Obvious statement alert: Andrew Bogut is damn good.
If you were looking for further evidence of Bogut's evolution from "solid-but-frustrating" to "near-elite" NBA center, forget about the big fella's offense for a moment and consider that Wisconsin's favorite Australian is now second behind Dwight Howard in shot-blocking, averaging 2.3 blocks per game. Yep, the guy known more for his uncanny flopping ability is proving he's also more than capable of the more manly, highlight reel-friendly stuff, too.
Just as impressively, blocking all those shots hasn't limited Bogut's ability to draw charges; he continues to rank among the league's leaders in charges drawn per game (0.82), trailing only Nick Collison, Jared Jeffries, and Kyle Lowry. As Tom Haberstroh from the excellent stats site HoopData noted last week, that also put Bogut in the league's top five in "defensive plays" per game, which adds together a player's blocks, steals and charges drawn.
It should of course be noted that blocking shots is no guarantee that a guy is actually playing good overall defense. Guarding the paint often comes at the cost of checking perimeter bigs, and guys who try to block every shot routinely compromise their ability to rebound shots they don't swat away. There's also often a big difference between a player's help defense and man-to-man abilities--just look at Marcus Camby. Fortunately, Bogut was already a solid positional defender before he started blocking shots at a high rate, and his rebound rate (18.3%) shows he's still one of the league's best at controlling the boards, particularly on the defensive end.
But mostly Bogut just seems to have figured out how to pick his spots on defense, which isn't surprising for a guy who always seems to know where both he and all of his teammates are supposed to be on the court. Considering how important anticipation is to both drawing charges and blocking shots, the two skills would seem to be fairly complementary, and Bogut told Charles Gardner that teammates have a lot to do with it as well.
"I think our defense is consistent now, and guys know where to force (opponents) on penetration," Bogut said. "I know where guys are going to be penetrating and where the gaps are in our defense. Just getting to those spots early makes a big difference."
Most importantly, Bogut continues to have a tangible impact on the Bucks' bottom line as well. After nearly two decades of defensive futility, the Bucks are 7th in the league in defensive efficiency and not surprisingly surrender over three fewer points/100 possessions with Bogut on the court. It's not hard to see either--just watch how much easier it is for opponents to drive and get quality shots around the cup when Bogut is on the bench. That also underscores how much of a team effort the Bucks' defense really is. Aside from Luc Mbah a Moute and occasionally Charlie Bell, none of Bogut's teammates are particularly good at defending one-on-one.
There's no sacrifice on the other end either, as the Bucks also score over three more points/100 possessions with Bogut in the game. He might not be Dwight Howard, but is there another true center aside from Howard playing at a higher level than Bogut? The NBA isn't packed with dominant centers at the moment, but considering all the injuries and inconsistency that have marked Bogut's first four seasons, let's not let that take too much away from Bogut's continued development. And while he's already missed out on the all-star game, some votes for the all-defensive team would be well-deserved.