The Golden State Warriors have been one of the more surprising stories through the first half of the season, if not the biggest. They’re fifth place in the Western Conference, they finally garnered their first All-Star selection since 1997, and better yet, they’re winning without Andrew Bogut. The question is, how much longer will they stay in contention without the big Australian?
If their past two games provide any insight into the future, the answer would be not very long. They got hounded by the Chicago Bulls on Friday, losing the rebounding battle by 19. On Saturday against the Milwaukee Bucks, they lost the battle by eight.
However, it’s not just the plain rebounding battle that’s sparking some concern from the Warriors’ locker room. It’s the offensive rebounding–or lack therefore of—that is and will continue to kill their playoff hopes until Bogut returns.
For example, against the Bucks they allowed 22 offensive rebounds. Yes, 22 offensive boards to a team that ranks in the bottom half of the league in total rebounding percentage. The Bucks’ entire starting front line had 14 of them, which suggests that David Lee and Carl Landry are fatigued, and that they simply aren’t big enough to contain taller teams even if those teams aren’t regarded as elite rebounding squads.
Against the Bulls, meanwhile, the Warriors really weren’t expected to compete with them on the glass. The tandem of Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer had been punishing opposing front court tandems all year, and the Warriors didn’t change that trend.
But, a lack of offensive rebounding has been a reoccurring theme for the entire month of January, not just against the Bulls and Bucks.
First, there’s something that needs to be underlined—January hasn’t been an easy month for the Warriors. They’ve played 11 playoff teams, and the Hornets, who have been revived with the return of Eric Gordon, weren’t an easy task either.
In other words, the Warriors weren’t expected to continue to plow through their opponents like they did in the first two months of the season, which they haven’t done. They’re 5-7 in heading into the final few days of January with a schedule break approaching. Give them credit, though, they’ve scratched up some pretty remarkable victories, including two against the Clippers and one against the Thunder.
What January has provided the Warriors with, though, is a taste of what championship caliber of teams do well—rebound. Ironically, the Warriors were one of the better rebounding teams in the league earlier in the season, which fueled most of their shocking success. They yielded just 11.2 offensive rebounds per game in December and 10.8 in November.
But, why has Golden State’s improved rebounding taken a hit in January?
The answer is quite simple—the quality of their opponents has improved dramatically. Only five of the 12 teams they’ve played this month don’t rank in the top half of the league in total rebounding percentage. In December, only six of their 16 opponents ranked in the top half of the league in total rebounding percentage. So, even a sub-par effort from the Warriors would’ve yielded a winning record compounded with a decent shooting effort.
So, you could say that Golden State’s primary flaw has finally been exposed. Given the weaker schedule they cruised through in November and December, it just took a stretch of basketball against elite opponents to reveal their flaw.
Simply, they’re no longer the bullet-proof Warriors who can shoot their way out of trouble, at least consistently. When they allow 20-plus extra points nightly—which they did against the Bulls and Bucks—even their shooting can’t vanquish a deficit, though.
The Warriors’ past two games, specifically, prove that they do in fact need Bogut to be competitive. Perhaps he will slow down the offense a bit, or takeaway a couple touches from David Lee, but he will make them a better team, mainly from a rebounding standpoint.
To answer the question: yes, they need Bogut back, and they will welcome his presence with open arms.
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