Jan 29 2013 9:52AM

Warrior Up


Ron Turenne/NBAE/Getty Images

Andrew Bogut’s return to the Golden State lineup Monday opens up all kinds of possibilities for the Warriors.

Can a 26-17 team--that finished 23-43 only a year ago--raise its game even higher and become one of the four best West squads?

Can the Warriors, who were one of the five worst defending teams the past four seasons, improve even more on their 2012-13 current status as the 12th-best defensive squad?

Can the Dubs, who were the worst rebounding team the last three seasons, rise up even higher in the ranks as the ninth-best rebounding squad in 2012-13?

If you're keeping score at home, the answers to those three questions most likely are Yes, Yes and Yes.

Welcome back, Mr. Bogut!

The Warriors have already been having a miraculous season, but a Bogut return takes expectations to a whole ’nother level.

In Bogut's first game since spending two months recovering from a prolonged ankle injury, the 28 year old looked really good Monday in a 114-102 win against the Toronto Raptors.

He ran and jumped well, made big plays on both ends and played the court-savvy basketball that we expect from the big man--all in his first game back.

He had 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting, 8 rebounds, 4 blocks and a +11 score in 24 minutes in a 2013 debut that indeed lets the world know this Warrior ride has another gear.

The numbers don’t lie.

The 7-0, 260-pound center has a +1.59 Regularized Adjusted Plus Minus right now, and in his last healthy season with the Milwaukee Bucks, his RAPM was as high as +4.7 in 2010-11.

His career Player Efficiency Rating is 17.0, so count on Bogut having a big impact on this Golden State team that is only one such player away from becoming--I can't believe I am writing this--a legit contender.

Seriously, if Bogut stays healthy—along with Stephen Curry and David Lee—Golden State will grab that No. 4 West seed.

Bogut is that good. And so now too are the Warriors.