At the end of this year’s regular season, the Warriors finished sixth place in the Western Conference and were matched up against the third-seeded Los Angeles Clippers. With starting center Andrew Bogut out with a rib fracture, the Clippers presented a challenging matchup for the Warriors, roster-wise. The Clippers were fueled by their dominant big man combo of DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin, while the Warriors were desperate for size with Bogut and Festus Ezeli sidelined.
With a healthy Bogut and Ezeli, the Warriors are automatically markedly improved in the big man department. Jermaine O’Neal, a former All-Star who experienced a quasi-resurrection in his lone season with the Warriors, is a free-agent and if the Warriors are unable to retain him – which is likely because of salary considerations – they’ll lose depth in their frontcourt.
So do the Warriors need an upgrade?
A quick glance at the scoring numbers of the Warriors’ centers might indicate that the Warriors are lacking in quality big men. In their last seasons, Bogut and Ezeli averaged 7.3 and 2.4 points per game respectively. Neither of them were potent scoring threats, but their impact is so much more than that and as a result, their value is often understated.
The Warriors have tremendous offensive firepower. Their backcourt pairs two of the best three-point shooters in the league, David Lee is a constant 20-10 threat, and Andre Iguodala is an athletic swingman who excels at finishing near the rim. Because of all the options they have, they don’t need their center to take on much of the scoring load.
Instead, the Warriors need rim protection. They need rebounding, physicality, and defense – someone to do all the dirty work. That’s what Andrew Bogut has given them.
Post the Ellis-Bogut trade, defensively, the Warriors have gone from one of the laughingstocks of the league to a top-10 defense in the Association. Last season, they ranked third in opponent’s field goal percentage for the regular season at 43.6 percent. Andrew Bogut was the anchor to the Warriors’ defensive identity and the statistics prove that. The Warriors ranked seventh in the league in field goal percentage allowed on shots less than five feet, an indicator of their ability to contest and disrupt shots around the rim.
In stretches where Bogut was injured, Ezeli too was able to fill the role and held his own by protecting the paint. But with both of them back, the Warriors should have a formidable pair of centers to infuse grit and aggression into the lineup. If they can continue to play their roles and adapt to Coach Steve Kerr‘s new offensive system, the Warriors will have a lot to look forward to from their frontline.
Photo Credit: AP Images
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