The Golden State Warriors have made a franchise-altering commitment. With the 2012 NBA trade deadline approaching, the Warriors opted to deal franchise player and fan favorite Monta Ellis to the Milwaukee Bucks for defensive standout Andrew Bogut (via ESPN.com).
In turn, the Warriors made a statement: Andrew Bogut is the player that will lead the franchise to the promise land.
Considering the 27-year-old has posted career averages of 12.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game, that is plausible. He previously led the Bucks to becoming one of the best defensive teams in the NBA, allowing just 92.7 points per game in 2011.
What that team lacked, however, was offense. Hence the optimism for Golden State, as they are a team made up of sharpshooting scorers.
Before this experiment can get underway, there is one important factor that the Warriors must address. Bogut is still recovering from the same ankle injury that prevented him from playing a single game in a Warriors uniform during the 2011-12 regular season.
According to Marcus Thompson II of The Contra Costa Times, it doesn't appear as if he is ready to return just yet. Instead, Warriors head coach Mark Jackson suggests that Bogut is far from a return to 100 percent.
"[Andrew Bogut is] a ways away...I think it's the best thing for him and for us," Jackson said regarding Bogut playing one of the Warriors' remaining three preseason games. "But at the same time, the most important plan is to make sure he's healthy. So we're not going to do anything to set him back. So we'll see how it goes."
Not the most optimistic tone taken by a coach who needs his All-NBA big man in the lineup.
With Bogut's health in question, the legitimacy of the Warriors' 2012-13 postseason aspirations must be called into question. In fact, without a healthy Bogut, the Warriors' chances at making the playoffs take a serious hit.
It's Bogut or bust for Golden State in 2012-13.
Turning to a Rookie?
Thompson II continues in his article to cover the fact that rookie Festus Ezeli has impressed everyone on the Warriors' coaching staff. This suggests to some that the Warriors will be able to start the Vanderbilt alum in Andrew Bogut's place.
As history suggests, results may not be as desired.
It should be noted that I have praised Ezeli since his days at Vanderbilt. He's a more athletic version of Kendrick Perkins with the upside to be a quality starter in the NBA.
Just because he has made progress, however, doesn't mean that he is ready for the NBA game. Keep in mind that the Warriors' first month of the season includes battles against Dwight Howard, DeMarcus Cousins, Marc Gasol, Marcin Gortat, Nikola Pekovic, Chris Kaman, Brook Lopez and Anderson Varejao.
To say that the competition at center is high from Day 1 is an understatement. It is also an indictment of how desperate the Warriors should feel for Bogut to return.
If we've learned anything over the years, it's that an NBA franchise never benefits from a player "being close to returning." Instead, the unit is often found playing lackluster basketball as they await the return of their teammate.
If this turns out to be the case for the Warriors, they simply will not have the developed talent to fight back from a significant deficit in the stacked Western Conference.
This is especially important for a team as young as the Warriors are. Should Ezeli temporarily replace Bogut at center, the Warriors will have four starters that are under the age of 25.
In turn, they will be prone to the off-court distractions.
To keep those at a minimum, Bogut must either be healthy or acknowledge the length of the process. One way or another, a "soon-to-be-back" approach would be nothing but devastating until he's actually returned to the lineup.
When Andrew Bogut is standing in the paint, perimeter players feel a sense of comfort on defense. Their effort will remain high, but the burden placed upon them to contain their slashing opposition decreases with Bogut's defensive prowess in mind.
With a rookie starting at center, however, the likes of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes will not have that safety blanket behind them.
This is a significant blow for the Warriors because Bogut is an elite defender. He thrives in defending both on and off of the ball, taking opponents out of their rhythm in the process.
He's also one of the best pick-and-roll defenders in the game. That could change everything for the Warriors, as the most common approach by a Western Conference offense is to run the pick-and-roll.
With Andrew Bogut, the Warriors could secure a spot in the 2012-13 NBA postseason. Without him, they're nothing more than the promising but underachieving team of a year ago.