The Golden State Warriors entered the season with high hopes as did their fans.
They've revamped their starting roster, and changed their identity to one that very much has the means to win. Unfortunately a huge component of that, both literally and figuratively, Andrew Bogut, might muddle their start.
The Warriors are 14th in the NBA in defensive rating this year. That's the first time since 1999 that they've been in the top half of the league and the first time since 2006 that they've had their defense ranked higher than their offense.
It's a clear indication that they want to change their identity.
Bogut has long been one of the better and more underrated defensive centers in the game. Last year, while with Milwaukee, the Bucks were 12.1 points better defensively when he was on the court than when he wasn't, according to NBA.com.
The problem is that he's been unable to provide the Warriors the playing time they'd like to have from him. He's only played 39 minutes so far this season. According to Matt Steinmetz of CSN Bay Area, Bogut is going to be in and out of the lineup frequently to start the season:
Warriors center Andrew Bogut, who didn’t play in Saturday’s game against the L.A. Clippers, was back in the starting lineup against the Kings.
Bogut played the game’s first five minutes, then sat for the remainder of the half – even as the Warriors went from being up eight points to down 47-35 late in the second quarter.
Bogut had four points and a rebound in those five minutes. Bogut played 19 minutes on the night, including the last seven. He finished with 12 points and three rebounds.
“I felt OK,” Bogut said. “I’m out there so it is what it is. I’m just trying to get through these next three to four weeks relatively sane.”
"Three or four weeks" should be disconcerting to Warrior fans.
When the Warriors had Bogut on the court against DeMarcus Cousins and the Sacramento Kings, Golden State was a plus-four. When Cousins was on the court and Bogut on the bench, the Kings were a plus-five.
That's why the Warriors are likely to struggle for the next "three or four weeks," especially in the paint. According to Hoopsdata, the Warriors last year gave up the ninth-most field goals within three feet of the rim and only two teams gave up more baskets between three and nine feet.
Bogut, though, is one of the better post-up defenders in the league, yielding just .54 points per play last year according to Synergy. He is successful because his feet are extremely quick for a big, so he is able to keep opposing big men from getting around him. He also draws a lot of fouls and/or forces turnovers.
Here are a couple of examples of him defending against post up plays. First, watch as he forces the Pistons Greg Monroe into a turnover by staying in front of him and drawing a charge.
Second, Tim Duncan turns the ball over while trying to work his way around Bogut.
Warriors fans shouldn't despair, though. Bogut will get healthy in time to put the Warriors into the playoff hunt. The only question is whether he can stay on the floor.