The Center Quandary
As the Warriors impressive season continues on, there lies only one position of question on the roster. While all four other positions are set for the now and the future, the center spot is the most worrisome and will hold the biggest role as to how far this team can go. Stephen Curry and David Lee are locked in as the team’s franchise players and the combination Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson are cemented in as future starters as well.
Last night the Warriors had, collectively, their best night of production out of the center position since the season’s early stages. These early stages — the stretch of games where their franchise center was active and playing — included the likes of Andrew Bogut showing what he could potentially mean to this franchise. For now though, we have Festus Ezeli and Andris Biedrins holding fort, and last night was a great barometer for what fans could out of the position until Bogut comes back.
16 rebounds, five blocks, six points (4-4 shooting) in 33 minutes from the two centers last night. In terms of production, there shouldn’t be much more expected out of the position. While this may seem like common knowledge, especially considering Bogut’s absence, it deserves another reminder. The two centers on this roster aren’t built for points, and on a team where offense often comes from long range and jumpers, the absence of a low post thread is that much more evident.
As the starter for the majority of the season, Ezeli has filled in admirably as the team’s primary big man. His numbers won’t impress you (3.0 PPG. 4.0 RPG, .09 BPG), but his mere presence out there is enough to satisfy the team’s needs. He’s not scoring, but he doesn’t have to. Mark Jackson loves to run post up plays for the big man on the opening possession, an understandable but unnecessary move for the offensively challenged center. Ezeli isn’t offensively lost, he can score and does at times show signs of a post game, but it’s not what the team should be looking for.
This leaves Andris Biedrins, once considered an All-Star candidate now fallen into the deep depths of disparity. Biedrins makes us laugh, he makes us cry, he makes us shrug our shoulders and he makes us remember what could’ve been. Still, despite the struggles (and his contract), he has found a way to remain on this team and is now an integral part of this team’s success until further notice. A scary thought for some, a necessary realization for all. His nine rebounds and three blocks is about the ceiling for the Latvian, but that’s doesn’t mean he can’t reach that ceiling a few more times before the season is over.
This team has more than survived the loss of Bogut, and there will be plenty of storylines once Bogut indeed comes back into the lineup: How healthy is he really? How will this affect David Lee? How does this affect Stephen Curry? Is he in the game during crunch time? What will Mark Jackson’s second unit look like? Does the game slow down for Bogut?
Just to name a few.
Despite the eventual questions surrounding Bogut’s return, this team must focus on the now and the real. At 18-9, the Warriors haven’t needed much out of the center position, as displayed in the season averages for both Ezeli and Biedrins. Jackson has had a quick hook for Ezeli this season in favor of Sixth Man of the Year candidate Carl Landry in addition to using numerous lineup combinations. While the center position is a concern, it’s not necessarily a problem either. Limited turnovers and a defensive presence is all that is being asked of both centers this season. That mindset will certainly change once the Aussie returns, but for now, this team can get by with limited offensive production.
If the Warriors want to have success beyond the regular season they will need a true, skilled center. While Ezeli has filled in nicely and Biedrins has proven he hasn’t completely lost his basketball mind, if this team wants to win playoff games Bogut will have to return and return in fine form. This team is 18-9 with nothing to be shown from the center spot, seemingly playing 4-on-5 while on the offensive end. Still, it’s a testament to this team’s makeup and chemistry that they have had success despite their lack of size. How long this success will continue is the next question.