So... we're doing this thing where we rank the players, but we're doing it "Survivor" style, eliminating one player per poll, until we've decided who is the most valuable to the Warriors in 2016 and beyond. Once a player is eliminated, they shouldn't be counted as a reason to choose the next player. For example, whether or not Harrison Barnes' presence lessens the value of Draymond Green in real life shouldn't be taken into account once Harrison Barnes has been voted out in this little exercise.
We're referring to the players as "assets", to remind voters to consider age, salary, injuries, production, and potential as well as value to the team (as either a player or trade piece) when making their selections.
Much like this Ranking the Assets series, Andrew Bogut's career has undergone a bit of a resurrection, on top of a metamorphism (yeah, Jonez isn't writing this one). The one-time Naismith Player of the Year and two-time Utah Ute was once described as a "constant threat to receive the ball at any moment", a player teammates could "just throw the ball in his general direction" and have him "score with either hand". Perhaps the praise that rings hollowest of all, in a reminiscent sort of way, is that he once boasted a "very nice shooting stroke with a high release...and range out to the three point line", as evidenced by his 69.2 FT% his last year of college.
Fluke injuries -- an errant shove in the back from Amar'e Stoudemire here, a wandering elbow from Kenneth Faried there -- shaped and molded Andrew Bogut. He will never display his previously nice shooting stroke because he fell 10 feet in the air onto the unforgivingly solid hardwood in Milwaukee, with only his right elbow to cushion his blow. He will never run spryly like his Utah days, instead he will grimace and trot down the floor with a pained smirk, as if wryly asking no one in particular,
"Isn't it funny how this all turned out?"
And it is funny. Ten years before Karl-Anthony Towns provided an aesthetically pleasing blueprint of the modern-day center, a five who can leap and run like a gazelle, defend the paint, and stretch the floor, Andrew Bogut, the current Warriors starting center, came into the league possessing all of those traits. He may not have ever had the explosiveness as Towns, but nevertheless the stark dichotomy between what once was, and what now is, remains.
Especially because what we see now is still one of the better centers in the league. While his days as a scorer have seen their sunset, shedding that responsibility has allowed him to strip his game down to the bare bones necessities.
Bogut's unfortunate injury-riddled past has winnowed his game down like a chop-shop, but it may have unintentionally also increased his effectiveness with this particular team. Bogut's injuries have transformed him into the quintessential utilitarian modern center. While having your center be a viable option on the perimeter is always helpful, it's not necessary. Offensively, the only thing a center absolutely needs to do, lest he cross the border into "detrimental to the team's offense", is finish pick-and-roll opportunities with enough efficiency that the defense can't altogether ignore him when the defense rotates.
He does that. The shot chart above, per Vorped, highlights Bogut's efficiency relative to the league average in each zone. It's also important to note that his so far unmentioned cerebral play, as well as his injury history, is reflected in this shot chart. There's the obvious chicken-and-the-egg cyclical pattern of Bogut not taking shots outside of the key, on top of the Warrior offense not affording him any shots to take outside the key.
But also notice how he goes for shots at almost quintuple the rate on the left block versus the right block. Do the Warriors simply always favor plays leading to off-ball action for Bogut lobs that start with Draymond Green - Steph Curry action on the right side of the court? Or is that disparity explained by Bogut's right elbow injury inhibiting him from using his dominant hand as often? It's strange, because the entire rest of the right side of the court has Bogut scoring more efficiently than their mirrored partners on the left side of the court. It's a continuing trend from past years; last season he shot almost 20% better from the left block while attempting over 70 extra shots from that side of the hoop.
In any case, simply calling him an occasional play finisher would be selling him short. He's a bit more sophisticated in the half-court than the bouncy, bombastic DeAndre Jordan. He's sixth on the team in AST% for players that have logged more than 500 minutes this year -- two of those ahead of him are point guards, of course, and another (Leandro Barbosa) is 6'3. Numbers, of course, don't show the whole story -- they never have with Andrew Bogut. Watching him operate, it's clear he owns a passer's view of the game that few seven footers ever have. His eye for fleeting windows for a backdoor cutter is matched by those big soft hands scouts raved about ten years ago, which allow him to put passes into tight spaces.
