Andrew Bogut is entering his 13th NBA season as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.
After an elongated free agency period that extended well into September, the Australian decided to reunite with Luke Walton in Los Angeles.
Walton, the Lakers head coach, was an assistant on Steve Kerr’s staff in Golden State during Bogut’s time in the bay. While Bogut’s marriage with the Lakers initially many off guard, it appears a logical pairing given the presence of Walton, and the standing of both the player and franchise.
Bogut’s NBA career is on its homeward stretch. He remains an effective interior defender when on the court, although a long list of injuries have rendered the big man unreliable, in a league that loathes just that. Australia’s longest tenured NBA player has unfortunately been reduced to a part-time player.
While this devalues his ability to directly impact things on the floor, it does not prevent him from contributing in more subtle ways, something that is especially true on this Lakers roster.
There is an abundance of young talent at Walton’s disposal. Led by Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and an irrepressible Kyle Kuzma, the perennially veteran thirsty Lakers have a stable of promising youngsters for the first time this century. This is assuredly where Bogut’s experience comes into play. It is invariably a key reason why he is now a Laker.
Bogut has already stated he wants to mentor his youthful teammates on the secrets of life in the NBA.
"I have been through pretty much everything in this league, especially injury-wise” Bogut told ESPN earlier this month. “[I’ve] been on championship teams, winningest teams, crappiest teams, teams with a lot of turnovers. I have seen everything."
In that same article, Ivica Zubac, a fellow descendant of Croatia, speaks glowingly of Bogut’s impact during training cap. Providing stewardship will likely represents Bogut’s biggest impact on this Lakers team.
Even the most optimistic projections will struggle finding consistent minutes for Bogut on this roster. Brook Lopez is firmly slated into the starting line-up. Given Walton has carried elements of the Warriors pace and space game with him to Los Angeles, it is highly unlikely that the former Brooklyn Net shares any time with Bogut on the floor. That means the Australian will be fighting with Zubac for reserve minutes.
Potential minutes could be further evaporated with small ball line-ups, ones that feature hybrid options at the five position. Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr. and Kuzma all offer intriguing looks as small ball centers.
Simply put, the Lakers possess a glut of young big men that are more important to their long-term future than Bogut. The relationship with Walton should provide some playing time, especially early in the year, although consistent minutes are likely tied to adverse outcomes for those above Bogut in the pecking order. If any of the developing front court options make a quantum leap forward, Bogut could remain rooted to the bench.
If Bogut does see playing time, his role will likely be defined by the little things. On offence, his wonderful illegally legal screens will be called upon – these talents could boost an offense being led by Ball.
Prior to last season, we explored Bogut’s passing talents and ability to operate effectively from the high-post. These skills have been barely sighted for the past 18 months, although it will be interesting to see whether Walton allows Bogut to initiate offence on the perimeter, as was occasionally the case in Golden State.
Bogut’s defensive abilities have declined with his ailing body, although he was a competent interior defender when last healthy. An elite defensive mind will place Bogut in the right positions, it’s just a question of whether his body allows the experience to shine.
Complicating things further is Bogut’s circumspect start to his Lakers career. He was held out of the initial pre-season games after visa delays kept him sidelined. A mild groin injury then further delayed a Lakers debut.
Luckily, Walton has described that Bogut’s ailment is only a short-term setback. "We expect him back by the start of the season for sure," is what Walton told reporters following the Lakers pre-season contest against the Utah Jazz.
Bogut will definitely serve a role for Walton and the Lakers this season. It’s just a question of whether that happens on or off the court.