The archives of the center position for the Golden State Warriors are a dark and foreboding place. But like any brave explorer, I have cause to venture into the darkness, and it is this: I am pretty certain that Andrew Bogut was the best center the Warriors have had in my lifetime. But I know I’m biased.
Because, once upon a time, I was also pretty high on Andris Biedrins. So I went to look up Bogut’s numbers because I wanted to take an objective look and try and figure out where Bogut fits in the somewhat dusty pantheon of Warriors bigs. You can see at the end of the article how his raw numbers shake out, both as career totals and per 100 possessions (career average) with the Warriors. We know his advanced stats are elite. But for those who may not care about such mumbo jumbo, I wanted to present Bogut under the harsh white light of statistics.
One important factor that I’ve tried to account for is tenure. Guys like Joe Barry Carroll, Clifford Ray and Adonal Foyle put in seven, seven, and ten years, respectively. Another dominant center, Chris Webber, barely made it through two seasons, and Bogut only played for the Warriors for four seasons (nearly all of which were impacted by injuries). We will look at career numbers of course, but I think the primary comparison of results per 100 possessions will help us understand not just how often they played, but also how effective these players were on the court. Maybe using this approach wrecks the analysis due to pace of play, but I think results per 100 possessions is a pretty even playing field, with the caveats of different usage, priorities, et cetera.
First though, a quick history lesson: the Warriors won a championship in ’74-’75, then made it back to the playoffs only to be upset in seven games (sound familiar?) by the Phoenix suns in ’76-‘77. Then they were very bad for a long time. A really long time.
They made the playoffs once, in the 1993-’94 season, right around the time I was graduating from high school. However the volatile but effective combination of Don Nelson, Chris Webber and Latrell Sprewell was simply not stable enough to survive the rigors of another season.
Next, Garry St. Jean came along and did his darndest, but the franchise was still floundering under poor personnel decisions. The period from 1998-2004 was an ultimately ineffective period with plenty of mid-tier talent but too many holes in the roster. Guys like Antawn Jamison, Jason Richardson, and Gilbert Arenas put on the best show they knew how, but this era was mostly characterized by ugly ineffective basketball. Here’s a quote from a recent article by Hamed Aleaziz of the SF Chronicle reminding us of exactly how bad the Warriors were during this time:
As Adonal Foyle walked off the court in Philadelphia one night in 2001, his Warriors were mired in historic torment. With only 17 wins at the end of March, the team was a league laughingstock.
“Why can’t the Warriors have a website?” a fan yelled at Foyle and the other players.
Intrigued, Foyle listened for the punchline — of course the Warriors had a website.
“Because they can’t put three W’s together!”
Finally, in 2007, the We Believe team emerged after the Warriors traded our key players for a bunch of key players from the Pacers. Andris Biedrins looked legitimate, for a hot minute. During the We Believe season, he finished first in field goal percentage (.626), averaged 10.5 points and 9.8 rebounds in just over 27 minutes per game, and perhaps most surprisingly of all, somehow managed a relatively respectable 62% from the charity stripe. The Warriors didn’t hesitate to lock him up on a six year contract that seemed like a bargain at the time.
Then, through some mysterious combination of abdominal injury and Don Nelson’s psychological warfare, Biedrins faded away. A slow, deliberate process highlighted by missed games due to injury, and a growing fear of the free throw line that hampered his inside game as his accuracy and shot attempts plummeted. The Utah Jazz helped the Warriors end their suffering by accommodating a salary dump that sent Biedrings away in order to make room for Andre Iguodala ... and eventually Bogut.
Bogut was a revelation - an elite defender, willing passer and perfect defensive foil to the offensive finery of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. And yet, for all his perceived impact, his minutes limitations, and short career tenure here, his overall impact isn’t all that impressive when you just look at the raw numbers.
Or is it?
As Ronaldinho noted when Bogut left for the Dallas Mavericks, there are a number of key areas where Bogut’s impact helped transform the Warriors franchise. His defense at the rim was elite (along with the also departed Festus Ezeli), but he just didn’t log the minutes required to put his career totals among the other Warriors centers of my lifetime . Instead, I want to look at the rate stats. After some fiddling, I decided to go with “per 100 possessions” as the primary metric.
Okay, now we can see that once equalized, Bogut does get closer to the top of the pedestal.
Parsing it out more, Bogut dominates in most of the areas you’d expect.
In each of these areas, we can see that Bogut is indeed among some of the best that the Warriors have put out on the court in my lifetime; whether it be rebounding, defense, or as a facilitator on offense, you can see that each Bogut possession was effective, even if the traditional “counting stats” don’t necessarily reflect it.
And then, just for full disclosure, the areas where Bogut was less than elite…
Steals (where he is about middle of the pack):
And his greatest weakness: points:
So there you have it. Bogut’s career summarized in charts!
I think the bottom line here is that Bogut was the best in the areas we needed him most. Not just for this iteration of the Warriors, but among the best in my lifetime.