Here are some facts:
- The Mavericks have played 49 games. Andrew Bogut has missed 24 of them. He is expected to miss Friday’s game against Portland, which means Bogut will have missed exactly half of the Mavs’ season.
- Since Dec. 5, Bogut has suffered three injuries to his lower body — a knee sprain on Dec. 5 that caused him to miss 11 games, a hamstring injury on Jan. 9 that caused him to miss six games and another hamstring injury on Jan. 29 that is keeping him out presently.
- Since Dec. 1, Bogut has only finished three or more straight games once.
- When Bogut suffered his first injury of the season on Dec. 5, the Mavericks were 4-16 (.250 winning percentage). After Dec. 5, the Mavericks have gone 15-14 (.517 winning percentage).
- Andrew Bogut is not a bad basketball player
I know the previous facts aren’t leading toward that final one, but Bogut is fine. The Mavericks defense is elite when he’s on the floor and they rebound respectably. Bogut has value — unfortunately it’s not that valuable to the Mavericks.
Despite Bogut’s well-meaning presence in the paint, his good defensive field goal percentage at the rim (48.9 percent, which leads the team) and his excellent screening, the fit just isn’t there. The Mavericks do not need Bogut.
For one, whether the Mavericks are actually better off with or without Bogut is irrelevant, because the Mavericks have a bad record and a slim chance at the playoffs. They are 11 games under .500. They do not need a veteran, defensive center on the wrong side of 30 with only a few months left on his contract. If the Mavericks can get any value for Bogut, they should have made that move weeks ago — Dallas isn’t going anywhere this season, even if they creep into the playoffs.
Let’s say they keep trending up, since they’ve flipped the switch at the start of the new year and sniffing that eighth seed. That doesn’t matter either, since the Mavericks have played exceptionally better since Bogut’s injury woes started. A lot of that can be attributed to Dirk Nowitzki’s return — Dirk came back full-time on Dec. 23 while Bogut was hurt. Of course the Mavs are playing better, they have Dirk!
The problem is after Bogut sported good on/off court numbers to start the year, he’s cratered. With Rick Carlisle trying to figure out a spot for him in the rotation with Dirk’s return and Harrison Barnes exploding at the four-spot, Bogut hasn’t had the same impact. In Bogut’s seven played games in January, when he’s on the floor, the Mavs bear a minus-4.6 net rating. Bogut and Dirk can’t play together — it’s just too slow a front court for the modern NBA. Dirk has to be on the floor, obviously, so Bogut has to come off the bench, where his offense just isn’t suited to the Mavs more up-and-down bench units.
Bogut doesn’t roll to the rim, and while he’s a gifted passer, he holds onto the rock far too long when the Mavs try to work him some high-post offense off the bench with Seth Curry, Devin Harris and the rest of the bench mob. The Mavs offense stops down to a crawl with Bogut on second units, especially when the alternatives — Dwight Powell and Salah Mejri — are much bouncier in the pick and roll.
That’s really the biggest point. It’s not that Bogut is bad, it’s that the Mavs can more than survive without him. While Bogut was hurt for most of December, Powell turned into one of the NBA’s most elite pick and roll rim runners. A bald broom stick can guard the rim better, but that was OK because the Mavericks rotated in Mejri to mask his weaknesses. Opponents shoot 52.3 percent at the rim against Mejri this season, which is OK. It’s enough. Especially when you consider Mejri and Powell don’t have to guard the rim that much with Dirk starting at center.
Bogut has had some decent games when Dirk has needed to rest and he’s useful as a spot starter: almost all of Bogut’s most effective lineups are ones where he’s starting and Harrison Barnes is at the four.
Aside from that, there really isn’t any reason for Bogut to be here and he knows it. He told an Australian radio station this back at the start of the new year:
"Thankfully, I'm a free agent here, so I only have a couple of months more here and then will most likely move on," Bogut told Sky Sports. "I don't see myself hanging around with everything that's gone on. It will be an interesting six months ahead."
Asked by Sky Sports Radio whether he expected to be dealt before the Feb. 23 trade deadline, the Australian native replied, "You never know."
"I've got a valuable contract ... having four months left on my contract, I'm a valuable commodity to be moved," Bogut said.
So why does he need to be here? The Mavericks have clearly shown they can get by with Dirk at center and Mejri and Powell manning the front court duties behind him. Unlike Deron Williams, Bogut’s veteran presence isn’t necessarily helping — at least with Williams you can argue having a steady point guard is letting youngsters Curry and Powell flourish.
My best guess is teams aren’t biting. The recent leg issues might have dried up the Bogut market, despite his defensive skill set being a very valuable piece to a playoff team.
Houston and Boston are prime contenders that could use some big-man help to fortify their playoff runs, while Portland would probably love to clear up some cap space this summer, fix their defense and make a run for the eighth seed — Bogut does all of that. Perhaps once we get closer to the deadline and teams are getting a tad more desperate and Bogut’s a tad more healthier, the offers will start the trickle in.
Whatever the Mavericks can get for Bogut — a second-rounder, a young-ish player on a multi-year deal (think Tyler Zeller) — they have to take it. Dallas will be fine without Bogut. Bogut isn’t coming back this summer and he isn’t necessarily helping this version of the Mavericks right now.