The Warriors improved on both ends of the floor this offseason with the acquisition of Andre Iguodala and a backcourt that rivals the best in the NBA with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. David Lee is still reliable and coming into the prime of his career after becoming the Dubs' first All-Star since Latrell Sprewell in 1997. There's plenty of young talent in just about every aspect. Well, except protection at the rim.
That's where Bogut comes in.
While the Warriors excelled in a number of areas on the offensive end last season, they were deficient in shot-blocking. Golden State ranked 27th in blocked shots in 2012-13, and that can be directly attributed to the fact that it had few, if any, shot blockers on the floor at a given time. Bogut is the player the Warriors need in the middle, but which Bogut they ultimately get will be the more important question to examine.
The Aussie averages 1.6 blocks per game for his career. In just 32 games and and average of 24.6 minutes per contest last season, he averaged 1.7. His per-minute production was just as impressive, where he amassed 2.5 blocks per 36 minutes, well above his career average of 1.8. Those numbers are enough to conclude that if he sustained such production for an entire season, or close to it, then the Warriors would have won more games and potentially advanced further than the Western Conference semifinals, all other things being equal.
In an October 2012 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle's Rusty Simmons, Bogut attested to the fact that he was a necessary of component of the Warriors' ability to get stops, though he hadn't yet played a minute with his then-new team.
"I'm going to change the whole dynamic of the defense."
Bogut is an elite shot-blocker when he's right, but the caveat with the former No. 1 overall pick is always his health. It's a major concern for a player who's only played 82 games once in his eight-year career. Here's an abridged history of his injuries:
- After nearly winning the NBA's Rookie of the Year Award in 2006, Bogut suffered the first of a string of injuries when he sprained his left foot and missed the final 16 games of his second season, 2006-07.
- During the 2007-08 season, he missed four games due to a broken nose. In the following year in 2008-09, he had a bruised knee, back spasms and suffered a stress fracture. All injuries combined that year caused him to miss 46 games.
- In 2009-10, Bogut fell victim to one of the nastiest NBA injuries ever recorded (don't hit "play" if you're squeamish):
That gruesome injury, which turned out to be a dislocated elbow, broken wrist and finger, opened the floodgates.
- In 2010-11, he had an injury cocktail of sorts with ailments ranging from headaches, to more back spasms, to elbow issues to a good ol' fashioned muscle strain. That forced him out of 17 games in all. In 2011-12, he suffered an ankle injury that's been nagging him for the last two seasons into 2012-13 and caused him to play in just 44 games during that stretch.
That's where we are now with Bogut, who is finally going through an offseason without surgery. The only thing chronic about his injury history is, ironically, the history itself.
The Warriors ranked 14th in the NBA in opponents' points allowed at a mark of 105.5. If Bogut can play more than 32 games in 2013-14, that number figures to drop given that he's playing at close to 100 percent. Often lost in a player's ability to block shots is his ability to alter shots in the interior, on weak-side help during dribble penetration or in and around the restricted area.
In order to do that enough to help Golden State move forward, Bogut will have to avoid the trainer's table. If he does, he won't need to do anything other than what he already does well, namely change shots and take up space inside. We may never see the dominant defensive stopper he's capable of being again given the wear and tear on his 7-foot frame, but if he can sustain relative health, then the Warriors will be a better basketball team and potentially good enough to compete for the Western Conference crown.