The Golden State Warriors have made the playoffs for the first time since the “We Believe” season of 2006-07, but they are still looking for the key to their postseason success. The team has some postseason experience, but for most of the starters, that familiarity is lacking.
Stephen Curry is the leader of this team and without his and David Lee’s huge contributions, the Warriors would be back at square one. The other starters and the deep bench have also pulled their weight.
Curry is the catalyst, as he controls the tempo of the game and distributes the ball to the Warriors’ playmakers. He has grown into a legitimate star and is one of the best shooters in the NBA with a 44.9 percent shooting percentage behind the arc and 89.8 from the charity stripe.
David Lee is playing like a man possessed this season, averaging 18.6 PPG and 11.3 RPG. As Shaquille O’Neill refers to him, the “Human Double-Double” is making the extra effort and is playing considerably better defense this season.
Together, the two are very dynamic when Curry has the ball.
As you can see from the highlights, Curry starts to drive and takes on the double team, while Lee navigates into the open space to receive a slick, one-handed pass for the easy score.
As great as Curry and Lee have played this season, both have zero playoff experience. I expect the two to continue to dominate on both ends of the court and enhance the Warriors’ postseason chances.
However, the one key missing component of the past successful Warriors teams was a center. Andrew Bogut has struggled through injury and subpar play at times, but he will be the key ingredient to the Golden State Warriors’ postseason success.
Bogut is not playing at the same level that he was playing pre-injury with the Milwaukee Bucks. That said, when he plays, he brings a defensive culture to the floor.
One of the defining moments of Bogut’s time with the Dubs was when Memphis Grizzlies’ center Marc Gasol thought he could take it to the rack against the Australian.
Bogut not only denied the Spaniard, but he sent him to the ground. The team needs that intensity and presence in order to force opponents into settling for a lesser percentage shot.
With only a few games left in the regular season, Bogut needs to get into playoff shape, but he was sat down early in the loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder and is now out against the Los Angeles Lakers because he sprained his left ankle.
One of the keys to his success is being able to force opponents to adjust their shots and close out games when the Warriors need that final defensive stop. He showed he can make that crucial play in the clip below:
In the final seconds of the game against the Dallas Mavericks, Bogut goes to the top of the key to help Klay Thompson out on O.J. Mayo and then drifts back to make a game-saving block on former Warrior Brandan Wright.
As you can see from his positioning, Bogut is the quarterback of the defense. He continually calls out plays and pick-and-roll coverages when he sees them and adjusts the positioning of his teammates as plays develop.
Bogut also brings the offensive skills to the team, even though his scoring has diminished this season. He might not be getting the points, but he is setting up a lot more offensive opportunities.
He is a very effective screener and moves into the way of defenders to open perimeter shots for Curry and Klay Thompson. He can also draw out the big men to let Lee drive to the bucket or give Harrison Barnes a chance to make an athletic move.
As a reminder, the playoff game shrinks the court. The constant transition game disappears and a primarily half-court game emerges.
Execution takes on singular importance as the competing teams know every set and formation of their opponent. If Bogut can create the extra space to free up any of the other four on the court, the Warriors' chances of winning the first-round series increase dramatically.
If Bogut can put the complete package together, he can take over the game. The highlights that he demonstrated against the Washington Wizards are pretty spectacular.
Bogut demonstrates all of his skills as he makes huge blocks, passes the ball effectively, hits his shots and moves effectively. The team can be fueled by his presence and this is why Bogut is the key to Golden State Warriors' postseason success.