Andrew Bogut has returned from his nagging ankle injury, giving the Golden State Warriors something they have lacked for years: a healthy and productive center. The young and feisty Warriors rank 21st in points allowed, compared to fourth in rebounding, and a solid inside presence with plenty of size and experience will hopefully help them improve in that area.
Fortunately, a healthy Bogut fits those criteria. He's 7'0" 260 pounds, has seven-plus years of NBA experience and holds career marks of 12.6 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game.
In his return against the Toronto Raptors on January 28, Bogut scored 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting, pulled down eight rebounds and had four blocks over the span of 24 minutes.
Granted, the Warriors weren't absolutely desperate to have Bogut back in the lineup by any means. They are 3-2 in games in which he plays, but still posted a 24-15 record in games without him.
The Warriors' solid performance without Bogut can be attributed to multiple factors. Point guard Stephen Curry has fought through his balky ankle to have an All-Star caliber-season, and power forward David Lee has had another excellent year for the Dubs.
In Bogut's absence, Lee has averaged 19.6 points and 10.8 rebounds, filling the defensive void left by the seven-foot Aussie. Moreover, rookie Festus Ezeli has proven to be a good low post presence despite playing just over 16 minutes per game.
But that's not going to be enough for the Warriors down the stretch. After All-Star Weekend is when teams tend to start getting hot, and that's especially true in the highly-competitive Western Conference.
This means that as good as Golden State has been up until now, ranking No. 5 in the West or no, the team needs to get better. Ezeli has good size at 6'11", 255 pounds, but his PER is just 7.6.
Now, take into consideration that the Warriors have two other centers on the roster besides Ezeli and Bogut—Andris Biedrins and Jeremy Tyler. Biedrins' PER is just 7.2, while Tyler's is 7.6, the same as Ezeli's.
Add them all together, and it's an average efficiency rating of 7.5. Considering how Brook Lopez's PER this season is 25.24, and one can see how much of a change Golden State needs.
Bogut's career PER is 17 which, though not mind-blowing, is still very respectable. If he can stay healthy, the Warriors can easily go from being a very good team to being a great one.
The fact is that with Bogut out, David Lee has had to fill two roles. Though starting at power forward, he has been playing more like a center. A majority of his shots this season have come right under the basket, and he has only been using his jump shot when necessary.
Having Bogut back in the lineup would allow Lee to revert to the role he has played throughout his career, a stretch 4 who can crash the boards with tremendous ease and athleticism. Bogut's return also gives Stephen Curry a reliable target in the middle, one who can rise up for dunks and be a solid pick-and-roll target.
Thus, the question presents itself. How good can the Golden State Warriors be with a healthy Andrew Bogut at the 5?
Well, just look at how the team has performed this season. As was mentioned before, Golden State ranks fourth in rebounding and 21st in points allowed. However, we did not discuss their offensive rankings.
Can the Golden State Warriors be great with a healthy Andrew Bogut?
As of now, the Warriors are eighth in scoring and 11th in assists. Throw a healthy center into the mix, and Curry's assist totals could go up, thus elevating the team ranking in the same category. The team's ranking in points-scored may not change, but offensive efficiency would definitely be on the rise.
This would thus provide the Warriors with what they have been seeking for years: the happy balance of a high-scoring offense and an equally consistent defense. This is all hypothetical, of course, as Bogut's ankle has proven to be quite volatile this season. For all we know, he could play one more game and then be out for the season.
However, should Bogut be able to stay healthy and play 25-30 minutes per game, then Warriors fans will be in for a treat. Their team will make the playoffs as a balanced squad, and could potentially make a lot of noise in games that count.