In his first minute of action with the Cleveland Cavaliers Monday night, Andrew Bogut suffered a fractured tibia. He’ll be out the rest of the regular season and could miss the playoffs entirely.
The Bogut pickup was a steal for the Cavs, who got Bogut for well under the veteran’s minimum, thanks to the Sixers buying him out after a trade with the Mavericks (Trust the process, right?) The veteran center was expendable in Dallas, and Cleveland’s frontline had trouble defending even when Kevin Love was available. The addition of Bogut wouldn’t mean much for offense, but Cleveland had another rim protector to guard the paint alongside Tristan Thompson.
Now, Bogut is probably headed for long-term rehab, Love is out a few more weeks, Chris Andersen is gone, and no one has seen Sasha Kaun in months. It’s down to Thompson and Channing Frye to protect the rim (which is to say, it’s down to Tristan Thompson to protect the rim.)
Bogut’s injury also puts more pressure on the Cavs’ perimeter defense. The Cavs will need to play ballhandlers and guards more straight up to limit penetration. As J.R. Smith isn’t expected back until mid-March, the added defensive responsibility will fall to LeBron, Iman Shumpert, and newly-acquired Deron Williams. The Cavs are hoping for some added production from DeAndre Liggins as his minutes will increase.
The Cavs can make another move. There’s still time left in the season. However, there aren’t many able defensive bigs waiting to be offered a job. Cleveland is in a bind here, as the rotation of James-Derrick Williams-Thompson-Frye adds up to a whopping zero in defensive plus-minus. Want to throw Love in there once he comes back? It drops to minus-1. For comparison, Bogut was plus-5.4 defensively in the box score.
Some may scoff at the idea the Cavs are in trouble, but they are running out of bodies to man the dike. Cleveland will be able to outscore teams the rest of the regular season and into the first rounds of the playoffs. However, the Eastern Conference Semifinals and Finals will be a much tougher challenge, even once Love and Smith return.
Getting Andrew Bogut meant LeBron had finally gotten the help he demanded months ago. Now he and the Cavaliers are once again searching for answers.