In an effort to bring our fans closer to the action on the court, the Warriors and MOCAP Analytics have teamed up to produce an ongoing analytical blog series, featuring insights and analyses not previously made available to the public.
When the Warriors acquired Andrew Bogut in a trade with Milwaukee in March 2012, there were really only two ways it could all work out. Golden State was sending a fair amount of talent to the Bucks in exchange for the Aussie big man, and considering his prior injury history, there was concern the Dubs would ultimately not get equal production in return. The other side of the coin of course, the same one that the Warriors were hoping for and banking on, was a situation in which Bogut not only returned to his pre-injury form, but simultaneously transformed the overall character of the team on the court. Almost two years later, it seems more and more like that vision has become reality.
He won’t light up the scoreboard on a nightly basis, nor is he the type of player with endless highlight reels that attract the eyes and ears of NBA All-Star voters. That’s just not the way he plays. Rather, Bogut is the man behind the reel, whose individual play often places the rest of his teammates in an advantageous position, particularly on the defensive end. In previous years, that’s the kind of general statement that would be passed over without much thought or consideration. But now, thanks to all of the data being generated by SportVu and digested by MOCAP Analytics, we can dive deeper into the evidence of Bogut’s defensive dominance.
As the Dubs’ last line of defense, it’s often up to Bogut to deter opposing attackers at the rim, a task he’s proven quite good at. But in today’s drive-and-kick NBA, it’s not just the points in the paint that hurt when a guy attacks the rim, but also the plays outside of the paint that are created off of dribble penetration. So let’s wrap it all together and take a look at how the Warriors’ paint defense stacks up when Bogut’s on the floor.
Let’s start with the big picture and ask ourselves, how often are teams getting deep into the paint against the Warriors’ defense when Bogut is on the floor? Well, the Warriors’ defense is near the middle of the pack in terms of interior penetration, allowing deep paint touches on 45% of defensive team possessions (12th in NBA), compared to a league average of 46% (see below). Nothing remarkable here.
Although opposing teams are generating deep paint touches against the Warriors with average regularity, the key is that they’re getting denied far more often than most when Bogut is on the floor. Bogut’s ability to move his feet, stay in front of the attacker, and squeeze lanes makes the Warriors’ defense the second-stingiest in the NBA, allowing only 0.97 points per possession (PPP), compared to a league average of 1.05 PPP. Keep in mind that these numbers account for all plays made after getting to the basket, whether it be shot attempts, fouls, turnovers, or passes.
Needless to say, Bogut does an outstanding job of mucking things up for opponents in the paint, but how’s it all working? Let’s dig a little deeper and break it down, step by step. Take a look at the figure below, which shows a sequence of interactions. Rates that compare favorably for the Warriors’ defense are shown with blue circles, while those that compare unfavorably are displayed with red circles. Starting at the top, the Warriors allow deep paint touches on 45% of team possessions, which is slightly better (blue circle) than the league average of 46%. Continuing down the path, 15% of deep paint touches allowed by the Warriors come off high pick-and-roll drives, comparing unfavorably (red circle) to 13% league-wide. 29% of high pick-and-roll paint drives end in a missed shot against the Warriors, comparing favorably (blue circle) to a league average of 27%. And finally, the Warriors secure the defensive rebound on 74% of all missed shots off high pick-and-roll paint drives, again comparing favorably (blue circle) to a league average of 63%.
Your turn now. Use the interactive visualization below to click nodes and reveal branches of the tree. As the tree expands, you'll discover how things unfold for the Warriors on the defensive end of the floor after their opponents get the ball deep in the paint. Again, blue circles indicate favorable rates for the Warriors, while red circles signify the opposite. However, in this visualization the size of each circle represents the absolute difference in rates, rather than the frequency as shown above. In the fully expanded tree, you’ll notice that blue circles dominate important categories such as "Missed", "Made", and "Turnover," demonstrating Bogut’s defensive impact in the paint.
One last thing to point out when looking at the fully expanded tree. Did you notice that the bottom level (labeled “D Rebounds”) consists entirely of big blue circles? This means that when Bogut’s on the floor, the Warriors are finishing off the plays by securing defensive rebounds off missed shots following penetration (again, whether the shot comes from the paint, or not). This is crucial, as it suggests the Warriors (with the aid of Bogut) are developing essential winning tendencies. It’s one thing to force a miss, but entirely another to prevent a second chance.
If you’ve watched any Warriors games this season, you probably don’t need loads of analytical data to convince you that they’re a significantly better defensive team when Bogut is on the court. But rather than accept that general statement and lump him in with the tens to hundreds of other “great” defenders in the league, delving into these analytics permits us to see precisely how Bogut impacts the game in ways that other players can not equate to. Not only is he one of the premiere interior defenders in the NBA, but the data shows that his individual talents are particularly conducive to the Warriors style of play. Without him, who knows where the Warriors would be right now, but with the big guy in the fold, they’ve got enough defensive talent to compete with the best the league has to offer.
Feel free to let us know what else you’d like to see in the comments below, and stay tuned for more exclusive data-driven content very soon. For all MOCAP-related blogs, click here. You can also follow MOCAP Analytics on Twitter @mocapanalytics.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Golden State Warriors.