The Golden State Warriors are in the midst of somewhat of a franchise renaissance. They made the postseason for the first time in six seasons and even advanced past the opening round of the 2013 playoffs. But make no mistake; none of this happens without Andrew Bogut.
This might sound ridiculous now, but many mocked his acquisition when it occurred. There was a sentiment floating amongst fans that essentially trading Monta Ellis for Bogut would come back to bite the Dubs.
Many argued that Ellis was the heart and soul of the team. He was the Warriors’ leading scorer and the team should consequently be built around his talents despite his shortcomings as a player.
Bogut was viewed as somewhat of a health risk. His contributions to the franchise would be minimal at best, or so the line of thinking went.
The front office knew better though.
Even though Bogut struggled during stretches of the 2012-13 campaign with injuries that limited his minutes and games played, the Warriors knew their future hinged on the Aussie’s defensive talents.
He showed flashes during the regular season, but consistency was lacking. Golden State never truly knew what they would get from the former Buck.
And yet, in his first full season in the Bay, Bogut has already taken the Dubs farther than Ellis ever has in his time as the team’s primary scorer.
An argument could be made that Jarrett Jack and Bogut wrestled for the title of second best player on the team in the first round series against the Denver Nuggets.
The Warriors’ starting center was simply disruptive throughout the six playoff games against George Karl’s group. He allowed the Dubs to overcome whatever tactic and in some cases the effort exhibited by the opponent.
When athletes came crashing down the paint for scores, Bogut thwarted them at the rim and rebounded the misses. His activity, length and strength helped him anchor the paint and snatch boards out of the air against one of the top rebounding teams in the league.
He played with an edge and toughness that seemed to rub Denver players the wrong way at times. He took exception to the perceived rough play directed at Stephen Curry and delivered his form of vigilante justice by taking out Kenneth Faried in Game 5.
It may have been uncalled for, but the message was clear: Curry was off limits.
On the other side of the ball, whenever Karl ordered a trap in the pick-and-roll, Bogut eventually figured out how to get himself open and in a lane where his teammates could directly find him for an attempt at the rim.
Repeatedly, Bogut kept flashing into the paint and finishing right at the basket with no defenders in sight. His hard screens not only sprung Golden State’s top shooter loose on a few occasions, but it also allowed him to stroll down into the painted area for easy scores.
All of his talents and intellect culminated into a Game 6 masterpiece that completely frustrated the Nuggets: 14 points, 21 rebounds, four blocks and three assists.
Denver never really completely figured out how to exploit Bogut. They forced him into defending Ty Lawson in the pick-and-roll, but the big man simply retreated to the paint and allowed the former Tar Heel to put up mid-range jumpers.
Lawson converted 17-of-38 mid-range jumpers (44.7 percent) in the series per NBA.com’s advanced stat tool. This suited Mark Jackson quite well.
Lawson had more mid-range jumpers attempted than shots directly at the rim — 35 such tries — in the series, which he converted 57.1 percent of the time.
Bogut deterred drives and made life a living hell for the Nuggets’ frontcourt in the playoffs.
Going forward, his skills will be needed against a tough San Antonio Spurs squad. He will be asked to defend the incomparable Tim Duncan and also help out on Tony Parke’s drives in the same manner he did against Lawson.
His contributions will be incredibly important for a Warriors’ team looking for another upset. But the beauty of it all is that the tandem of Curry and Bogut certainly gives them a chance.
And that’s all Warriors fans have been asking for in these past years.
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