The Golden State Warriors’ 2013-14 success and playoff hopes are contingent on the health of a man named Andrew Bogut.
In an October 2012 interview, Bogut told the San Francisco Chronicle’s Rusty Simmons, “I’m going to change the whole dynamic of the defense.” Unfortunately for Bogut, he never got to follow up on this statement during his injury-riddled season.
But he did manage to make an impact in the 2013 postseason, where he really made his presence felt. His performance in these 12 postseason games was the best performance by any Warrior center in the past decade.
When interviewed by USA Today in October 2013, Bogut said, “I’m the defensive anchor and a rebounding guy and can play in the paint.” Bogut recognizes himself as the most important player defensively, so an injury could be detrimental to the Warriors’ season.
Because he was in the lineup, he was able to strengthen the Warriors’ defensive rankings from 103.4 points allowed per 100 possessions to just 99.9. (Stats NBA.com). These postseason games were a look into the future, showing what Bogut would be able to do this upcoming season. The Warriors need his defensive intensity to be successful, as they’ve been 19th, 28th, and 27th in points allowed in their past three seasons. (ESPN.com).
In the playoffs, per 36 minutes, Bogut averaged 9.5 points per game, and 14.4 rebounds, per 36 minutes. He went on to tell USA Today that he could barely move after games in the postseason, but he still managed to put up these big numbers. Other than free throws, every single point came from inside the paint. (Basketball-Reference.com).
Which begs the question: how did the Warriors survive his absence during the regular season?
Success managed to find the Warriors without their starting center in 2012-13 because of the dynamic 4-5 punch that David Lee and Carl Landry formed while Bogut was injured. This year, however, they don’t have the reinforcement in Landry that they can count on to play in the absence of a starter.
To replace Landry, who departed in the offseason, the Warriors signed Marreese Speights.
After the signing, Marcus Thompson of Contra Costa Times wrote, “[Speights] is now officially the Warriors’ best hope for inside scoring and toughness off the bench.”
Can he provide as much grit as Landry?
Last year, Speights shot almost as many mid-range jump-shots as shots at the rim at 187-184. Landry, on the other hand, took 298 shots at the rim as opposed to 152 mid-range jump-shots (Numbers from Basketball-Reference.com). Thompson says that this 26-year-old power forward is the Warriors’ “best hope for inside scoring”.
This is not the case.
Unfortunately for the Warriors, Speights cannot provide the team with the inside scoring. This means Bogut must assume more of an offensive role. On a team of shooters, the inside scorers need have close to Bogut-level skills. Because every shooter has off-nights, inside scoring needs to be strong.
A dexterous player, the Aussie has the capability to return to his offensive glory days in Milwaukee. He said that he has to “pick his poison” (USA Today Interview) when it comes to offense, but other than Lee, the Warriors have no other offensively-capable big men.
This raises another question: so why not just get insurance?
The Warriors tried to do just this when they signed Jermaine O’Neal to be a backup center. But the 35-year old won’t be able to thrive as a replacement for a starter with a fast pace team like the Warriors.
Rant Sports’ Cody Williams praised the acquisition writing, “He provides them an immediate need and a long-term insurance policy going forward.”
Contrary to a Warrior fans’ belief, this signing was a non-factor.
The former All-Star only suited up for 55 contests out 82 last season with the Suns. These numbers show that O’Neal is also prone to injury, so how can he provide a long-term insurance policy?
Additionally, he won’t be able to put up the same numbers as a healthy Bogut. The Warriors’ starting center now has an immense amount of pressure on his shoulders because he doesn’t have any legitimate backups. Neither Speights nor O’Neal will do much for the Warriors’ insurance or replacement plans. They cannot cover the holes that will appear in the Warriors’ structure if Bogut is re-injured.
If unhealthy, the center won’t be able to dominate the glass like he did in the playoffs. Teams that the Warriors will face such as the Los Angeles Clippers and the Memphis Grizzlies boast exceptional rebounders in Zach Randolph and Blake Griffin.
Bogut’s inside game, whether it be on the offensive or defensive end of the court, is invaluable, and with the loss of a terrific inside player in Landry, the Warriors must rely on Bogut to remain healthy.
It may be hard to face reality if you’re a Warriors fan, but one hard fall by Andrew Bogut could send the Warriors right back to a familiar position: out of playoff reach.