The Golden State Warriors didn't make any big moves over the summer, but they quietly added depth to a team that should be one of the league's most improved if it stays healthy. The "staying healthy" part, though, is the key to everything. On paper, the Warriors' roster looks really solid, but it's all centered on two franchise cornerstones with shaky injury histories. One is Stephen Curry. The other is discussed below.
The Warriors technically acquired Bogut at last year's trade deadline, but since he didn't play a single game for the team last season as he recovered from injury, he's essentially a new acquisition. How he plays will determine whether the Warriors make the playoffs this season. Or, more accurately, how often he plays.
When healthy, Bogut is right up there among the best centers in the NBA, especially defensively. When he's right, there isn't a thing he can't do on that end. Three years ago, Bogut finished second in the league in both blocked shots per gameand total charges taken. Two years ago, in an injury-plagued campagin, Bogut led the league in blocked shots and probably merited more defensive player of the year consideration. What other centers are both elite shot blockers and positional defenders? There's Dwight Howard ... and then there's Bogut. Everyone else is great at one, but not the other.
The problem is that Bogut is seemingly never healthy these days. Ever since he suffered a gruesome elbow injury late in the 2010 season, he has missed games with a variety of ailments. The elbow continued to bother him in a disappointing 2010-11 season, and a fractured ankle kept him out of action for all of last year. Last week, Warriors general manager Bob Myers said that Bogut still hasn't been cleared for 5-on-5 action. If I'm a Warriors fan, I'm concerned.
If healthy, though, Bogut is exactly the kind of player Mark Jackson would love to coach. With his array of skills, he can provide the substance for Jackson's bluster about improving the team's defense. Offensively, he can give Jackson a reliable low-post option and a fine passer out of double teams and in the high post. He's reliable, he's versatile and while he's not spectacular, he's not going to stray away from a coach's game plan. That makes it worth the risk to acquire him for the divisive Monta Ellis.
If Bogut isn't healthy, though, none of the Warriors' other moves make any sense. Sure, you could also say that about Curry and his ankle troubles, but those came on more recently. The Warriors acquired Bogut knowing full well the questions about his health ... and they still have built a team of shooters that is tailor made for Bogut's skills. Without Bogut there to draw double teams, the Warriors' offense will become far less diverse. Without Bogut's ability to cover up poor perimeter defense, the struggles of Curry, Klay Thompson and David Lee will be heightened.
That's how important Bogut is to this team this year.
No matter how you feel about Barnes' pro potential, it's hard to argue with the Warriors' selection to pick him at No. 7 in the 2012 NBA Draft. Barnes' game fits in beautifully with this incarnation of the Warriors, because he can space the floor, get easy points in transition and function with someone else setting him up. The Warriors had a major need for a player like Barnes, so they caught a big break that he fell in the draft.
Another really solid addition. Jack is a classic first-and-a-half-line player: better as a backup, but perfectly able to step in and be a starter when called upon. He's not going to consistently get into the lane and create offense for others, but he runs the plays well and he provides decent enough defense.
Last year was a career year for Jack, mostly because he significantly improved as a pick-and-roll player. He ranked 19th in the league in pick-and-roll points per possession on MySynergySports.com and setting a career high in assist percentage. He probably won't play quite that well this season, but even if he drops off a bit, he'll help ensure that the Warriors can survive if Curry is lost for a few weeks or longer.
Rush had a breakout season last year, and the Warriors ultimately decided to reward him with a new deal. Rush has always had the talent, but he finally put it together once he realized he should make spot-up shooting the center of his game. He shot nearly 45 percent on spot-up three-point attempts, according to MySynergySports.com, and had a really absurd shooting year from all areas. There's a risk that those shooting percentages fall back to earth, but he'll still be valuable on a two-year, $8 million contract.
It's been a strange few years for Landry, as he's bounced around the league while struggling to find one place that accepts him for who he is. This summer, he hung around the free-agent market before signing a two-year, $8 million contract with the Warriors.
It's kind of hard to comprehend why teams don't value Landry, to be honest. He is a really good interior scorer against second-line players, and he rebounded and defended much better last year than he did in the past. I suppose the issue is that he's kind of a one-position player, and many coaches these days prefer having big men who can switch between power forward and center. The Warriors can play Landry with Bogut, though, which will mask some of Landry's size issues and heighten his offensive strengths.
For $4 million a season, the Warriors are getting great value here.