It’s been difficult to recap Warriors games recently. Not just because I was out of town, but because we’ve entered the silly season. That time of year when many bad teams have simply given up, and many good teams are resting their stars, and fantasy league owners are asking themselves questions like, “Should I start Lebron James?” Most of the games the Warriors are playing right now, and will be playing up until the playoffs, are meaningful only to themselves.
This was not such a game. I’ve had this one marked on my calendar as a game that could serve as a benchmark of the Warriors’ progress, because both teams needed it, and both teams wanted it. And, in what has been an extreme rarity in Warriors’ opponents this season, Utah was at close to full strength.
I was not encouraged by the result. And in particular by the state of Andrew Bogut’s game, and what is has wrought on this Warriors team.
The Andrew Bogut Myth: Let’s start at the end and work back. Andrew Bogut — the player that Joe Lacob gave away Monta Ellis and Ekpe Udoh for, and swallowed the poison pill of 2 years at $10 million of Richard Jefferson for as well — the player for whom Joe Lacob tanked an NBA season — the transcendent all-NBA defensive player who was going to single-handedly “change the culture” of the Warriors — Andrew Bogut was benched for defensive reasons in the fourth quarter. Replaced by Draymond Green, a 6-7″ rookie forward.
Here’s what Jim Barnett had to say about the move: “[Green] is back in so he can cover more territory.”
Here’s how Mark Jackson explained the move post-game:
They were hurting us with pick and rolls. Our best big defender [Green] was on the floor as far as defending pick and roll. Able to either switch or get the ball out of the point guards hands, and get back to his [man]. So, just trying to give us a chance to get stops.
“Give us a chance to get stops.” That’s kind of harsh, isn’t it? Like the Warriors don’t have a chance to get stops with all-NBA defensive center Andrew Bogut on the floor?
That’s exactly right. They don’t.
Because all-NBA defensive center Andrew Bogut doesn’t exist anymore. He is a myth, conjured up by the inexperienced mind of the amateur GM of the Warriors, Joe Lacob, and propagated by the Warriors PR department (which comprises everyone else on the Warriors payroll, and most if not all of the writers in the Warriors media).
There has been ample evidence of this in virtually every game Bogut has played this season. But if you need more evidence — if you want to understand in 10 short seconds exactly what I have been saying all season long, and what Mark Jackson phrased in very stark terms after this game — then take another look at the defensive sequence at 4:20 4th Q:
Al Jefferson leaves the lane to set a high pick. Andrew Bogut refuses to follow him. He can’t follow him, because when he does, he’s absolutely helpless: too slow to hedge on the point guard, too slow to recover to his man at the basket. So Andrew Bogut stays in the lane, and Stephen Curry leaves Gordon Hayward alone on the wing to go help cover Mo Williams on the pick and roll.
But now Bogut sees that he must leave the lane anyway to guard the open Gordon Hayward at the three point line. Which he does. And now the Jazz simply destroy him with perfect execution: Williams zips an entry to Paul Millsap in the lane, Bogut collapses to help deal with this interior threat, Millsap immediately passes back out to Hayward, and bam, wide-open three in Bogut’s face.
Have you ever seen a team attempt to guard pick and roll that way? It was one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen. But that’s the conundrum the Warriors face with Bogut on the court. He cannot guard pick and roll — at all.
He can’t guard much else either, as Al Jefferson has delighted in proving this season. Jefferson beat him inside and out. Shot 15 footers over him, and destroyed him in the post. The Warriors actually sent help when Jefferson had Bogut in the post!
Just think about that second. If the Warriors are forced to send help when Bogut is guarding the likes of Al Jefferson, then what possible reason can there be to ever play Bogut at all? In past years, the intermittently healthy Andris Biedrins destroyed Al Jefferson without help. And in this season, the raw rookie Festus Ezeli has also done a very fine job containing Jefferson mano a mano.
The Jazz guards, particularly Mo Williams and Gordon Hayward, made mincemeat of Bogut as well. As soon as he was drawn even slightly out of position, they went right around him, and through him. Bogut is simply not mobile enough anymore to guard the lane against any team that knows how to move the ball.
Andrew Bogut the all-NBA defender is a myth. Like the grandpa in that AT&T U-Verse commercial, I been trying to tell you.
And now Mark Jackson just told you too.
The Bogut Myth on Offense: The verdict is in on offense as well. When Bogut is on the floor, the Warriors will be playing 4 on 5.
