With Bogut, are the Warriors really going farther?

It’s a legitimate question, especially considering the Warriors struggles since his still-limited and stamina-impacted return. On the season the Warriors are just 5-5 when Bogut participates in game action. The 5 wins have come against 4 teams whose combined winning percentage is .356, the best of which belongs to Dallas, at 23-29 (.442). Comparatively, the losses feature just 3 teams, with 1 against each on the road. In addition to home victories, both Houston and Memphis have beaten the Warriors in Oakland with Bogut healthy. Sacramento also defeated the Warriors in Sleep Train Arena earlier this year. It’s a curious bunch of games where the majority ought to be considered “should wins” against teams under .500, and couple others at home against tougher opponents.

What I get from all this is the feeling that we really still have no idea what Bogut is bringing to this team. 152:39 that he’s been on the court since his return, his numbers have actually been impressive. I’m going to go ahead and assume that we’ll see him at about 30-32 minutes for the rest of the season, so per36 is probably a bit high, but since the new year Bogut’s per36 numbers are 12.7 points, 11.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 2.8 blocks while shooting 55.5% on field goals. Really solid for a guy just off rehab. But those numbers haven’t translated to wins. You would think they would, given the fact that he scores more than twice as much as Festus Ezeli and 6 times as much as Andris Biedrins at a higher percentage than either on the season. To be fair, here’s a comparison of all 3 for the entire year:

GswCentersPer36

Full stats available HERE

So his numbers definitely aren’t the problem. He’s producing just fine. Where the real problem lies is in how the Warriors are playing when he’s on the court. On the season the Warriors have actually been slightly worse per 100 possessions than their opponents. That is to say, they’ve allowed more points than they have scored themselves. It’s only 12 points, and prior to the 5-game losing streak, they were actually a significant amount better than their counterparts (80 point advantage on the season).

All in all, the Warriors Offensive and Defensive rating are pretty much identical. They score 106.2 points per 100 possessions and give up 106.5 on the defensive end. But this can also be broken specifically for each player. When Bogut is on the court this season, the Warriors are 7.3 points WORSE than their opponent every 100 possessions. This is specific to the time he spends on the court, not just the games he plays in, and considering the Warriors 0.8 point advantage when he isn’t playing, this is bad. Very bad.

That means that the Warriors have been 8.1 points better WITHOUT Bogut than they are with him. By comparison, both Ezeli and Biedrins make the Warriors just 5.5 points worse. But what does all of this really mean? Simply, it means the Warriors have been better without Bogut. Without a center at all, for that matter. There could be any number of reasons for this, but an important thing to note here is that “Bogut sucks” is not likely one of them.

Simply, the Warriors are likely a better team playing with Draymond Green (-0.2) and Carl Landry (-1.8) as the other big next to David Lee because they are a team that has thrived on spacing. Neither Ezeli or Biedrins provides a viable jump-shot or ability to create on the block, so naturally, the offense suffers with them on the court. This applies to a lesser extent to Bogut, who’s range away from the basket does not extend very far, and who’s presence inside leaves less space for Lee to work nearer to the basket. Bogut is a far better offensive player than either of the Warriors other center options, but he is no doubt a center, nonetheless. To this point, he hasn’t had the impact defensively we thought he might, and I think it might be hard for him to do so until he really does reach full health.

Looking around the league, you can quickly find an example of a banged up big man who’s struggling on the defensive end: Dwight Howard. He’s had issues all season, due to a bad back and now a bad shoulder. Without his full range of motion and level of energy, he simply isn’t the same player he once was. His defense and rebounding have suffered most. I imagine Bogut’s going to have similar issues for a good while still. Until he’s at his best, I’m not sure us fans are going to be seeing the results we wish we were. Landry’s minutes are down from a season average of 25, to just 21 in February. We’re now playing a center (any of the 3) significantly more minutes than at any other point in the season, while not reaping the benefits of doing so on defense.

Not all of that is on Bogut, though. Other Warriors have lost the commitment to defense and rebounding they made earlier in the year, and it’s hurting the team far more than playing Bogut. As I write, they’re near to losing their 6th straight game, mostly because they have just not made enough effort to stop the Utah Jazz on offense. This has been a theme recently for the Dubs, who have just not been playing good basketball at all. They’re not closing at shooters or stopping drives to the basket on defense and they’ve been rushing their offense to try and compensate. Worse, they’re giving up extra possessions by not boxing out. Nothing seems to be going right. But this is what troubles me.

The Warriors were so good, so committed to trying to do just that early in the year. They had heart, energy and a sense of urgency necessary of a middling team without a lot of athleticism. They can’t sleep-walk through games and win the way teams like Oklahoma City and Miami can. They have to be engaged every game. For a long time, they were doing this as well as anyone in the league. The 22-10 start to the season is proof of this. So what happened? Are they already burnt out from all the effort? Are they being exposed? What exactly has happened to cause such a turnaround in their defense, rebounding, and even their offense?

To my eye, the chemistry isn’t what it was. Early in the year, this team rallied around their fallen comrades. Jarrett Jack and Landry played huge leadership roles in establishing a sense of togetherness that resonated on the court. We all knew they were a team playing above their heads early in the year, but who thought that they wouldn’t get at least a little boost from their supposed 2nd best player, even if not completely healthy? Not I. I always wondered how much Bogut would really help, since he, by himself is not going to fix any defensive or rebounding issues. It still has to be a team effort. And that’s what’s lacking. For Stephen Curry and Lee, especially, it feels like their commitments to those things have fallen off dramatically since the big man’s return.

All season long, pundits have lauded the fact that the Warriors were less gimmicky, but with Bogut back, their other players have gone back to the kind of basketball that all of us wish they had forgotten about. They’re relying on Bogut to cover for their deficiencies, their lack of effort, and it’s damning. It’s time that Mark Jackson take his captains aside and get them all back on the same page. The commitment and desperation of a team who once thought of themselves as “Us against the world,” needs to return, and it will only happen once the team’s two best players are back on board. Some of the shine has worn off since the amazing early stretch that was dedicated to Brandon Rush and they need to find what it is that made them special without Bogut early in the year.

Once, and only if, they do that, Bogut’s presence might vault them to a status yet unseen. Until then, they’ll wither away back towards .500 and potentially, out of the playoffs. For their sake, and for our sake, I hope they find the drive that made them so fun to watch. Because this is painful, and reminiscent of a Warrior team that I thought might have actually been left behind. The bad, no-defense-playing Warriors are back, and without an offense. And it hurts me to see them regress so far.

For Coach Jackson, the clock is ticking. The longer this continues, the less impressive his tenure as coach seems. With every loss, the Warriors get closer to being the same team they were when he arrived. For the team, they’re slowly becoming the team that overachieved early, but really isn’t any better than what people expected. Neither can like where this is headed, so it’s time to fight back again, like they did before when they were counted out, no Bogut, no Rush. The clock is ticking, and soon this season could become another wasted opportunity.

 

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