By: Drew Kells
When the Warriors’ front office came to an agreement on a three-year, $36 million extension with Andrew Bogut last October, it was clear that they saw him as a key piece of the franchise moving forward.
On one side it looked risky paying top dollar to the injury prone center that had played a combined 44 games over the two previous regular seasons. On the other hand, it was a no brainer locking up a legit big man who had shown flashes of being one of the more dominant two-way fives in the league throughout his career.
Key words: two-way.
In 2013-2014, Andrew Bogut was an afterthought in the Warriors offense as he found himself mostly playing the role of screen setter in pick and roll situations. In order to get the most out of their veteran seven footer and prove the contract extension an unquestionable success, the Warriors will need to vastly expand Bogut’s role on offense this upcoming season and allow him to show that he is more than just a defensive anchor.
Confined Yet Efficient
When taking a closer look at Bogut’s statistics last year, you’ll find an interesting combination of highs and lows.
He was passive with his shot averaging a career low 5.6 FGA per game, less involved in ball movement with the lowest assist percentage of his career at 9.3%, and overall less active with his lowest usage rate ever at 12.4%, second lowest on the entire team.
However, when Bogut did get the opportunity to shoot, he made it count.
The Australian led the Warriors in field goal percentage, shooting a career best 62.7% and and only trailed Steph Curry in team offensive rating, scoring an outstanding 115 points per possession, also a career high.
SportVU player tracking data also shows that he was one of the best scorers in the league around the basket. On close shots, defined as any shot within 12 feet from the basket excluding drives, Bogut made a dominant 77.8% of his shots, tied for fourth in the NBA for players averaging more than 25 minutes a game.
In one of the most efficient campaigns of Andrew Bogut’s career, coach Mark Jackson rarely chose to run plays for the big man and tap into his offensive skillset. If Steve Kerr wants to take this offense to the next level, finding a way to get Bogut more involved is a good place to start.
In some of his first interviews discussing plans for his offense, Steve Kerr was not afraid for it to be known that Bogut was going to be more involved.
Speaking with Diamond Leung at Las Vegas Summer League, he said that he envisioned Bogut in a role similar to what new assistant Luke Walton did in the Los Angeles Lakers’ triangle offense as a post player reading the defense and making smart passes.
“We have great passing bigs with Andrew and David (Lee), and I want to put them in passing situations. I want the ball to move,” said Kerr.
There’s a good chance that passing will be the area you first notice Bogut making more of an impact. With Kerr learning from the likes of coaching legends Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich whose offenses are dependent on high amounts of ball movement, you can expect Bogut’s height, vision, and passing ability to create many open looks for the Splash Brothers & co.
In a conversation with Tim Kawakami after being hired, Kerr confirmed that in the offense “you’ll see some Triangle concepts. We’re not going to look like the Chicago Bulls in the ’90s…I think in today’s NBA you have to run; you have to play fast and score early.”
There is no doubt that the Warriors will need to use their youth and athleticism to run and score in transition. But where Bogut’s role will become vital is whenever that doesn’t happen and the team finds itself in half-court sets.
In Steve Kerr’s playing career, he was a key contributor on the Chicago Bulls three-peat from 1996-98, where the triangle offense led by Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen wreaked havoc.
One important piece on those championship teams was another Australian center, Luc Longley. On Kerr’s trip to visit Bogut in his homeland this offseason, Kerr made it a point show him video of his old teammate Longley and let him know his plans of incorporating Bogut more in the Warriors new offense.
In those three title years, Longley’s usage rate under Phil Jackson increased each season going from 17.8% in 95-96, to 19.7% in 96-97, and peaking at 21.2% in 97-98. It must have been refreshing for Bogut to watch that video of his fellow countrymate play such a big role on some of the best teams of all time and know that his new coach envisioned the same for him.
While the Triangle may have a steep learning curve, once it’s mastered, the three factors that make it so deadly are movement, spacing, and versatility.
When Bogut has a size mismatch in the post, the Warriors will easily be able to swing the ball around and feed him down low. If he is ever doubled in the post, the long space between him and his teammates will allow him to pass to wide open shooters. The system makes any kind of double teaming, which Steph Curry will see often, very beatable and Bogut will reap the benefits on many looks close to the basket that he has proven to be so effective with.
The Warriors starting lineup of Curry, Thompson, Iguodala, Lee, and Bogut was one of the best in the NBA finishing third in plus/minus per 100 possessions at +256, so there is no reason for one of those players to have such a minimal role on the offensive side of the ball when his skills call for quite the contrary.
Bogut is only a few years removed from the 2009-2010 season on the Milwaukee Bucks where he averaged 15.9 PPG and earned Third Team All-NBA Honors. While matching that kind of production is unlikely, Bogut showed enough offensive prowess last season to deserve more recognition in the game plan.
The expectations and pressure on the Warriors and Steve Kerr are already high going into the 2014-2015 NBA season. If they want to meet and ultimately exceed them, getting Andrew Bogut going on the offensive side of the ball will prove to be crucial.
Sources for statistics: