Andrew Bogut has demonstrated during his career that he is a great defensive player, but one wonders if he will be able to demonstrate that during the 2013-14 campaign.
The question seems ludicrous given how well the Aussie performed during the 2013 playoffs. However, many forget that he struggled during the course of the 2012-13 regular season with team defense.
His poor defensive showings can be traced back to his health. Bogut was a relatively effective defender to open up the season, but was then lost in early November to rest his surgically repaired left ankle.
The early prognosis for his return was 7-to-10 days, but the franchise later cleared the air and stated it would take potentially a few months. He returned in late January and was clearly not the player Golden State expected.
His lack of game reps made him look slow and hesitant. When defending pick-and-rolls, his feet looked as though they were stuck in mud and ball-handlers simply dribbled past him for layups.
Furthermore, when in help situations, he was often a second late in contesting shot attempts in the paint. He hugged his primary assignment and then attempted to thwart players driving the lane but with little success.
Watch the video below of Eric Gordon getting all the way to the basket for a score:
Gordon was met with little resistance at the basket. That play illustrated the Warriors’ defensive woes when Bogut rejoined his teammates. As the last line of defense, he was often out of position.
The data backs up the eye test in this case. According to NBA.com’s advanced stats tool, the Warriors surrendered 104.2 points per 100 possessions with Bogut on the floor from late January to late March. Projected over a full season, that figure places the Dubs in the league’s bottom third in defensive efficiency rankings.
With the Australian big man riding the pine, the Warriors were fairly close to average in terms of defensive efficiency. Indeed, the rotations were somewhat crisper and the unit offered better resistance at the rim without the physically limited big man.
That stretch of basketball coincided with the Dubs’ struggles in the season. They won 16-of-31 contests and came close to missing the postseason entirely.
And then the month of April happened.
Bogut was finally in game shape and thus regained his superb defensive form. The big man bumped cutters on the interior, stayed within proximity of his man (to avoid defensive three seconds violations) and even helped out on players rolling off screens.
His pick-and-roll coverage became far more effective as well. Speedy point guards were still problematic for him because they could blow by him, but he did a far better job of staying with them and making shots difficult.
Have a look at Ty Lawson’s drive against the Warriors in the opening round of the 2013 playoffs:
Lawson made it all the way to the basket, but Bogut provided some resistance at the hoop. Not even a month prior, Goran Dragic victimized the Aussie in this same setting. He routinely got by Bogut and created high-percentage scores.
However, by the time April rolled around, the Dubs’ center was far better at diagraming plays and utilizing space as well as angles to his advantage. With Bogut on the floor in the final month of the regular season, Golden State’s defense was on par with the Memphis Grizzlies’ from a statistical standpoint.
The sample size is obviously small but Bogut’s synergy with his teammates became quite apparent. He forced misses at the basket, defended the best interior player on the other team and cleaned up the glass.
He took his late-season performance and used it to propel the Warriors’ stinginess during the 2013 playoffs. There is no other way to say it: The former Milwaukee Buck was a beast.
The Denver Nuggets and San Antonio Spurs had an incredibly tough time scoring against Golden State with the starting center patrolling the paint. Indeed, both teams combined to produce a mere 99.9 points per 100 possessions against the Dubs with Bogut on the floor per NBA.com’s advanced stats tool.
That figure would have placed the Warriors in the top-five in defensive efficiency over the course of the entire 2013 postseason.
Opposing teams had to force Bogut to defend multiple actions to get him out of position and negate his ability to disrupt plays. And even then, there were times where that simply was not sufficient.
Have a look at the possession below against the Spurs in the second round of the 2013 playoffs:
The Aussie starts out the defensive possession by stopping Tony Parker in the pick-and-roll and then he has to contest Manu Ginobili’s shot without abandoning his position for fear Tim Duncan becomes the recipient of a pass or that he attacks the offensive glass.
Bogut times it just right and contests the shot and forces the miss. He did this with regularity during the playoffs and it allowed Golden State to get stops and run out in transition.
The Warriors’ starting center can certainly play the role of anchor for the Dubs in 2013-14 provided his health allows him to do so. He is a destructive force in the half court and he will more than likely look better going forward with Andre Iguodala sharing the floor with him.
The Warriors might be a top-10 defense in 2013-14 and if they are, the Western Conference might be in more trouble than they initially anticipated.
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