“It doesn’t frustrate me at all,” Keith Bogans said, then jokingly added, “I’m being talked about,” when asked about everyone seemingly bagging on him ad nauseum. It is not an extra – and definitely not an extra-extra – that Keith Bogans is running away with the Ted Williams Award of Fan Popularity among the Chicago faithful. Is it justified? Hardly.
Keith Bogans was brought in during the offseason last summer to be a back-up shooting guard with a veteran, defensive presence. Due to Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver picking up injuries in the preseason, Bogans found himself starting at the two. The Chicago Bulls started the season with some modest success, have built on it as the pages have rolled off the calendar, and are now first in the East. All with Bogans being one of two players (Luol Deng) to have started every single game. I am not advocating that Bogans is the reason for the Bulls for success this campaign. However, he also does not deserve the criticism he has received.
Forget the argument (although valid) that Bogans was brought in here to be a back-up and should not be judged as a starter. Let’s examine him as a starter of the 2010-11 Chicago Bulls. Everyone (as I have in the past) cites Tom Thibodeau’s stubbornness to mess with a winning formula as the key reason Bogans still gets the nod to open up the game. Yet, I believe, chemistry or no, Bogans is the Bulls best current option to start at the two.
The other two primary options to start there are Brewer and Korver. Korver is too much of a defensive liability (though, I argue he is better defensively than given credit for) and Brewer is too offensively talented to start. Take it easy, I will explain. As much as the Bulls starters are questioned for their offensive inefficiency among contenders, the second unit makes them look like an offensive juggernaut. Ronnie Brewer brings some ability to slash to the lane and finish fast breaks, while occasionally hitting the open jumper. If you swap him with Bogans in Unit: DJ TrainWreck, you take away that ability opposing defenses need to respect.
It must also be noted that Bogans’ offense is not as inept as people may think. Bogans started the season shaky from the arc (an area where he was supposed to be pitching-in). This fueled much of the criticism. Quietly, he has much improved his three-point shot, bringing his season percentage to 37% (good for second best in his 10 year career). Since the January 28th game against the Orlando Magic, Bogans has shot 44% from long range. During that stretch, he has also gained confidence in his shot, shooting 3.5 threes per game, compared to 2.2 before then. And what better time to start warming up than the push toward the offseason?
Additionally, what fans have to realize is that Bogans is a starter in name only. Currently, Bogans is averaging under 18 minutes a game, and this is for a player who has not been injured all season. What he gives you is some solid defense to start the game and to begin the third quarter, two periods were teams are often susceptible to defensive lapses. By playing a little more than half a quarter to begin each half, he gives Brewer some fresh legs to transition in with the starters and have enough energy to play with UDJTW.
Obviously the Bulls could use some more offensive firepower at the shooting guard position, but given what they have, Bogans is a solid option. The Bulls can claim All-Star caliber talent at each of the other four starting positions. Having a hard-nosed defender who can hit a three at the last starting spot should be looked at as a plus and not something to whine about. But you do not have to tell the man himself, he knows. “My job on this team is to defend first. I don’t get caught up in ‘I’m a shooting guard.’ We’ve got Derrick, we’ve got Carlos, we’ve got Luol. They take the bulk of the shots. I’m going to get us going defensively and when my shot’s there, I’m taking it. I know my role on this team.” The consummate professional.
Would fans even be having this beef if Bogans was more offensively talented and lacking a bit on the defense? There is no question, offensive prowess is much more fun to watch than a defensive stalwart. Nevertheless, one of those two is said to win championships. Thanks for the work, Keith.