Which player will make the biggest difference during the NBA Finals?

The 2015 NBA finals are full of extremely talented and exciting players, which should make this series fascinating and fun to watch. Along with the best player in the world, LeBron James, the Cavs feature one of the best play makers, Kyrie Irving, the energizer bunny, Tristian Thompson, and the always interesting JR Smith. Against the Cavs, the Warriors will feature an array of great players. Besides current MVP and star shooter, Stephen Curry, they possess the other splash brother, Klay Thompson, the heart and sole of the team, Draymond Green, and the high flying Andre Iguodala.

Although this series will feature incredible offensive talent explosion from around the court, the most important player will likely be Andrew Bogut. Although Bogut is the second highest paid player on the team, he will not be asked to score more than 10 points per game throughout the series. Throughout his career, the former number one overall selection has been deemed a bust, but a majority of his doubters have overlooked the value he supplies to his team. During the playoffs, when Bogut has logged over 24 minutes, the Warriors have not lost a game. Bogut is a necessary component on the Warriors because he is the only big man on the roster outside of Festus Ezeli. Although the value of offensive big men has precipitously dropped over the past several years, one’s ability to protect the rim, alter shots in the paint, and play the pick and roll has never been more necessary.

If the Warriors are forced to play small because Bogut is in foul trouble or he injures himself, the Cavs’ game plan will become dramatically easier. When the Warriors elect to play “small ball”, their tallest player on the court instantly becomes 6’7″ forward Draymond Green. Although this lineup, Green, Barnes, Curry, Thompson, and Iguodala, has wreaked havoc on the rest of the league because of their ability to stretch the floor and hit threes, the lineup is unlikely to work against the Cavs because of LeBron James. Without a true rim protector underneath the basket, James will have no difficulties driving to the rim and finishing with ease. If the Warriors decide to clog the middle and provide help, he has shown throughout his career that he can find shooters, like Smith, Shumpert, Dellevadova, and Jones, in the corners for threes. However, the one player with the skill and size to defend James at the rim is Bogut. If Bogut, like other centers in the past, Hibbert, Chandler, Splitter, and Duncan, has the ability to make James shoot jumpers, his game becomes severely more limited and less effective. This postseason, James is shooting a career a putrid 43% from the field and only 18% from three. This is the lone weakness of LeBron at this point in the season and Steve Kerr needs Bogut to exploit it.

In addition to his ability to alter shots around the rim, his defensive rebounding will be essential in this series. Throughout the playoffs, the Cavs, especially Tristian Thompson, have demonstrated their talent at offensive rebounding. During the postseason, they have posted the best offensive rebounding percentage of any team. Although they played rugged and gritty teams like Chicago and Atlanta that were good rebounding teams in the regular season, Thompson out worked all of their players in order to secure the loose balls. As previously mentioned, the Warriors are a small team, usually playing 4 guys under 6’8″. Bogut will be necessary if the Warriors are going to stop Thompson and Mozgov from playing volleyball off of the backboard. Per 36 min, Bogut averages 12.7 boards per game and the Warriors will need him to continue his strong performance if they will win the World Championship.