No low post game. The Warriors went twice to Bogut in the post against the 6-10″ Jefferson, both resulting in left-handed flip shots. One bounced in, one was blocked. Bogut’s ability in the low post is a myth. What there was of it — and it was never good — disappeared the day he shattered his right elbow, and it ain’t ever coming back. Ever.
No outside shot. Do you remember Gary St. Jean telling you pre-season that he expected Bogut to hit the 15 foot shot from the high post? Do you ever see Bogut even take that wide-open 15 foot shot? No, you don’t, and you won’t. Because his ability to make that shot is a myth. It too disappeared the day he shattered his right elbow, and it too ain’t ever coming back.
Bogut will never again have full extension in that elbow. And he will never again trust it enough to rely on it. In his own words, “sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.”
Which is better than his ankle.
Not only is Bogut an offensive liability in the half court, but he is killing the Warriors tempo. Forcing them into half-court sets more often. Forcing them to wait to start their offense while he drags his ass up court.
Do you remember Festus Ezeli running the floor? Do you remember how that opened up Curry and Thompson for early offense threes? Gone.
Do you remember Ezeli’s drag screens in the lane, opening the way for early offense layups? Gone.
Do you remember Lee’s early offense pick and roll? Gone.
Is this really what you want when you possess three of the best open court players in the league, in Curry, Lee and Thompson?
Bogut’s crippling effect on the Warriors offense has been felt all too frequently this season. How many horrible first quarter starts have the Warriors suffered through lately? This game was simply the last in a string. When Bogut was taken out at 5:00 1Q, the score was 15-11 Utah.
How many times have we seen Curry, Lee and Thompson rushed back onto the court in the second quarter to make up deficits? How many times have we seen them forced to play 44 minutes?
How many 4th quarter offensive collapses with Bogut on the court have we witnessed?
Last night, the Warriors put up 90 points on their “home ground.” How many games in the playoffs is that pace going to win?
“The Warriors have enough scorers. What they need are defensive players.” How many times have you heard that mantra repeated in the last three years?
It’s a myth. Another myth. One that’s been given the lie every single time Joe Lacob has attempted to jam one of his patented one-way acquisitions — like Lou Amundson, Kwame Brown, Dominic McGuire, and now Andrew Bogut — into the Warriors lineup.
4 on 5 in the half-court doesn’t work in today’s NBA. One-way players don’t work.
The Andrew Bogut Myth, by the Record: Sick of my yapping about Bogut? God knows I’ve grown sick of repeating myself.
Here’s something new to look at. Something simple.
- Warriors record: 44-33.
- Warriors record without Andrew Bogut: 27-21.
- Warriors record with Bogut: 17-12.
- Number of home games Bogut has played vs. number of away: 19-10.
- Warriors record playing against teams above .500, without Bogut: 14-16. [Including wins against the Heat, Spurs, Thunder, Clippers (twice), Celtics, Pacers, Nuggets, Nets and Hawks.]
- Warriors record playing against teams above .500, with Bogut: 3-10. [Those three wins: 1) Home against the Knicks without Amare, and Melo barely competing on one leg; 2) On the road against Houston, post their blow-up trade, and with Harden (as has since been revealed) hobbled by a bad foot; and 3) Home against the Lakers, with Kobe hobbled, and Metta blowing out his knee in the first half.]
Now make the case to me that Andrew Bogut is helping the Warriors.
Stephen Curry: It is absolutely extraordinary, a testament to his Hall of Fame abilities, that Curry is challenging the single season three point record, while playing half of the season in the wrong system for his talents.
The degree of difficulty of the three point looks he is getting — creating for himself would be more accurate — in the Warriors half-court sets is off the charts. That he’s actually making them sometimes beggars belief.
It got a lot tougher for him last night when the Jazz switched the bigger Randy Foye onto him. Which is simply the merest taste of what lies in wait for him. Curry is going to be guarded in the playoffs by either Danny Green, Thabo Sefolosha, Andre Iguodala, or Tony Allen. And blitzed with regularity.
There’s only one cure for that: Nellieball. 5 on 5 basketball and a fast tempo.
David Lee: I truly despise being forced to watch Lee taken out of what he does best by the presence of Bogut on the floor. Running opposing centers off the floor. Pick and roll. Directing a spread floor from the high post.
It is a testament to his abilities — and selfless team play — that he finds a way to contribute in every game, despite being in the wrong system.
