With the return of Andrew Bogut, the Golden State Warriors are finally at full strength and the defensive backbone of the team has returned. With a team full of offensively gifted players, headlined by Stephen Curry and David Lee, Bogut does not need to carry any type of offensive burden. like he did in Milwaukee and can stick to what he does best, defend the paint, block shots in bunches and rebound. Without Bogut the Warriors would still make the playoffs, but it is also safe to say that without him, they would go nowhere once there. The all-offense approach can work in the regular season, but defense is needed in the playoffs and they just so happen to have one of the elite defenders in the game, which boosts their chances in the playoffs.
Offense is not hard to come by in Golden State as they are stacked with offensive talent. They are ranked 7th in points per game and field goal percentage, 1st in three point percentage and 2nd in free throw percentage, which is not hard to fathom, based on who is on the team. Stephen Curry is one of the best shooters and pure scorers in the NBA and David Lee is dominant inside and with his mid-range shot, to the point where they both average 19+ points per game. They are two of the best scorers at their positions in the NBA, but with Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes flanking them on the perimeter, Andrew Bogut’s low post game and the off the bench brilliance of Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry, few teams can match them on offense. However if they want to be taken seriously, their defense has to at least be average, if they are to make any noise in the playoffs. Dwight Howard proved in 2010, that one dominant big man down low, can do enough on defense to help his team win in the playoffs, as he got the Magic to the NBA Finals, as the only real defensive stopper and although the Warriors are not good enough to make it that far, it is the same principal. If Bogut gets 100% healthy, his defense alone makes them that much better of a team. Before recent injuries, Bogut was widely considered the second best post defender in the NBA and if he can get anywhere close to that level this season, their chances of winning in the playoffs could be a reality.
So far this season, Bogut has only played in 8 games, averaging 21 minutes, 8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2 blocks per game, which is very impressive. If he can get up to 30+ minutes per game, they should move up significantly in the defensive rankings, where they are currently 23rd in the NBA, in points allowed per game. Coach Mark Jackson has their defensive effort vastly improved from years past and it is safe to assume that they would be in the top 15, if Bogut had been healthy all season long. For them to be successful, Bogut must get healthy and play up to his previous All-NBA Defense level, as the players around him are mostly mediocre defenders, which is why they traded for Bogut in the first place.
Fast paced, high octane offense works in the regular season, but just ask the Suns of the previous decade, how it works in the playoffs. The game slows down considerably in the playoffs and with their shooting and multiple playmakers, they can play solid slowed down offense, but the key is the defense. If Bogut can return to form and lead the defense, they have a chance to win a playoff series. They are in no way contenders, but for such a young team and a team that few had in the playoffs before the season began, that would be an excellent start in the Warriors quest to rise up the ranks of the Western Conference. Stephen Curry, David Lee and Klay Thompson and the rest of the crew can score on anyone, but can they stop anyone? Because if they do not, they will do nothing in the playoffs. That job is now up to Andrew Bogut. One thing is for sure, their future is bright, but with the taste of success, they will want more than a first round exit and their defense is the way to prevent that. Curry and Lee may be the stars of the team, but their postseason success lies with the health and play of Andrew Bogut.