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Aussies in NBA: The artistry of Bogut's phantom passes
What does it mean to be a big man in the NBA, when you can't shoot the three? Nowadays, it seems that the job description consists of taking up space in the paint to make it harder for opponents to score, and occasionally being available to dunk the ball at the other end. Even more so, if you're not the focal point of your team's offense.
That might be how Andrew Bogut feels. His teammates include the three-point shooting darling of the league right now, his 28.6 PPG-over-the-last-5-games backcourt mate, the reigning Finals MVP, and the league leader in triple-doubles. It's enough to make anyone get self-esteem issues.
Maybe that's why Bogut is anything but your typical rim protecting big man.
Playing with such luminaries of the sport, there must surely exist the yearning to be able to adopt a more artistic approach to playing the game, even as a center. One can only be called a 'brute' or an 'interior force' so many times before it starts to wear thin, after all.
But hey, it's fine if opponents want to keep thinking of Bogey as the fifth wheel in Golden State's offense. He can't really shoot, sure. He jogs at his own pace to join the offense after a defensive rebound. His name, if used in a word association test, would immediately bring the answer of 'defense'. Opposing centers will always just think of him as a tough guy on one end and a non-factor on the other. Smaller players, when switched onto him, probably relax because they don't anticipate him scoring the ball from outside.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7JQXbRKb6-g None of these preconceptions matter a jot, because it just means that defenders fall asleep on the kind of destruction he can wage with his quick wits and passing ability. He doesn't do it all the time either, so it seems no one but his teammates can ever see it coming until it's too late.
Perhaps the best part of Bogey's passing isn't the how, but rather the why. He doesn't do them for the sake of looking good or making it onto highlight reels. He just wants to help his team win. Notice how each of the passes shown here either directly led to a bucket or found a wide-open shooter. They may have been flashy highlight plays, but more importantly, they were the right plays.
For example, see this latest effort:
Bogut gets the ball and is forced out to the perimeter, and sees Klay Thompson making a cut to the basket. You could argue that Bogut could have chosen to simply turn to his left to make a more orthodox overhead pass. However, that would have given Marco Belinelli, Klay's defender, a chance to take a swipe at the ball, maybe stealing it or at least deflecting it away. Not only that, but Klay would have had to twist his upper body to receive the pass, simultaneously making the reception more difficult and taking his eyes away from the rim.
Instead, Bogey plays it right into Klay's path, and it's a simple catch and layup. It's all in the tiny details; passes, especially to teammates making a cut, are supposed to be aimed at the cutter's eventual destination, not to where he currently is. Bogey's little behind-the-back bounce pass here is just that simple concept executed at an artistic level. Pretty and effective.
People always say it's the little things that go unnoticed that help a team win. Well, the Bogeyman is showing that sometimes, those little things can be highlight worthy too.