Why Andrew Bogut isn't worth his price tag
After a very tough two-point loss at home last night, the Golden State Warriors are 2-1 down in their playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers, and have lost the home court advantage they had gained with their Game 1 victory.
Game 3 was close, so close that the Warriors arguably should have at least forced overtime on the final possession had a foul been called on Stephen Curry's last shot. Forty-point drubbing in Game 2 aside, the Warriors have proven themselves a legitimate matchup for the Clippers, and are right in this series. But they would be much more heavily favored if they could do something about DeAndre Jordan. So far, Jordan - who, perhaps fittingly, was the Warriors's initial center target in free agency before having the Clippers match their offer sheet to him - has averaged 15 rebounds and 5 blocks per game. He particularly shone in game three with 22 rebounds in 35 minutes, alongside five more blocks. Jordan does this to every team, of course; this was a defensive player of the year candidate doing what he does. But an Andrew Bogut-less Warriors have not the size to control him at all.
Despite Jordan's individual efforts, the Warriors actually outrebounded the Clippers anyway 52-47 - replacement starter Jermaine O'Neal grabbed 7 in his 16 minutes, while Draymond Green grabbed 11 off the bench. The Warriors went smaller to counter the Clippers' size advantage, and still outrebounded the far bigger team. Nevertheless, the inability to contain Jordan at all on the glass - a problem spawned by having David Lee and his one defensive rebound in 32 minutes play the center spot - is a thorn in the Warrior's side, and can be attributed partly to Andrew Bogut's absence.
Deficiencies attributable to Bogut's absence can be found on the offensive end, too. As Seth Partnow details nicely, the Warriors had some success in ball screen action when they made Jordan come and defend it. Whilst Bogut cannot stretch the defense at all and these days avoids contact so as to not have to go to the line, he is a fine passer away from the basket, a good screener and roller and a reliable hander-offer, thus he is certainly useful to employ in the pick-and-roll game that is now the majority of his otherwise limited offensive contributions. He also plays the pick and roll well on the other end, defends the rim and rebounds his position well, all things the Warriors noticeably lack right now.
However, the reason the Warriors lack them is because they lack Bogut. They lack Bogut because Bogut is injured. Bogut is often injured, so the Warriors knew this might happen. Yet they preemptively extended him anyway, knowing he would likely get injured.
Bogut's litany of injuries is well documented. It has robbed this once hugely talented two-way center of some of his effectiveness, and certainly ended his upside. Bogut's injuries have mostly been unrelated and sometimes been freak in nature, yet they have happened, they continue to happen, and there have been a lot of them. Despite this, and despite playing in only 44 games over the two previous seasons combined, the Warriors extended Bogut anyway to a three-year, $36 million extension. It was a risk, and one they did not need to take. Yet it happened.
The past does not determine the future. Just because Bogut had been injured, it did not automatically follow that he would again be injured. The past does, however, very much inform us of the possible future outcomes. Bogut's health has been relatively good this season, playing in 67 games, the fourth highest number of his career and his best mark since 2009/10. Yet a 67 game return still means missing about 20% of the season. (Imagine having every single Friday off sick.) Playing only 26.7 minutes per game in those 67 contests means Bogut played less than half of the Warriors' regular season, and, to date, none of their postseason.
When healthy, Andrew Bogut is worth $12 million a year. His defensive positioning, timing and size are excellent; he blocks shots, takes charges, protects the rim, protects the paint, protects the circle under the basket, protects the perimeter on switches, everything. He rebounds well, and while his offensive game has regressed a lot since his hey day, he still has his pick and roll moments and some finishing ability. But Andrew Bogut is not healthy. Andrew Bogut is never healthy. Andrew Bogut's price ought reflect this. It does not.
The free agency market, one which the Warriors saw fit to prevent Bogut from ever hitting with the extension, generally does not account for previous injury history much in player's new contracts. Unless injuries are extremely serious (Andrew Bynum) or eternally present (Marcus Camby), the market rarely reflects a player's past injuries, because the prediction, the hope, and the argument made by the player's representatives, is that the past is the past and it will not be the case again in the future.
However, some guys do just get hurt more than others, and Bogut is one. It is not fair on him that it is true, yet it is very fair by this point to acknowledge that it is. Golden State knew this was the case and chose to proceed in the hope it would be much less so going forward. The results at the moment are not favorable. Bogut helped get them to the position they are in, but being so unreliable, he cannot help them get out of it.
Golden State needed to protect a significant investment, hence the decision to extend. Yet by not letting him play for a year, hit the market and prove his health, they needed him stay healthy to be worthy of the price tag. And he has not been.