I'm not going to lie, when I wrote my Mavericks Olympic preview a week ago I really thought I was overselling on Andrew Bogut. I honestly didn't expect him to play much, considering the bad knee injury he suffered in the NBA Finals. Sure he got nine minutes of burn in Australia's final exhibition, but I figured he'd be more of a ceremonial player since he was still recovering.
Then he came out and did this.
18 points, four rebounds, five assists and a blocked shot in 23 minutes in his first game of the Olympics. All against France, a medal favorite and in a convincing win. Yeah, I guess he's healthy!
Bogut's health and play is probably one of the main reasons Australia has been the team of the tournament outside of Team USA. They've gone 2-1 in three games and beat France and Serbia by double-digits. With Spain looking wobbly and France disjointed, the Aussies have thrust themselves not only into medal contention, but perhaps being the best team in the games outside of the Americans.
In three games, Bogut has averaged 14 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 2.3 blocks per game. He's been a menace to opposing squads as a screen-setter, high-post passer and rim protector. the chemistry Bogut has with Patty Mills and Matthew Dellavedova has been off the charts and he's made defending big men look foolish as he sneaks back door for alley-oops. Australia runs a lot of their guards off screens constantly and whenever the big man guarding Bogut takes his eye off him for one second to watch all the action in front of him, Bogut immediately pounces.
None of this is really new to locked-in NBA fans -- the Bogut trade was the catalyst to the rise of the present day Warriors, a trade that signified a huge culture shift and gave the Warriors a defensive backbone. Bogut's always been a heady passer, great rim protector and screen-setter but was lost in the highlights of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and then later Draymond Green. Bogut might not have been part of the Death Lineup but he was extremely crucial to everything Golden State has done the last four years.
It's just been a treat for Mavericks fans to watch a center do all the things Bogut can do in these Olympics. Perhaps the thing I'm most giddy about is Bogut's screen-setting. Granted, the Olympic referees are letting him get away with a ton of illegal screens, but Bogut has been wiping out guards and freeing Mills and Dellavedova for threes and layups. Imagining Bogut doing this in the Mavs screen-happy, flow offense induces a Homer Simpson-esque drool.
When Bogut hasn't been screening, he's been passing. Boy, has he been passing. Bogut's basically been the Boomers secondary playmaker next to Dellavedova, allowing Mills to be more of a scorer.
If you thought his high scoring game against France was a fluke, Bogut did it again to USA on Wednesday night, scoring 15 points and scooting past DeAndre Jordan multiple times for dunks. It wasn't just dunks, as Bogut flipped in some nice hook shots in the paint. He's 14th in the Olympics in scoring and Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony are the only two Americans averaging more points per game than him. He's shooting 83 percent from the field! He knocked down a three-pointer!
Of course, there have been some issues. Bogut's knee injury appeared to flare up in the game against Team USA and he had to sit out a couple minutes while a trainer looked at him. He checked back in and got a few more dunks but he's definitely looked a tad slow in space, defending pick and rolls. Bogut seems much more interested in parking himself in the paint, which of course with FIBA rules is more of the way to go.
Even with some slowness caused of the balky knee, Bogut's still had his moments smothering some pick and rolls.
The best part has been Bogut doing this against high-level, NBA caliber big men so far. France has defensive monster Rudy Gobert, Serbia has almost-rookie-of-the-year Nikola Jokic and USA of course has DeMarcus Cousins and Jordan. Bogut ain't exactly dunking on Spanish league second-teamers here.
It's easy to get carried away imagining Bogut screening for Wesley Matthews, Deron Williams and Dirk Nowitzki, rolling to the bucket hard, catching oops like Tyson Chandler did. While there's almost no way Bogut will be this absurdly effective when the season starts this fall, don't sleep on him either. These are real skills he's had for years and as long as he stays healthy, he'll no doubt end up being by far the biggest acquisition for the Mavs this summer, Harrison Barnes be dammed.