Aussies in the NBA: How important is Bogut to the Warriors right now?

The Golden State Warriors have proved themselves capable of surviving without Bogut, and even flourishing as a two-way team with a fearsome small-ball lineup that features multiple long-limbed swingmen like Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston.

Is Andrew Bogut still as invaluable to the Warriors as we believed in the early season? Let's find out.

Bogut's stat lines seldom jump out at the casual reader. His most impressive stat line this week came against the Detroit Pistons, where he had 12 points on 6 of 8 shooting, along with 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks.

When you compare it against monster performances from stars like Kyrie Irving's insane 57-point performance against the Spurs, or Russell Westbrook's string of triple-doubles, it does seem to pale into insignificance.

[gfycat data_id="BlackandwhiteFantasticFrigatebird" data_autoplay=true data_expand=true] Obviously, the leading man on the Warriors isn't Bogut, and he's not called upon to contribute numbers in that way. Bogut is first and foremost a defensive anchor, and his presence in the paint deters drives to the basket. You can see how the ball in this Suns possession was poked away by Bogey. This loose ball became a Suns turnover, allowing the Dubs to run a fast break and an easy Klay dunk.

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“He’s the greatest,” Warriors guard Klay Thompson said. “He alters so many shots. He takes up so much space. He’s the anchor of our defense.” - source

Bogut's on/off-court numbers

John Gregg from The Roar stressed Bogut's importance in their championship run this season.

On a team led by the best guard combination in the NBA – the amazing Stephen Curry and the slick-shooting Klay Thompson – it is a 30-year-old Aussie that seemingly holds the key to the Warriors’ dream of winning an NBA crown. - source

Will the Warriors stumble really hard without Bogut? Let's take a look at his impact on offense and defense, and how the team has performed without him this year.

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If we look at Bogut's impact for 2015 so far, the disparity in defensive rating is the difference between a stifling league-first defense, and being a middling tenth-ranked team when he's out. Having Bogut as a rim protector allows them a level of security that small-ball lineups cannot provide.

Check out this play for example, where a 2-on-1 fast break situation ended in a Bogut "NOT IN MY HOUSE!" rejection, simply because Bogey was at hand to intimidate, and stifle the transition offense.

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In contrast, the offense explodes off the charts when Bogut is off the floor, but droops to fourth-best with his presence, even with all those seemingly endless Curry-Bogut lobs.

Checking the lineups

Bogut has also commented on the team's roster versatility in his latest blog entry with NBA Australia.

I feel when we decide to do [small-ball], we’re as good as anyone in the league at it.

When teams make the call to switch to a smaller line up, we feel it helps us in a way because it allows us to get up and down the floor, and having Draymond Green playing centre and shooting threes is clearly a bonus.

It’s not something that solely wins championships but having the ability to make subtle tweaks to our lineups here and there is tremendously beneficial. Steve Kerr is very smart with when he chooses to go with it.

Defensively, we can move around and be really active and switch everything that an opposing offence tries to throw our way.

Teams struggle to get into their sets because we will suddenly switch something up and deny everything out to the half court, that’s what we did against the Pistons for a fair portion of the game. - source

When we look at Golden State's most-used lineups this year (played 50 minutes or more), only two of the five lineups have featured Bogut. These two units are surprisingly, are at opposite ends of the spectrum. One is their best defensive lineup, the other is their worst. The difference? Fielding Andre Iguodala instead of Harrison Barnes tightens the defense up, it seems.

The ex-Bogut lineups are particularly interesting.

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The five-man unit of Barnes/Curry/Green/Speights/Thompson have seen 106 minutes this year, and has actually performed better than the starting lineup on both offense and defense. (I'm not suggesting Speights is better than Bogut. Not yet, anyway.)

Similarly (but in a smaller sample size), the bench mob of Barbosa/Iguodala/Lee/Livingston/Speights have held their own as well, boasting a stout defensive rating of 93.9 and the same offensive rating as the starters. We obviously have to account for the fact that this five-man unit played against the opposing bench.

In a limited sample size, the team is definitely capable of staying competitive without Bogut. Their defense however, is most definitely shored up when Bogut sees the floor.

That thing called rest

The good old saying about defense winning championships comes into play at this point, and we can keenly feel how important Bogut is to the team, especially on defense. This is why the talented big man is on a tight leash when it comes to game minutes.

Bogut is currently averaging 23.8 minutes for the season, and only 22.7 for March so far. He's not at all bothered by the reduced playing time however, and even appears to welcome it.

“I’m at a point in my career where I’m not going to complain about minutes or touches or those kind of things. We’re winning games, we’re doing the right kind of thing and I have the utmost faith in the organisation, the coach and my teammates.

“It’s nice to be out there playing a lot of minutes, but I think playing probably a career-low in minutes this season will be a good thing running into the play-offs especially with my injury history.” - source

It's no surprise he's welcoming the rest. Having a fully healthy Bogut in April allows the team to play their best defense, and pull out the small-ball scoring in stretches as needed.