Aussies in NBA Finals: Bench is the New Par for Bogey
There was a time when everyone who predicted the Golden State Warriors to make or win the NBA Finals always heavily asterisked their opinion with 'if Andrew Bogut can remain healthy'. For all of the furor over the Splash Brothers and Draymond Green's emergence as a do-it-all glue guy, the general opinion was that, without Bogut, the Warriors weren't going anywhere significant.
Oh how things have changed.
Down 1-2 and hoping to avoid facing a 1-3 deficit (which no team in the Finals has ever come back from), Warriors coach Steve Kerr inserted Andre Iguodala into the starting lineup in Bogut's place. Since then, Bogut's logged a grand total of 2:46 of game time, and completely sat out of Game 5 as the Warriors snatched back the momentum of the series and come back to take a 3-2 lead.
While Bogut is apparently still able to make an impact on the game (and LeBron) in just three minutes of action...
... the question remains, how did 'the key to Golden State's playoff hopes' become a total non-factor?
Boring as it might sound, it may just simply be a matter of matchups. Iguodala gives the Warriors another player who can push the ball immediately after getting a rebound and put pressure on the Cavs' defense. He's also been stellar in guarding LeBron, and with this series essentially being 'Warriors vs. LeBron', that's key. The added shooting doesn't hurt either, with Iggy taking and making some key triples since his insertion into the starting lineup. The Warriors can afford to do this thanks to Draymond's ability to guard bigs like Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson at a decent enough level, and they've (correctly) decided that the added spacing and ball-handling outweighs the cons of being destroyed on the boards.
Kerr on playing time for Bogut and Ezeli: "It's not a series for bigs right now"
— LetsGoWarriors (@LetsGoWarriors) June 15, 2015
But of course, we should never forget what Bogut has managed to contribute to this historic Dubs season. While all the noise about him being absolutely essential for the Warriors to win the title now looks like hogwash, there's no question that he's been an integral part of this team with his defense and passing. Those pieces written about his importance weren't made up; it's just that he's not the right fit for this particular series.
Remember how everyone was saying that playoff seedings don't matter that much anymore, with matchups becoming the more pertinent issue? While the killer Western Conference was the topic of discussion at the time, the same rule applies on the micro level too, regarding specific players and lineups. Much has been made about how the Warriors are capable of playing different styles, beating teams like the Memphis Grizzlies and the Houston Rockets, teams with almost completely opposite offensive styles, en route to the Finals. If they win the title, a large part of it will be due to how their roster can shapeshift into whatever style they need to beat the specific lineup staring at them from the other end of the court.
Heck, the Cavaliers themselves have been forced to change the way they play a couple times already this season, due to injuries and trades and Coach James. And while it's pretty amazing that they've managed to get to the Finals with all the chopping and changing, their opponents are veritable chameleons themselves, and more naturally so.
Bogut has been huge for the Warriors this season. His skillset allowed them to play really well, in one style. They just need to play a different style now to win. And even if he doesn't log another minute of game time in these Finals, his part in getting the Warriors here cannot be overlooked.
Between Matthew Dellavedova and Bogut, Australia is guaranteed an NBA champion this season. And while Delly's emergence this playoffs has been nothing short of astounding, after all the injuries Bogey's endured, it would be pretty heartwarming to see him get a ring.