Advanced NBA handicappers & statisticians love the defensive prowess of Warriors' Andrew Bogut. We reveal how embracing his hidden or unappreciated features may present value in ATS wagering for the Finals.
Scoring 109 points per game in the 2014-2015 season, many casual sports bettors see the Warriors as a high-flying offensive juggernaut, perhaps overlooking the fact they are one of the best defensive teams in the league. Although they gave up a seemingly pedestrian 99.3 points per game in the regular season, when you factor in their pace of play, they led the league in many key categories, such as opponent shooting percentage and defensive efficiency, a metric measuring the number of points a team allows per 100 possessions. Many analysts believe Andrew Bogut is the key to the Warriors' defense, and overall success for that matter. He is potentially the decisive figure in the upcoming Finals against Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Including the playoffs, the Warriors are 70-12 (85%) with him on the court this season. We will analyze the big Aussie's impact and offer a trend to keep an eye out for in the series.
Bogut's 6.3 points and 8.1 rebounds per game this season may not necessarily catch one's eye, but when you dig a little deeper into his statistics, you will find that not only is he one of the top defensive centers in the league, but he's not too shabby on the offensive side of the ball either. His per-36 minute breakdown in traditional defensive statistics, for example, is superb, including 9.1 defensive rebounds, 0.9 steals, and 2.6 blocks per contest. Since the NBA's development and sharing of SportVU player tracking data, however, Bogut's defensive impact and value as a player can be appreciated even more. A quick internet search can reveal a host of analysis over the last two years praising the big man's “hidden” advanced statistics. For one, he is arguably the best rim protecting defender in the NBA, ranking in the top five over the last few seasons in opponent field goal percentage from inside the paint. His effectiveness under the basket forces opposing teams into shooting more inefficient mid-range jumpers, a category the Warriors led the league in this year. Using SportVU, "hardwoodparoxysm" writer, Jack Winter, praises Bogut's high basketball IQ, revealing his ability to thwart multiple offensive actions in one possession. It's the little things that many traditional statistics can't quantify such as his movement, ability to read a play before it happens, and savvy to force opponents into bad shots that make Bogut invaluable. Indeed, he finished second in the league in defensive rating, as opponents averaged just 95.2 points for every 100 possessions he was on the floor. Moreover, Bogut grabbed 18.5 percent of the possible rebounds when he was on the court—10th-best percentage in the NBA and tops on the Warriors.
Winter and others have also revealed how valuable Bogut can be to the Warriors' offense as well. Although he is not much of a scoring threat after suffering a ghastly elbow injury in 2010, the squad's effective field goal and shooting percentages rise by 5% and 3% respectively when he is on the court versus on the bench. He is a skillful passer of the ball for a big man, and uses his command of the paint to open up the court for the Warriors' deadly shooters. Curry and company, in fact, shoot more accurately when Bogut is in the game, and take more shots from behind the arc. He assisted on 15.4 percent of the Warriors' baskets this season when he was on the floor, a career-high and seventh best among centers.
There are a lot of question marks as to how this series will play out, especially since these two teams only faced off twice this year, once without the “King.” One thing we want to do, to provide bettors a little context, is to see how both teams performed in followup games against their opponents with odds set in the range we're likely to see throughout the Finals. Golden State opened at -6 ATS for game one, and we will likely see a four or five drop point drop to even money in NBA betting odds when on the road in Cleveland. Giving ourselves a little leeway in case of injuries, momentum, and such, we looked up contests where the line was set in between -8 and +4 for both the previous and current matchups to see how both teams fared in back-to-back follow-up contests in this range during the 2014-1015 season. The Warriors are 9-3 straight up in this situation, 9-3 ATS with an average line of -4, and 5-5-2 in game totals with an average of 208. Cleveland is 16-5 straight up, 12-7-2 ATS with an average line of -2, and 9-9-3 in game total wagering with an average 199 point total. None of the numbers are statistically relevant in this scenario, although it is interesting to see both teams played very well in this situation. Nonetheless, we can use this closing ATS range as a foundation to ferret out a trend centered around Bogut's play that may be worth following in the series.
The angle is as follows: dating back to the 2012-2013 season and the start of the big Aussie's Warriors' career, when playing in a follow-up game against his current opponent where both lines settled somewhere between -8 and +4, and he played at least 21.6 minutes or more and committed two or more fouls in the prior matchup, Golden State is 21-6 ATS with an average line of -4 in the next contest, granted Steph Curry and Bogut played in each contest. The trend is a mouthful when reading it aloud, but is simple to understand and rationalize. Simply, we want to back Golden State with NBA picks when Bogut was very involved in the previous contest and challenged on the defensive end of the court. Kerr has meticulously monitored the big Aussie's minutes this season to keep him healthy and fresh for a playoff run. In fact, he played 2.8 fewer minutes per game than last season, a deliberate program by the coach to lighten his load and make him more effective when on the court. Bogut lacks the stamina to play much more than 25 minutes a game in an effort to keep up with Golden State's lightening pace, as he averaged 23.6 minutes on the season and 24.4 thus far this playoffs. The prior games in which Bogut failed to play over 21.6 minutes all present red-flag scenarios potentially limiting the center's effectiveness in the next game. These include fouling out, or the most common cause, limited minutes during long road trips. Each present their own warnings and explanations, but in a nutshell, we want to see Bogut playing against and learning his opponent in these closely matched contests.
There is a lot of discussion prior to game one speculating how Golden State can stop Lebron James. Much of the discourse falls back on James' 42-point onslaught in his only start against Curry and company this season. The Warriors were mired in the middle of a six game road trip, and near the tail end of 10 of 11 away from home. Going into the game, Kerr mulled resting Bogut, but instead played him periodically for only 20 minutes up until the 5:32 mark in the 3rd quarter, sitting the center the rest of the contest. In his absence, the Cavaliers hit on eight of 10 field goal attempts from 13 feet and in. Lebron, who averages nearly 13 feet a shot in the regular season, will undoubtedly have to work his way into the paint in the series. He is one of the league leaders at getting to the free-throw line, and is at his best the closer he is to the basket. We want to see how the Cavs, and Lebron for that matter, fare against Bogut in game one before making a play, but we anticipate the big center will be a central figure in the series and potentially an ATS wagering profit maker.
As always, use this information to support your leans, and best of luck.