While much of the preseason chatter surrounding the Golden State Warriors has centered around the ascension of Stephen Curry and the arrival of Andre Iguodala, the man who will anchor the heart of the Warrior defense has gone largely unnoticed: Andrew Bogut.
Obviously this comes as no surprise, with defensive-minded players always taking a backseat to the guys that make it rain. At the end of the day, however, it will be Bogut’s presence in the paint that will determine just how far this Warrior team goes.
Finally healthy for the first time in years, Bogut can focus on doing what he’s always done best: protecting the paint. While he does boast a career average of 12.2 points per game, I would be shocked to see him reach that number this year. His 9.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game are well within the realm of reason, though.
And if this team is to make serious noise, reaching them might even be necessary.
Lining up next to Bogut in the frontcourt will be the offensive wizard known as David Lee. For all of his wizardry on that side of the court, however, it would come as no surprise to me if word broke out that he accidentally cast an invisibility spell on himself on the defensive end.
He’s really that bad.
Bogut isn’t just tasked with defending his own man and gobbling up rebounds. He’s also asked to pick up the slack for El David Lee, matador extraordinaire.
That’s no easy feat. But it’s a feat that Bogut is more than capable of pulling off.
The menacing Australian provides a unique blend of size and athleticism. Watching him on the court, you have to wonder how a man his size covers so much ground and sends away so many would-be scorers.
He does it with ease. When watching the video, skip to the 1:15 mark, where you'll notice something very obvious and important: Bogut is the key that holds everything together for the Warriors.
Without him, the Warriors have enough offensive firepower to earn a playoff spot and maybe even win a round. With him, however, the potential for greatness increases exponentially.
He’s the answer to the marvel that is Tim Duncan, the key to containing Dwight Howard, the remedy against Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Sporting News' Sean Deveney talks here about his role on the team:
Ultimately, though, Bogut will be judged by the impact he has on the Warriors' defense. Jackson has built his team's strategy on having a shot-blocking big man on the back line, and that is where Bogut excels. Golden State allowed an estimated 105.5 points per 100 possessions last year, which was middle-of-the-pack in the NBA at No. 14. But it was the best rating the Warriors have had in 14 years, and they achieved it with Bogut mostly on the bench.
The Warriors, for so long an offense-only outfit, will need to make a further defensive improvement this year in order to join the elite of the Western Conference. The addition of Iguodala on the perimeter will help in that goal, but for the most part, the team will be relying on a fully healthy Bogut protecting the basket inside.
And the most important part is that he’s already bought into his role on the team and is prepared to lead the charge on the defensive end, as he stated in an interview with Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News:
But I’m a firm believer the be-all and end-all is our defense. We’re going to score. We’re a great scoring team.
But last season in the playoffs, we realized when we play defense, even 90% of the time during the game, maybe we can have a little lapse here or there, we’re going to win ballgames.
The old Warriors of we-might-guard-this-court or we-might-not… that’s not going to cut it, especially in the playoffs.
The Warriors will never be known as a defensive-minded team, not with guys like Curry and Klay Thompson lighting up the scoreboard. But as long as the subtext to their offensive brilliance doesn’t read something like “defensive sieves,” they’re going to be just fine.
With the arrival of Iguodala, Toney Douglas and Jermaine O’Neal, the Warriors have added some tools to improving their defense. And with Thompson and Harrison Barnes set to improve as well, defense could actually become a strength.
Without Bogut, however, none of that matters. They can all be good defenders. Bogut is a great one. As important as Curry is to making the offense hum, Bogut does those same things on defense. He is as crucial a part of the team as the Warriors' much smaller offensive leader.
The Warriors will make some noise this season, and when they do, the majority of the acclaim will go to Curry; some will go to Iguodala, and Thompson and Barnes will likely garnish praise as well. Just remember, though, while they were busy scoring, Bogut was busy doing the dirty work, setting picks for them and inhaling rebounds.
He will be the least-heralded star on the team, but as long as the Warriors are winning, he won’t care. Just don’t forget, the next time Curry springs free and hits a game-winning three, Bogut was likely the one setting that impenetrable screen.
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