At this point, Andrew Bogut of the Golden State Warriors is in that Sam Bowie–Bill Walton sort of territory—he’s a player more well-known for the time he’s spent off the floor than what he’s been able to do on it.
Since he was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft, Bogut has completed a full 82-game season just once—as a rookie for the Milwaukee Bucks in 2005-06. Since then, his games missed total has escalated rapidly because of various ailments.
That total reached 37 games this season on Wednesday night when the Golden State Warriors—who have had Bogut on the floor for just 73 minutes over four games this season due to a lingering ankle problem . The last time he played was Nov. 7. Before the Warriors stunned the Oklahoma City Thunder Wednesday night 104-99, snapping a five-game losing streak to the defending Western Conference champions, Bogut warmed up before the game and according to ESPN.com’s Ethan Sherwood Strauss, he looked “spry.”
In his career, Bogut has missed 187 games in the last seven seasons: 16 in 2006-07, four in 2007-08, 46 in 2008-09, 13 in 2009-10, 17 in 2010-11 and 54 in last year’s lockout-shortened season.
So those four games he started in late October and early November? Those are the only times the Warriors have had Bogut in uniform since acquiring the center from the Bucks along with Stephen Jackson—now with the San Antonio Spurs—in exchange for Kwame Brown, Monta Ellis and Ekpe Udoh last March.
So why would it be Bogut who might hold the key to Golden State’s chances of advancing deep into the playoffs? Because he would bring size to the Warriors, something they are in short supply of with Bogut wearing a suit on the bench.
Golden State is 26-15, currently in fifth place in the Western Conference. The Memphis Grizzlies are currently in fourth place and the Grizzlies put on an impressive display of in-the-paint dominance while blasting the Los Angeles Lakers 106-93 on Wednesday.
Lakers center Dwight Howard left earlier after re-aggravating his injured right shoulder and Memphis exploited the missing inside presence by scoring 60 points in the paint and snatching 16 offensive rebounds.
Golden State is 0-2 against the Grizzlies this season, losing twice at home—104-94 on Nov. 2 and 94-87 on Jan. 9.
In that early November matchup, Memphis outboarded the Warriors 40-36. Golden State had Bogut briefly in that game—he managed four points and three rebounds in just 18 minutes—and the Warriots lost the battle in the paint by a 42-30 margin.
The second meeting between the teams earlier this month had a similar outcome: Memphis won the battle on the glass 43-38 and absolutely hammered Golden State on the inside, outscoring the Warriors in the paint 60-34.
So having a 7-footer to compete inside would have to help against Memphis’ deep frontcourt of Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Darrell Arthur and Hamed Haddadi—who is now in the rotation after backup big man Marreese Speights was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier this week.
Bogut gets dismissed sometimes because he’s been injured so often, but he has shown flashes of greatness. Bogut was a third-team All-NBA selection in 2009-10 despite missing 13 games as he averaged a double-double for the Bucks with 15.9 points and 10.2 rebounds a game. He led the league in blocked shots at 2.6 per game the following season.
In 2009-10, Bogut ranked second in the league with a 98.1 defensive rating and was fourth the following year at 97.3. So when he’s healthy, he is definitely a presence in the paint on both ends of the floor
What the Golden State Warriors have done this season is remarkable—remember that this was a 23-43 team a season ago. Mark Jackson has to be the runaway favorite for Coach of the Year honors in the NBA.
The Warriors even proved they can take down an elite team such as Oklahoma City without a huge night from their star players. Stephen Curry finished with 31 points, but those points came on 11-for-27 shooting and Curry was just 3-for-14 from 3-point range. David Lee was solid with 22 points and 12 rebounds; solid, but not a career-type of night by any stretch of the imagination.
But if the Warriors want to go beyond just being the NBA’s feel-good story of 2012-13 and actually do some damage in the playoffs, they’re going to have to get more than they’ve been getting from the center position—particularly if they wind up in a first-round matchup with a team such as Memphis.
The key to that is getting the talented but fragile Andrew Bogut back and at full speed by the time the playoffs begin.
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