Soon-to-be free agent Andrew Bogut is expected to sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers after his buyout with the Philadelphia 76ers is complete, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. The Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs were also reportedly interested in adding him.
If this happens, the Cavaliers should be seen as one of the big winners of the trade deadline despite the fact that their most recent trade was the Kyle Korver deal in early January. Deron Williams, who played with Bogut for the Dallas Mavericks this season, is also .
While Williams fills the much-talked-about playmaker role, that wasn’t LeBron James’ only concern with the roster. Back on Jan. 8, James acknowledged that the lack of rim protection was an issue, adding that he didn’t know if the Cavs would be able to find one. Then on Jan. 29, James called Tristan Thompson “the one rim protector that we have,” via ESPN’s Dave McMenamin.
James was right. If Thompson were to get hurt, then James himself would become Cleveland’s best option when it comes to defending the paint. This is the result of deciding not to extend Timofey Mozgov’s contract in the summer of 2015 and letting him walk for an enormous contract with the Los Angeles Lakers last summer. The front office didn’t replace Mozgov, who wasn’t a part of the Cavs’ rotation in last year’s playoffs, as they thought a frontcourt rotation of Kevin Love, Thompson and Channing Frye was sufficient.
Since Cleveland use James at power forward at times, this was a sensible way to build the roster. The presence of Bogut, though, will give the team a different look. The Cavs can still spread the floor with shooters as much as they want, but if they need someone to anchor their defense and make the game more physical, they can put Bogut into the game. On offense, he’s effective rolling to the rim and finishing alley-oops, but his two most important attributes are his passing and his screening. With Kevin Love out of the lineup, Cleveland might use him as a facilitator from the elbows.
The big question, of course, is how Bogut will help the Cavs against the Golden State Warriors. Every move they make should be seen as an attempt to get closer to the Warriors’ level, and it’s not hard to see how this one fits in. Cleveland wouldn’t have even had a chance of coming back from a 3-1 Finals deficit against Golden State without being incredibly connected on the defensive end. Over and over, the Cavs had to stay disciplined when the Warriors ran all their off-ball action and do the difficult work of bumping their cutters and closing out to their shooters.
Bogut arrives with a complete knowledge of Golden State’s playbook, and he’s one of the best communicators in the league. If Cleveland decides it wants to slow the game down and try to bully the Warriors on the boards, then it can have one of Thompson or Bogut on the court for a full 48 minutes. Maybe they could even play together for stretches.
Over the past couple of years, the Cavs have been at their best when they have spread the floor, moved the ball and created high-percentage shots at will. That’s why everybody was excited about the Korver acquisition. There are times, though, when Cleveland might not be able to win that way. The Cavs are just 20th in defensive rating and 14th in rebounding percentage this season, and coach Tyronn Lue has not had a lineup to call on when they’ve needed a boost in those areas.
That’s why Bogut makes sense on this team. If he helps swing even one game in May or June, then the signing will be more than worth it.