When Andrew Bogut signed his three-year, $36 million extension with the Golden State Warriors (up to $42 million with incentives), much of the basketball world bristled. The criticisms are relatively plain to see: He's played 47 total regular season games since the start of the 2011-2012 season, suffering multiple injuries—a freak elbow dislocation and a fractured left ankle, most recently—that have shelved his effectiveness as a big man.
The Golden State Warriors are a small-ball team, and Bogut's slow-footed, half-court style offense and defense don't completely mesh. When the Warriors can dangle David Lee's bloated $15.4 million expiring contract in front of other contenders in 2015-2016, a Bogut extension might eat up cap space to both retain Klay Thompson and Steph Curry while adding another star for the long-term.
Then there's the other side, that the Warriors consider themselves legitimate contenders in the present. Curry has developed into one of the league's premier young talents, Thompson isn't far behind in that same mold and Andre Iguodala's signing in the offseason to a four-year, $48 million contract is an overt attempt to win now.
Golden State sees a window, when Curry is only making $11 million per year and Thompson is still on his rookie deal. There's the talent and requisite cap space to make a run at the title, and the Warriors have chosen not to pass up that opportunity.
From Bogut's perspective, the deal was pretty easy. He even admitted as much to USA Today's Sam Amick, acknowledging the comfort of present security versus future value:
It was one of those things where, look, to be honest, on the open market, if I have a good year this year I could probably make two or three or four (million) more a year, but the question I asked myself is, 'When is enough enough?' I like to be a pretty settled person. I don't like moving around too much. I didn't want to play a season out with trade talks because of being an expiring contract and being a valuable trade asset, and not knowing what the future holds for me. I'm very homely, so that was a part of it.
Clearly Bogut understands the dynamic of the NBA market under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Teams are more squeezed for cap space and virtually unwilling to dip into the luxury tax due to steep penalties.
According to ShamSports, Bogut will collect a cool $14 million this season before his extension kicks in next year. Therefore, his expiring deal is an attractive piece that a contender could swallow for a playoff run, then cut ties and regroup at season's end. For Bogut, this could theoretically land him in three cities in less than six months—exactly what he doesn't want.
But there's more, here: If Bogut were to hit free agency in the 2014 offseason, he would need a team to take a chance on an injured and aging center. While it's likely that at least one team would bite, hardly any would be willing to commit in the long-term. He could expect a short-term deal at best.
With Curry, the Warriors displayed a keen understanding of contracts: They pay for future performance, not past. When Golden State inked Curry to a four-year, $44 million deal at the beginning of last season, there were whispers that the team had taken too big a risk. Curry's ankle injury history was well known, and he was hardly the player that he has now become. But looking back, it's certainly a steal.
The opposite principle applies to Bogut: While he might not be worth $12 million per year with his recent history, he's certainly worth more than that at his peak performance.
Don't forget that Bogut's deal is also incentivized:
If Bogut achieves any of one these benchmarks on top of playing more than 65 games, isn't he worth $14 million? Let's flip it around and say he can't stay on the floor. The deal is only three years, and it's likely that the Warriors can move a 30-year-old 7-footer with Bogut's resume at the deadline. All in all, Golden State isn't committing to much.
So what exactly are the Warriors getting in Bogut? First and foremost, a rim protector. Though Lee is an excellent offensive big, his off-ball defense leaves much to be desired. It boils down to a matter of multi-tasking, which Lee struggles with. Too often he latches onto his man with tunnel vision, losing track of the play as a whole.
When Mo Williams, formerly of the Utah Jazz, drives baseline on this play, Lee reacts late. Is it Curry's fault that he allows Williams to spin baseline and run free to the rim? Absolutely. But Lee is there, and a proper and simple rotation can cut this drive off. That's not what happens, because Lee locks onto his man, Paul Millsap.
It's only a matter of his turning his head, but Lee's black-and-white approach to defense hinders his effectiveness. When you watch the video, notice how he turns his head abruptly and intermittently, never opening up his frame and trying to keep track of both ball and man. Instead, it's ball or man.
Other times, it's the opposite: Lee is so concerned with his help positioning that he gives up an easy alley-oop or dump down pass after a penetration into the lane.
Bogut, despite his lack of agility and foot speed, is a master at handling multiple defensive responsibilities and baiting offensive players into the wrong choice. When Terrell Harris beats Curry at the top of the key, Bogut is able to see the entire play develop because he's keeping an eye on both his man, Anthony Davis, and the high pick-and-roll.
As Harris approaches the rim, Bogut takes the perfect angle: He induces a floater from Harris by attacking him straight on, while keeping Davis at his back to prevent a dump-down pass for a dunk.
The result is a blocked shot.
And again here, this time with Bogut involved in the pick-and-roll. Nash rejects the pick and heads baseline; Bogut anticipates Nash's quick move left and slides a tick early to impede his path. This forces Nash to thread the needle with a pass to Howard, the roll man. Except Howard isn't quite ready for the play—everything has developed so quickly that Howard barely has any time to read Nash's movement and roll to the rim. Therefore Bogut is able to bait Nash into hitting a stand-still Howard 12 feet from the rim where he can't do anything with the ball.
What Bogut brings to the Warriors is sorely needed. The offensive firepower is certainly prevalent, but the team lacks a core of reliable defenders. Pending his health, this is exactly what Bogut can be and what the Warriors are paying for.