Why Andrew Bogut Is the Key to the 2012-13 Golden State Warriors

Paul Knepper@@paulieknepContributor IIIJuly 4, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 28: Andrew Bogut #6 of the Milwaukee Bucks waits for a member of the Chicago Bulls to shoot a free-throw at the United Center on December 28, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Bucks 90-77. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Golden State Warriors’ decision to trade their leading scorer and most popular player, Monta Ellis, to Milwaukee in March was the last straw for a disgruntled fan base whose team has made the playoffs just once since 1994.

Days later, a packed house at Oracle Arena booed team owner Joe Lacob mercilessly on Chris Mullin night.

The key to the five-player deal for Golden State was Andrew Bogut, the Australian center who was selected first overall in the 2005 draft. If Bogut can stay healthy, the Warriors will contend for a playoff spot next season.

When Mark Jackson took over as head coach of the Warriors in the summer of 2011, he said he was going to turn the high-scoring Warriors into a tough, defensive team. Then he quickly discovered that he did not have the personnel to do so.

Bogut is the defensive anchor that the Warriors desperately needed. The seven-footer is a physical presence in the paint, an excellent shot-blocker (he averaged a league-high 2.6 blocks per game in 2010-11) and an underrated help defender.

His prowess on the defensive glass will be a major boost for a team that had the lowest defensive rebound rate (69.1) in the league last season. Bogut has averaged 9.3 rebounds per game over his career and was sixth in the league with 11.1 per game (eight of those defensive) during his last healthy season in 2010-2011.

The tandem of Bogut and power forward David Lee, who grabbed 9.6 boards per game himself last season, should control the defensive glass for Golden State and enable point guard Stephen Curry to get out on the break.

On offense, Bogut gives the Warriors the low-post scorer they've desperately needed.

Several Golden State players were lights-out from behind the arc last season, including; Curry (45 percent), Brandon Rush (45 percent), Richard Jefferson (42 percent) and Klay Thompson (41 percent). They added another perimeter scorer last week in Harrison Barnes with the seventh pick in the draft.

The problem was, the Warriors lacked players who could create open shots for those shooters. Curry is the lone guard or wing player on the team who can break down a defense with dribble penetration, but he's not a penetrate-and-kick kind of point guard. Though Curry has averaged 5.8 assists per game for his career, he looks for his own shot first. 

The other way to free up shooters is with a low-post scorer who can collapse the defense. Lee is very effective in the pick-and-roll and has developed some solid face-up moves, but he's not a back-to-the-basket post player.

Bogut, on the other hand, can back his man down on both sides of the floor and finish with either hand around the basket. His favorite move is a soft, lefty hook shot, while moving to his right across the lane.

With Bogut in the middle, surrounded by an array of deep threats who can spread the floor, Mark Jackson's offense may come to resemble the inside-out approach implemented by Stan Van Gundy in Orlando over the past several seasons.

Bogut doesn't command double-teams like Dwight Howard, but he's enough of a scoring threat to force perimeter defenders to sag off of their men just enough to create open shots. Unlike Howard, Bogut is a very good passer, quite adept at hitting the open man.

The biggest concern about Bogut is that he's been injury-prone throughout his career. He missed more than half the 2008-09 season with an injured lower back and the end of the 2009-10 campaign after dislocating his right elbow and spraining his left wrist on a hard fall near the basket.

Bogut only played 12 games for the Bucks this past season before breaking his left ankle in a game against the Rockets on January 25th. The Aussie sat out the remainder of the season and has yet to suit up for Golden State.

Don't let the Warriors' dreadful 23-43 record in 2011-12 fool you; they weren't that bad. Golden State was 17-21 and in playoff contention at the time of the Bogut trade. Then Curry and Bogut were shut down with injuries.

The Warriors proceeded to tank the rest of the season in hopes of retaining their first-round draft pick. Based on a previous trade with the Utah Jazz, Golden State could only keep the pick if it was among the top seven (which it was).

The emergence of Klay Thompson tempered the loss of Ellis and Bogut will add several new dimensions to the team.

Most of the nucleus will be returning for next season and in addition to Harrison Barnes, Golden State drafted Nigerian big man Festus Ezeli with the 30th pick and forward Draymond Green out of Michigan State, a first-round talent who slipped to the 35th pick.

Golden State will need plenty of breaks to go their way in order to make the playoffs next season in the rough-and-tumble Western Conference. Steph Curry's glass ankle must hold up. Thompson needs to continue to progress and Barnes will have to make an immediate impact, especially if restricted free agent Brandon Rush signs elsewhere.

Most importantly, Bogut needs to remain healthy. If the big man stays on the floor, Golden State fans will have something to cheer about for the first time in a long time.