The Cleveland Cavaliers are set to sign Andrew Bogut this weekend. What can we expect him to bring to Cleveland?
Bogut was the No. 1 pick in the 2005 draft, ahead of Marvin Williams (No.2), Deron Williams (No. 3) and Chris Paul (No. 4). Current Cavalier Channing Frye (No. 9) was also a lottery pick from that draft class.
While he never became a superstar, he’s had a solid career to this point, developing into one of the best defensive players in the league. Bogut stands 7’0” tall, weighs approximately 260 lbs. and has a 7’3” wingspan. His 9’2.5” standing reach allows him to contest many shots without even leaving his feet. He turned 32 years old at the end of November, so he’s about a month older than LeBron James. However, he’s had several injuries during his career that have sapped his athleticism; he’s an “old” 32 by NBA standards.
A decline in performance has been evident this season; his offensive output has fallen off a cliff. After averaging between 12-14 points per 100 possessions each of the four years prior to this, he’s averaging just 7.1 points per 100 possessions this season. His true shooting percentage is at a career low (.460) and his free throw rate (.136) is the second-worst of his career. His turnovers are up as well (3.9 per 100 possessions), although he’s solid as far as assists (4.4 per 100 possessions) and offensive rebounds (4.9 per 100 possessions). It’s difficult to pinpoint the cause of this decline; at its root is likely a combination of factors: age, injury, changing teams. It should be considered that Dallas had significantly worse perimeter shooting and perimeter defense than his former team.
On the other hand, his defensive performance has remained stellar. His DRPM is once again among top five in the league, as it has been every year since the statistic was introduced during the 2013-14 season. Per nbawowy! the Dallas Mavericks have a 99.9 defensive rating with Bogut on the floor, compared to a 111.6 defensive rating with him off the court. It drops to a 96.5 defensive rating with Bogut on but Dirk Nowitzki off. He’s a force in the paint, with opponents shooting 12.2 percent worse than normal on shots inside six feet since the 2013-14 season. He’s also an excellent defensive rebounder. This season he’s managed a career-best defensive rebounding percentage (34.2) on a small Dallas team. While not quite the defender he was a few years ago, he’s still much better than most centers in the league. Put four quick guys around him to defend jump shooters while he patrols the paint and there’s a very good chance for a sub-100 defensive rating.
Fit with the Cavs
Despite his flaws on offense, Bogut brings two useful skills that are in short supply on this roster. First, he’ll immediately become the second-most active offensive rebounder on the team. Kevin Love might be more skilled in this department, but Bogut will pursue offensive boards with greater frequency. This will be very helpful during minutes that Tristan Thompson is off the floor.
Second, while not exactly a traditional playmaker, his passing will help improve the ball movement of the Cavs offense. His assist percentage this year would rank third on the Cavs among players averaging 10 or more minutes per game. While not a threat to score outside the occasional lob or put-back he has the ability to act as an offensive hub, allowing the offense to flow through him.
While he may be able to carve out a role on offense, the defensive end is where he’ll really make a difference. During the post-Return era the Cavaliers have lacked good rim protection outside a few months early in 2015 after Timofey Mozgov was acquired. He wasn’t the same player the next season, however, and it’s been a weakness for the Cavs ever since. Tristan Thompson has made great strides in this department, learning how to effectively alter shots. But he just isn’t a shot blocker; while he gets the occasional swat here and there, he simply isn’t tall or long enough to do so consistently. He’s not a guy that you funnel players toward. This is where Andrew Bogut can give the Cavs defense a new look. He’s a legitimate anchor on the back end of the defense, a smart player that can clean up the mistakes of others. While he certainly has his limitations (zero possibility of switching a pick-and-roll) he’s a major force when used properly on defense. Moreover, his defensive rebounding will be very helpful while Love is injured, and will allow Love and Thompson to play more minutes together once Love returns.
So, then, what players on the current roster would pair well with Bogut? Considering his offensive limitations and his defensive prowess, the most natural pairing would be Kyrie Irving. Kyrie can get BUCKETS, regardless of who he shares the floor with. His ability to create something out of nothing and nail off-the-bounce jump shots is important because Bogut’s presence will most definitely clog the paint. Moreover, Bogut is exactly the type of defensive player that can cover for Kyrie’s shortcomings on that end.
The other critical position in a lineup with Bogut is power forward. Just about any pair of wings on the Cavs roster will work with him, but due to Bogut’s limitations defending the pick-and-roll he’s most effective with an athletic four beside him. As with most lineup questions for the Cavs, the best answer is LeBron James. LeBron would allow Bogut to thrive on both ends of the floor, allowing him to simply focus on what he’s good at while LeBron takes care of everything else. Richard Jefferson would be another viable option. In some circumstances Kevin Love will also be viable. He’s a great fit offensively, and if the opposing point guard isn’t dangerous off the bounce from 3-point range then it should be workable defensively.
While he likely won’t play more than a handful of minutes alongside Thompson, they are complementary from a rotation standpoint. By staggering their minutes the Cavs can have a measure of rim protection for more than 40 minutes every game. When LeBron decides to flip the playoff switch that rim protection will be double-barreled most of the time.
Bogut has many limitations, but the skills he does have are all things the Cavs need. He’s an excellent fit on this team, and will no doubt prove valuable down the stretch.