Bucks' Center Andrew Bogut: Will He Make the NBA All-Star Team This Year?

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Bucks' Center Andrew Bogut: Will He Make the NBA All-Star Team This Year?
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Andrew Bogut has become a defensive force in the NBA and is leading the league in Defensive Plays.

Last year he was snubbed.  First by the Eastern conference coaches, some of them anyway, who were content to name Hawks big forward Al Horford as the East's reserve center. 

Then Commissioner David Stern took his turn, choosing the Knicks' David Lee over Bogut to replace injured Kevin Garnett, a nod to New York the media market as much as it was to Lee's scoring and rebounding numbers.

Milwaukee's just too damn small.  If Bogut was outplaying Lee and scoring 22 on a Friday night in November 2009, nobody noticed.  If All-Star is about winning, the Knicks hadn't won and still haven't won a game against the Bucks since March of 2009.

The Bucks did win—30 of their last 43 games last season and a run to a seven-game series against the Hawks.  They were 40-29 with Bogut in the lineup in 2010, before his horrific fall last March, resulting in a broken, mangled arm and the end of Bogut's best season as a pro.

The scoring was there, above average if not All-Star: 15.9 pts per game on 52 percent shooting and 10.2 rebounds.

The defense, for those who care about defense, was superlative.  Last season, Bogut led the NBA in defensive plays, with 3.82 blocked shots, steals and charges taken per game.  This season, he again leads the NBA in defensive plays with 3.74 blocks, steals and charges taken, and leads the NBA in blocked shots (2.7).  Is that enough to get him to the All-Star game?

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His 12.9 points per game say "no"—but his 11.7 rebounds per game (fifth in the NBA) say, yes.  But those are merely the stats. 

Bogut is not only the anchor of the Bucks defense but the heart and soul of a team that has in 2011 been ravaged by injuries while playing the most difficult schedule in the NBA, based on opponent record (SRS 0.98).  

They've won only 17, lost 26, but are just 1.5 games out of a playoff spot in the East, looking up at teams that have played much softer schedules.

Last night the Bucks made a statement that 2011 season is far from over in beating the Atlanta Hawks, 98-90, in Milwaukee.  There were no earth shattering, "SportsCenter" highlight dunks, but Bogut hauled in 14 rebounds and took a charge and blocked a shot that turned the momentum the Bucks way at the end of the second quarter. 

In the fourth, when the game was on the line, the Bucks limited the Hawks to 1-for-14 shooting for nine minutes and held them to 15 points in the quarter.

Defense wins games, and a center's job is to anchor the defense and control the paint.  Among NBA centers, Bogut—a leading candidate for defensive player of the year—has only one defensive rival:  the Magic's Dwight Howard, the perennial All-Star starting center for the Eastern Conference.  Bogut and Howard have a lot in common: They are true centers and defensive forces on the basketball court.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Horford's midrange jumper has made him one of the better power forwards in the league, but he's not a center.

Unfortunately, the matter of "what's a center?" is not resolved in the All-Star selection system.  Horford and other "centers" such as Lee, Andrea Bargnani and Marcus Camby, log most of his minutes at power forward, especially when matched up against a Bogut or Howard. 

The coaches must name one reserve center, and, as evidenced by last season's vote for Horford, the reserve center doesn't have to be a full time center.

"[Bogut]'s probably more of a true center than a lot of the other guys that people have talked about at that position," said Howard's coach, Stan Van Gundy, last season after Bogut was snubbed.  "Most of them are power forwards playing up a position, while he's like Dwight, more of a true center.  I don't think there's any question he's an all-star caliber guy. But when you're picking 24 guys out of 400 in the league, it gets difficult."

There is competition for the East's All-Star reserve spot.  Shaquille O'Neal, still "The Diesel" in limited minutes for the East-leading Celtics, was second in fan voting, due largely to both the largess of Shaq and the Celtics' East-leading record.

Bulls center Joakim Noah, third in the fan voting, was off to a strong start with the Bulls before a broken hand sidelined him until after the All-Star break. 

Roy Hibbert was scoring 16 points per game for the Pacers early in the season but has tapered off. 

Brook Lopez of the Nets is scoring 18+ points per game, but the Nets are losing and Lopez can't seem to grab a rebound (only 6 per game, half of Bogut and Howard's haul).

That leaves Bogut, fourth in fan voting, his scoring down (12.9 ppg) this season as he slowly makes his way back to 100 percent after last season's injury.  Bogut, whose Bucks aren't winning as much as most preseason prognosticators had predicted.  Bogut, the 3rd Team All-NBA center after last season, the 11th leading vote getter in the All-NBA balloting.

Bogut, leading the league in blocked shots and defensive plays, and one of the league's top five rebounders.  Howard, of course, is top five in those categories and is an All-Star.  He'll start the 2011 game at center.

Not to say that Horford does not deserve All-Star recognition (he does, more so than any other Hawk, more so than the Heat's Chris Bosh), but Horford is not in the top 10 in any of those categories.  But then, Al Horford is not a center.

In the NBA, circa 2011, Andrew Bogut is a center.  As a center plying his trade in the Eastern Conference, he's earned the honor and recognition of backing up Dwight Howard at the 2011 All-Star game.

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