Is Warriors' Andrew Bogut a Cornerstone or Just a Role Player Going Forward?

Scott Burns@Follow @ScottInTheBayCorrespondent IIIApril 24, 2013

Andrew Bogut is trying to show he is the future cornerstone of this team.
Andrew Bogut is trying to show he is the future cornerstone of this team.Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Andrew Bogut has played a full regular season with the Golden State Warriors, and there is a lot of debate whether he is their cornerstone or just a role player going forward.

Bogut didn’t have a chance to play at an optimal level during the regular season, since he was hampered by the effects of the microfracture ankle surgery that he had during last offseason. 

Before the injury, Bogut was a top center, something that the Warriors have lacked since the days of Robert Parish.

With less mobility, he has focused more on his defensive effort than putting up his left-handed jump hook or throwing down with authority.  The translation is that fans have been underwhelmed by his production and lengthy absences.

If I had taken a sample of Warriors fans before the postseason, Bogut would've by far been grouped into the role player category going forward.

Then, the playoffs happened.  I know it is early, but he started to change some minds in a gut-wrenching loss to the Nuggets in Game 1 on April 20.

Besides being posterized in the late second quarter by behemoth JaVale McGee, Bogut proved to be the overall presence that they needed.

As you can see from the highlights, he was there to block the first shot of the game and influenced many shots after that.  He was slow getting back, but he was a major factor in the game.

He grabbed 14 boards and had three assists, one steal and four blocks to go with his nine points.

He also had the highest plus/minus number of anybody on the team, as the Dubs outscored Denver by 10 points when Bogut was on the court.

In the surprising win of Game 2, Bogut was right back in the middle of the action.  His line was less impressive than Game 1, but he set the screens, kicked the ball out, made defensive adjustments and was just there to disrupt everyone in his sights.

He was called for fouls on screens, but he laid out Andre Iguodala on a beautiful screen in the third quarter.  Bogut was also a plus-15 on the night.

Bogut is the quarterback of the defense.  He continually calls out plays and pick-and-roll coverages, while he adjusts the positioning of his teammates as action develops.

Bogut needs to bring the offensive dimensions to the court, because that factor in his game has been missing this season.  He is very skilled offensively, but hasn’t been able to show it off.

His scoring has significantly diminished this season from a career average of 12.2 points per game to only 5.8 this season.  He might not be getting the points, but he is setting up a lot more offensive opportunities.

As you can see from this highlight below, Bogut is very adept at handling the ball.

His behind-the-back pass to Harrison Barnes shows just a small portion of what Bogut can do on offense, and the Dubs need him to maximize that, especially with David Lee being out for the remainder of the postseason.

He is a very effective screener and moves into the way of defenders to open perimeter shots for Curry and Klay Thompson.  He can also draw out the big men to let teammates have a better look driving to the basket or settle for an open jumper.

Now that I have described the highlights of Bogut, let’s take a better look at his ankle injury.

Lance Silverman, M.D., a board-certified member of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society, reviewed the surgery and had this to say on his blog:

In Bogut’s case, the fact he has continued to swell and have pain indicates he likely falls into the 15% of patients who experience complications. I am very concerned when my patients continue to have pain 6 months after surgery, as that period gives you a good look at the recovery process.

The analysis, along with his continued setbacks, definitely scares management and Warriors fans.  The true test of his ankle will be after he has had a full offseason to recover.

After most microfracture surgeries, players were better off in their second year after surgery versus the first.  Bogut will be able to prove his worth before ownership decides to re-sign him, trade him or let him hit the open market.

How does this translate to the current Warriors team?  Bogut is one of the dominant centers in the league when he has all of his tools working as shown by the highlights below.

Bogut demonstrates all of his skills as he makes huge blocks, passes the ball effectively, hits his shots and moves fluidly.  He also brings the defensive intensity that the team severely lacks.

If he can bring this effort consistently next season, like three out of every four games, then the Warriors have found a cornerstone.  However, he would be a short-term cornerstone until they can develop a legitimate center (possibly Festus Ezeli) or find one through trade or free agency.

The Warriors get rid of two heavy contracts at the end of next season when Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins become free agents.  Bogut will also be in the same spot, after he takes home $14.2 million in the last year of his deal. 

My perception is that Bogut will be departing, unless he plays at a level closer to his time with Milwaukee.  If he can do that, then he will fit in with the Warriors' youth movement.

If that can happen, I would assume he will get a shorter deal (two to three years) worth closer to a $10 million-per-year range.

The opportunity is open for Bogut to be a cornerstone of this franchise, but it all depends on the health of his ankle.  If it heals correctly and he can demonstrate that he is the player that the Warriors coveted, then this team will be a playoff force in the coming years.

Follow me @ScottInTheBay


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