos during an event to honor Chris Mullin. Even though the boos were directed more towards ownership than to Bogut directly, it could not have felt great to be leaving a place he called home and enter a new world feeling unwanted and rejected. Pair this idea with the anxious insecurity of nearing the end of his contract while going through a painfully slow rehab of a broken ankle, and one can understand why times were dark for the Australian.

During Bogut’s dark season, he contributed to the best of his ability while displaying injury limitations. When he played, he did not look very athletic and was often lumbering up and down the court similar to the way Andrew Bynum looked for the Cavaliers this season. It was easily apparent that he was struggling and didn’t feel comfortable. However, having Bogut on the court at 75 percent was better than not having him at all. A 7’0” player that displays basketball IQ and defensive prowess is rare in today’s NBA.

By the end of the season and into the playoffs, one began to notice the upswing of Bogut’s contributions. This excitement peaked when he erupted for 14 points, 21 rebounds, four blocks, and this face in the series-clinching Game 6 against Denver during last season’s playoffs. Bogut’s hard work, dedication, and contributions earned him a semi-lucrative three-year, $36 million contract extension the following summer.

Predictably, people questioned and probed the decision to pay this player this early. Just as everyone was beginning to gather in Bogut’s corner, everyone began to doubt him again. Critics questioned the length and dollar amount of the extension given the risk of Bogut never completely recovering from ailments, or worse, having another serious injury. Finally at 100 percent and armed with a chip on his shoulder, Bogut is showing he is worth as much, if not more, than his extension dollar amount.

Bogut’s main contributions come on the defensive end, which is sometimes hard to quantify because it is not as cut and dry as how many rebounds, blocks, and steals a player has during a game. Two aspects that stand out in my mind is his ability to limit opponent’s easy scoring opportunities as well as transforming the Warriors into a physical defense opposing teams hate to play. Both of these attributes do not show up in the traditional box score.

Limiting an opponent’s point total is difficult due to the offensive talent level of the NBA. One way of reducing the opposing team’s points is simply making scoring opportunities more difficult each possession. Essentially, working as hard as possible to eliminate close to the basket, high percentage, shots as well as giving a team the least amount of possessions possible will decrease point totals. There are metrics to try and illustrate both of these aspects of a game that will help assess how Bogut performs in these categories.

These metrics are:

1. Opponent’s Average Second Chance Points (OASCP): The average points per game allowed based on an opponent securing a rebound and scoring after missing the first shot of a possession. Of all the unfortunate things to happen to a team during a game, giving up a basket caused by not securing a rebound after working hard and earning a defensive stop is in the top five of most agonizing. I believe most games are won and lost based on how a team performs in this category. There is no quicker way to kill a run and destroy momentum than by giving up second chance points.

2. Opponent’s Average Points In the Paint (OppPITP): The average points per game an opponent scores in the paint, or key, on the offensive side of the court. Defensive breakdowns on the perimeter are a common occurrence in the NBA. Guards are quick and crafty and know what they are going to do before the defender is able to recognize. If a player does get by a perimeter defender, the team needs a presence inside the key that will make every close to the rim shot as difficult as possible.

The graph below is a scatterplot of both metrics discussed above. We will limit our sample to centers that have played at least 25 games this season while averaging at least 25 minutes a game.

X-Axis: Opponent’s Average Second Chance Points (OASCP)
Y-Axis: Opponent’s Average Points In the Paint (OppPITP)
Note: Scales are reversed to imply a lower value is treated as “positive”.

Plotting these metrics against each other yields an interesting result. Bogut is near the top in each of the presented categories, and plotting the metrics together vaults him into an impressive position among the centers that qualify. I’ve displayed graphs like these in previous articles. The best position to be is near the top right corner of the plot, which is where Bogut lies. This plot illustrates the balance Bogut possesses with regards to limiting easy scoring opportunities for opponents. Bogut’s ability to clean up the plethora of messiness on the basketball court is extremely valuable.

Bogut’s second point of value cannot be quantified by a statistic, unless there is a metric for the average number of prizefights a player is involved in every game. Like a goon in hockey, Bogut has been established as the muscle of the Warrior’s starting lineup. Players know that if they challenge Bogut near the rim, they may get fouled hard. And if they react and start a fight, he will certainly not back down. I can’t speak for everyone, but the DeAndre Jordan shove during the Warrior’s first meeting with the Clippers is still my favorite moment of this season.

The amount of teams that have distaste towards Golden State is growing and there is no doubt Bogut’s presence and play has direct correlation with the amount of animosity an opposition possesses. The Thunder, Nuggets, and Clippers already hate the Warriors and that list will grow as the years continue. As a fan, I would love to see the list grow to 29 teams. It implies the Warriors are not fun to play against, which is a quality that a defensive team possesses.

Having teams hate your club and getting into fights does not necessarily show up in the win column. However, the Bogut trade signified a much needed identity change for the entire franchise. Joe Lacob and Peter Guber preached a philosophy of wins as opposed to entertainment with an emphasis on defense. But what quality of defense was going to be played with a 6’3” shooting guard and David Lee as the lone premier big man? Knowing a slide of offensive production was expected, Bogut was acquired to establish a defensive identity that would turn this franchise into a contender.

Two seasons since, the trade could not have turned out any better. A GM would be laughed at expecting an athletic 7’0” quality defensive presence in exchange for an undersized offensive minded shooting guard in today’s NBA. The Warriors rank fifth in points allowed per 100 possessions and have become a potential dark horse contender largely due to Bogut’s presence.

Bogut does need to improve his free throw percentage, which is sitting at a paltry 35 percent. If he can improve that figure, Golden State is as opposing as anyone in the league, especially in crunch time. His presence has transformed the Warriors into a scary force in the crowded West. It’s exciting that he will anchor the frontline for at least three more seasons.

And by continuing to stay healthy, Bogut’s value will surely eclipse his $12 million yearly figure, just as Stephen Curry has done since his extension last season.

All data is through 01/23/2014 and provided by NBA.com