There was a great under the basket replay of one of Lee’s few pick and rolls in this game, at 10:08 4th Q. Lee of course beats Favors handily and charges down the lane. Only to be met at the rim by Al Jefferson, who was camped in the lane guarding Carl Landry. Lee beat Jefferson this time, for the And One. But this poor spacing is the primary reason why Lee gets his shot blocked.
Ever wonder what that Curry and Lee pick and roll would look like with a spread four like Ryan Anderson or Jeff Green or Patrick Patterson on the court, instead of either Bogut or Landry?
You can keep wondering, because so long as Joe Lacob is the Warriors GM, you’re never going to see it. Three years of David Lee’s prime wasted.
Klay Thompson: In Klay’s second year, he and Curry have become the leading three point shooting backcourt in NBA history. With the highest percentage it’s ever been done. There is greatness here.
We have had the privilege of watching an All-Star talent unveil itself this season. And it’s still unveiling rapidly, as I predicted it would, with each passing game. Last night, Klay was given the task in the 3rd Q of posting up the smaller Mo Williams, to punish Utah’s backcourt switch. And punish it he did, with a stunning variety of moves, accomplished with extraordinarily sophisticated footwork.
He also got himself to the line twice with shot fakes, which is something this extraordinary shooter is going to be able to do with regularity going forward.
And his drives. We haven’t heard too much complaining about his finishing ability lately have we? How about that clutch left-handed drive and finish over the long and tough DeMarre Carrol at 9:35 4Q, that got the Warriors within 4?
I got laughed at for this at the beginning of the season, but I’ll say it again: Klay Thompson is an offensive genius, and the only thing standing between him and the Hall of Fame is an injury-free career.
That, and Harrison Barnes at the three.
The Brand: I had to laugh at the graphic the Warriors broadcasters trotted out last game in support of Barnes’ rookie efforts. This is what they showed:
- Games started: 1st
- Minutes played: 3rd
- Points: 5th
- Rebounds: 11th
- Dunks: T-4th
See anything funny about that list?
How about this: if Barnes is truly a productive player, shouldn’t his stats match or exceed the minutes he’s getting? I mean, if he’s getting the third-most minutes among rookies, should he be proud he’s only produced the fifth-most points? The eleventh-most rebounds? (I note that blocks were kept off the list altogether.)
Fitz and Barnett have been relentless in their promotion of Barnes lately. It’s obvious that they’ve been handed talking points. And I also completely understand that Barnett feels close to the Warriors youngsters. Takes them under his wing, provides informal coaching and encouragement, gets attached to them, and roots from the heart for their success. But the situation with Barnes is reaching the point of absurdity. At some point, objectivity must kick in. At some point, your credibility is at stake.
In the last three games, Barnes has matched up against Al-Farouq Aminu, PJ Tucker, and Gordon Hayward — hardly the class of the league — and been dominated by all three.
It was particularly irritating last night to hear Fitz and Barnett discuss Barnes’ defense. As if he ever played it. Did they see him loaf around that screen at 7:40 3rd Q and watch Mo Williams bury a three in his face? I know they must have seen his soft close out on Jamal Tinsley’s set-shot three at 11:05 4th Q, because it produced this inanity from Fitz:
“A year from now Harrison will sell out to run Tinsley off that 3 point line.”
Really? Are you sure about that, Bob? Because as far as I can tell, Mark Jackson is yanking Barnes for defensive and rebounding lapses every other game. As far as I can tell, Mark Jackson trusts the no-offense rookie Draymond Green in crunch time far more than he trusts Barnes.
As far as I can tell, defense is not part of Barnes’ brand.
Festus Ezeli: In his 2nd NBA game, Festus Ezeli held Al Jefferson to 2 pts. on 1-8 shooting, with three rebounds, in a Warriors win. In December, in Utah, Jefferson got 18 and 10 against Ezeli and Biedrins, with Ezeli getting only 14 minutes. Nevertheless, Ezeli was +15 for those limited minutes, and the Warriors won by 11. The rookie Ezeli is 2-0 in starts against the Jazz.
In February, Al Jefferson ate a rusty Bogut alive in Utah. Just as he ate a supposedly fit Bogut alive on this night. Bogut is 0-2 in starts against the Jazz.
Last night, Ezeli got 5 1/2 minutes in the first quarter, going against Jefferson and Derrick Favors. He was +7 in those minutes. And never saw the floor again.
Late in the second quarter, Bogut was mysteriously reinserted into the game to play against a small Utah lineup of Favors at five, Millsap at four. He got run off the floor, to the tune of -10 in four minutes.