Last year, the Golden State Warriors swung a trade for Andrew Bogut, sending away fan favorites Monta Ellis and Ekpe Udoh for an injured center and the former Warriors captain, Stephen Jackson.
The Warriors then promptly traded the declining “Captain Jack” for Richard Jefferson and a late pick which turned into Festus Ezeli. At the time, the fan base was beyond angry. Trading the second best shooting guard at the time (my biased opinion) and a high upside shot-blocker for a man who had a problem staying healthy, and then on top of that trade away the former Captain The Warriors needed an interior defensive presence for years, which they get with a healthy Bogut, but how could he help when he was always watching the games rather than playing in them?
This year the Dubs have been off to a blistering start (disregard their play in this current four game losing streak, that’s been just plain awful), and they’ve been doing it mostly without Bogut. Without him, the Warriors still managed to post a 26-17 record and collected the fourth most rebounds per game, pretty impressive for a team that was forced to start Ezeli.
I don’t mean to bash Ezeli, he’s a solid backup for Bogut and all, but he just isn’t close to being a starting center in this league. He was a strong defensively and as a rebounder but on the opposite end of the court he was complete trash. It became frustrating watching him as he ruined simple pick-and-rolls by either not catching the ball or losing control of it in the rare instances that he did grab it. Ezeli hustled to grab boards, but when he got an offensive rebound it was easy to see that he was scared of screwing up and that fear often forced him into moronic turnovers.
Bogut has always been a strong defender. His thick build and knack for blocking and disrupting shots have put him in the elite level of defensive centers. His presence immediately improves the defense as a whole, and gives the perimeter defenders some leeway due to his superb help defense. To supplement that, Bogut can also score and make plays with the ball in his hands on offense, replacing Ezeli’s ineptitude. The savvy veteran simply had more experience and it showed.
The Warriors offense already performs well, coming in tied for seventh in the league in points per game. However, the defensive side of the floor is on the lower end of the spectrum, where they are ranked twenty-fifth.
With Bogut being consistently in the line-up it’s really not hard to imagine them moving up a few spots to the mid-teen range. Although it may not seem like much, but if this team becomes even an average defense, the Warriors championship aspirations would become more of a reality than a hope. An elite offense mixed with a good defense would turn the Warriors into one of the more balanced teams; they’re already effective in half-court sets and run the floor well, and they’ll be pairing good perimeter defenders (Barnes/Green) with the defensive awareness and help of Bogut.
The well-roundedness turns the Warriors into an incredibly lethal team, a team that very few teams would like to see in the playoffs, let alone the Finals. Look for this team to make some waves. C’mon what team wouldn’t be scared of this?