Whether it’s out of comfort or patriotism, it’s cool that Andrew Bogut has decided he’s going to play ball in his native Australia in the event of an extended NBA lockout. Bogut would face better competition playing in Spain’s ACB and perhaps earn better money, but he seems to care more about being at home and raising the national profile of Australia’s domestic National Basketball League. The NBL got a boost this week when Patty Mills, an Aussie and a restricted free agent tied to the Portland Trail Blazers, signed a deal with the NBL’s Melbourne Tigers that includes an out clause, allowing him to return to the NBA when the lockout ends.
Bogut is on a different level, and the executives chasing him on behalf of the Perth Wildcats know it, according to this piece in the West Australian:
“We’re not talking about Patty Mills, we’re talking about a superstar of the NBA living in Perth and playing in Perth.”
That’s some cold truth. But that Perth exec, Nick Marvin, reminded readers how difficult these signings will be when you start talking about NBA stars with massive contracts — contracts that must be insured for those stars to feel comfortable risking injuries overseas:
The Wildcats would need to come up with $500,000 for every three months that the Milwaukee Bucks centre was based in Perth.
“For Andrew Bogut to play for us, and if that is the only hurdle we have to cross, I would hope that government and corporate Western Australia would support us and make it work,” Marvin said.
“I don’t have $500,000 sitting in my back pocket, but would it be important to the people of Western Australia? Absolutely.”
You read that right: Marvin wants local corporations and the government to pony up insurance money that would cover Bogut’s contract. Wringing some cash out of a sponsor isn’t unusual; that’s how the Turkish club Besiktas is paying Deron Williams, and that is reportedly how they’d like to pay Kobe Bryant, should Bryant show interest in going there. Getting the government involved would seem to be a more dramatic step. Bogut declined further comment today, telling SI.com he wants to get the insurance issue straightened out before he says much more.
You can understand why some Milwaukee fans would prefer Bogut continue to rest and rehab his right elbow during the lockout. He had surgery in 2010 to rebuild his right arm after a gruesome fall ended his 2009-10 season, but he never fully recovered and needed another procedure in April to remove scar tissue and particles floating around that elbow. The elbow made Bogut a shell of himself on offense last season, when he shot under 50 percent from the floor for the first time in his career and hit just 44 percent of his free throws. He relied more on his left hand, which made it difficult last season for him to finish in the lane but will serve him well when his right arm gets healthy again.
His defense and rebounding, though, remained as stout as ever. Opponents shot just 33 percent against Bogut in isolation, and he consistently ranks among the league’s very best big men in blocked shots, defending the pick-and-roll and holding opposing bigs to low shooting percentages in the post, per Synergy Sports. Milwaukee with Bogut on the floor plays defense on par with Boston and Chicago, according to Basketball Value.
And while Bogut will always be a better defender than he is a scorer, the Bucks need his offense, badly. He’s a clever pick-and-roll player with a nifty mid-range game and a knack for finding the right angles to make himself available as a target. Having Bogut as a threatening finisher makes life easier for Brandon Jennings and opens up a bit more space for Milwaukee’s perimeter players. That crew has been pretty limited over the last two seasons and will remain hit-or-miss next season. Bogut tips the equation a bit, and if the Bucks’ offense can jump from dead last in points per possession (their ranking last season) to something like 18th in 2011-12 (perhaps a stretch), they will be a pain in the Eastern Conference.
The fact that Bogut wants to get in professional games as soon as possible is a good sign for his health. And that’s a good sign for the Bucks.