Warriors starting center DeMarcus Cousins went down in the first few minutes of Game 2 against the Los Angeles Clippers with a left quad injury. It was later reported by Shams Charania that it was a torn left quad and Cousins will likely miss the rest of the postseason. Now, the importance of centers Kevon Looney and Andrew Bogut will be at an even higher degree with Cousins sidelined.
Cousins, who had just went through an arduous rehabilitation process to heal his torn left Achilles, had just played 30 games before making his season debut on January 18th —also against the Clippers. He had not played in a playoff game his whole career and just one game and a few minutes into his second playoff game, he tears his left quad.
Good thing for Bogut and Looney. Bogut, the Australian native, who was playing overseas in Australia and had won a championship in 2015 with the Warriors was coming back to play for his old team. He was the insurance policy in case anything happened to Cousins. The 14-year veteran looks spry and active on both ends of the floor, setting bone-crushing screens for shooters. Bogut still has the ability and timing to block shots. It was reported by Anthony Slater of The Athletic that Bogut will be the starting center for the Warriors the rest of this postseason.
Take this play, for example. Bogut comes to help Kevin Durant after he gets beat off the dribble by Detroit’s Luke Kennard. He erases the shot off the backboard. His defensive value and presence will help the team tremendously when players get beat off the dribble.
In the short 11 game stint Bogut played with the Warriors during the regular season, he averaged 3.5 points, 5.0 assists and 0.7 blocks per contest. The numbers do not tell the whole story as he is always making the correct defensive rotation and there to alter and block shots.
On the offensive end, he is an excellent screen-setter, can shoot short-range floaters and still has the ability to catch a lob and finish. Bogut may also surprise teams with his offensive game, such as the play below.
Bogut snares the rebound, dribbles the ball up the floor, going behind his back and does a mini-Euro-step to evade Andre Drummond for the layup.
The backup to Bogut in the postseason is the ever-improving big man, Kevon Looney. In the Warriors’ Game 2 loss on Monday night, Looney posted a career-high 19 points and 5 rebounds in 19 minutes of action.
One of the reasons that makes Looney such a valuable asset to the Warriors is his rebounding and keeping the possession alive. It is well illustrated here in the clip below.
Although Looney does not get the offensive rebound in this possession, he gets great inside position and all the defender could do was foul him. He used his long wingspan of 7’5″ to try to corral the offensive rebound.
Looney’s offensive game has improved this season to the level that he can make a midrange jumper if the defense leaves him open. He is also much more improved at taking and making his interior shots.
Looney decides to take it to the rim and goes into the defender’s chest, so that he could have a clean look at the basket. Montrezl Harrell gives Looney too much room and he sucks up the space by taking a couple of dribbles and goes to the basket.
Perhaps defensively, is where Looney has made the most significant stride and impact for the Warriors. Looney has the ability to switch onto smaller players and move his feet well. If he does get beat off the dribble, his long wingspan allows him time to recover and alter the shot attempt. Looney made it clear he could defend multiple positions last postseason when he stayed in front of Chris Paul and James Harden in the Western Conference Finals, which is not an easy task.
In this clip, Andre Iguodala gets picked off by the Clippers’ Wilson Chandler, which forces Looney to step up and defend the ever-dangerous, Lou Williams. Williams opted for a jumper over Looney. Looney’s long arm of the law contested the shot beautifully resulting in the missed shot.
On the season, Looney is averaging a career-high 6.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.5 assists. He has revamped his game over the past couple of seasons.
Bogut and Looney become significantly important pieces to the Warriors puzzle, depending on matchups. If the Warriors were to get past the Clippers, they could play either Rudy Gobert and the Jazz or Clint Capela and the Rockets. If it the matchup happened to be the Rockets, Looney would most likely get the bulk of the minutes at center since he has played disciplined defense against Paul and Harden.
The Western Conference Finals, if the Warriors were to go that far, will either feature Enes Kanter of Portland, Nikola Jokic of the Nuggets, or LaMarcus Aldridge of the Spurs. A potential Finals series could feature any center between Brook Lopez of the Bucks to Joel Embiid of Philadelphia and Marc Gasol of the Raptors.
The Warriors won’t have much time to figure out the center minute distribution, other than that Bogut will be the starter for the remainder of the postseason. Both players have their strengths for certain matchups. It will be interesting to see how coach Steve Kerr will allocate each of his center’s minutes and will be something to monitor for the rest of the postseason.