He also has an uncanny ability to screen illegally without getting caught. After years of running the pick-and-roll with David Lee and Andris Biedrins, Stephen Curry remarked upon his first game playing with Bogut that he didn't realize the pick-and-roll play was meant to actually generate space for him to shoot [note: this was entirely fabricated]. Despite Bogut's finishing ability (on the left side of the rim), passing acumen, and screen-setting mastery, 2015 ORAPM was less than pleased with him, and rated him as a -1.61 negative contributor.
Whoo. Tough crowd.
But every Golden State Worrier and her grandmother knows that Bogut makes his bread defensively -- DRAPM, at least, heartily agrees. So does Nylon Calculus, who estimates that Bogut saves over six points per 36 minutes by contesting shots at the rim (and deterring people from even attempting), good for top five in the league. Without getting too esoteric, Bogut consistently ranks highly as a smart, economic defender. Like Tim Duncan, he's an efficient alterer of shots and a stoic presence in the paint that allows his teammates to operate freely on the perimeter.
To appreciate Bogut's defense, one must understand why his role is important.
As the league adopts a more Moreyian shot selection, all of the top defenses have responded by shifting their focus towards selling out contesting the three point line. This naturally funnels opponents towards the interior, where -- on good defensive teams, at least -- an immovable defender in the paint waits for them. This focus on arc-and-rim protection leaves a soft spot in the defense -- the dreaded, inefficient midrange jump shot. As the San Antonio Spurs' recent Duncan-less regression has shown, the entire system collapses in on itself like Luke Skywalker just blew up its power core if the rim protector is off the floor.
If the safety blanket the perimeter defense was funneling opponents towards has a hole torn in it, the system is broken.
And that is why Andrew Bogut lasted until the 13th hour here on Golden State of Mind. It is fitting, in a way, for him to have been voted off in the unlucky 13th edition of the series.
Just another unlucky fluke for Andrew Bogut.
Past selections, regrets, etc.
For fun, let's first do a quick-and-easy check on how well the community has voted so far. We'll use VORP as a proxy for performance, simply because it is easy sortable on Basketball Reference and RAPM for 2016 has yet to surface. Any one statistic will have holes in it, so player evaluations from one stat is unwise. It's also important to remember that player performance is only one variable that goes into the calculus; production versus contract value, age, and myriad other factors should be considered.
All the same, for the sake of indulging my own interest, here we go:
|Value over Replacement Player
|16. Chris Babb
|16. Chris Babb (N/A)
|15. Brandon Rush
|15. Marreese Speights (-0.6)
|14. Ian Clark
|14. Ian Clark (0.0)
|13. Jason Thompson
|14. Kevon Looney (0.0)
|12. Leandro Barbosa
|14. Leandro Barbosa (0.0)
|11. James Michael McAdoo
|14. James Michael McAdoo (0.0)
|10. Marreese Speights
|10. Jason Thompson (0.1)
|9. Harrison Barnes
|9. Brandon Rush (0.3)
|8. Kevon Looney
|9. Shaun Livingston (0.3)
|7. Shaun Livingston
|7. Harrison Barnes (0.5)
|6. Festus Ezeli
|7. Festus Ezeli (0.5)
|5. Andrew Bogut
|5. Klay Thompson (1.1)
On to the final four, and the next selection!
You, as a caucus, have had fairly easy selections so far. In retrospect, as we saw above, some have been spot on, and others... well, Brandon Rush will have a word with you and a bowl of crow this afternoon.
Does the fact that Andre Iguodala outstrip Klay Thompson in RAPM as of last calculation counterweigh his age, and is that, in turn, counterweighed by Iguodala's relatively thrifty contract? This poll has the potential to become very interesting before, well, frankly, Draymond and Stephen have a showdown in the final round. New wrinkle: if Steph get's 7% of the votes in the finals, he automatically loses [note: this is entirely fabricated].
In any case, get out and vote! Your bosses are legally obligated to give you time off for you to vote and defend your decision in the comments.