Andrew Bogut is the latest candidate on a short-term contract to enter the revolving door of Mavericks starting centers. In the 17 seasons since Dirk Nowitzki has been a starter, Bogut will be the ninth (yes, NINTH) center to start more than half a season alongside Dirk.
Since 2011, when the Mavericks climbed to the NBA mountaintop and then promptly let Tyson Chandler go, Brendan Haywood, Chris Kaman, Samuel Dalembert, Chandler (for the second time), and Zaza Pachulia have all taken on the role of starting center in Dallas. Besides Tyson, none of these big men consistently performed at a high level.
Haywood, Kaman, and Dalembert were all one-year patch jobs who weren’t intended to last, placeholders for a star who never arrived. Similarly, Zaza was a consolation prize after Dallas swung for the fences and whiffed on signing Deandre Jordan a season ago.
But within this pit of starting center darkness lies a shining gem of Australian hope: Andrew Bogut.
Bogut is equipped with a rare skillset for a big man. In addition to his penchant for threading beautiful passes to cutting guards and throwing full-court baseball outlet passes right on the money to his streaking teammates (something we’ve seen from other skilled bigs like Marc Gasol or Joakim Noah), Bogut possesses a unique-among-centers ability to handle the ball.
Bogut can grab a rebound, dribble the length of the court, and throw an on-the-money pass to a teammate in-stride for an easy basket. This is a valuable skill for guards and forwards, but for a seven-foot center to have this skill is almost unheard of.
With a dearth of playmakers on the roster, Bogut’s ball-handling skills could allow him to play a huge role in the Dallas offense, finding shots for Dirk and Williams and hitting teammates spotting up for wide open looks. There’s limits to how much he can do that, of course — but it’s still skills that have been rarely seen in Dallas.
But Bogut’s ability to create offensively isn’t even the most exciting aspect of his game. The greatest thing Bogut brings to this roster is versatility. Not only is Bogut a creative and accurate passer, he is also a fantastic rebounder and shot blocker and an elite finisher around the rim. He was named to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team last year, ranked seventh in the league in True Shooting Percentage and 12th in blocks per game, and averaged 4.0 assists per 36 minutes.
This is the kind of versatility that helps teams win games. Dallas has never seen a big man with this kind of versatility before, and Bogut has every chance to be the best Dallas center in the modern era.
Unfortunately, this is somewhat marred by the fact that he will most likely be gone in a year. He will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, and despite the fact that his comments regarding the Dallas Mavericks organization have been incredibly positive, there is a good chance that the Dallas front office will again go chasing the big fish. At 31, he’s not a piece the Mavericks can build towards the future with, especially given his lengthy injury history.
Still, for this season, Bogut has the potential to be an instant fan favorite and has already spoken out about protecting Dirk from physical play. That’s enough to make any Mavericks fan like him.
Andrew Bogut: "If players are physical with Dirk, I'll be physical with them. I'll try to protect him."— Tim Cato (@tim_cato) September 26, 2016
How fun is it to have a guy like this on your team?
That toughness and dedication to his teammates combined with his unique and versatile skill set make Bogut a player that Dallas won’t find anywhere else. Mark Cuban should make every effort to bring Bogut back next year, but it’s likely that he won’t, given the front office’s track record on starting centers.
Hopefully Bogut has a standout year and Cuban sees and appreciates his value.
But don’t hold your breath.