by Todd Spehr

It’s easy to doubt Andrew Bogut.

For starters, he’s from Australia, where you can count on two hands the amount of NBA players we’ve produced, and count on two fingers the ones who have been successful there. There’s been bouts of inconsistency, times where he’s overmatched, and seasons where he’s under-produced. Then, famously, there was the injury to his right arm last April, in the midst of his best stretch of basketball; his right index finger and right wrist were broken, his elbow dislocated – the ideal injury if you wanted someone’s career derailed. The doubt now: Will Andrew Bogut’s career continue its upward rise?

Bogut isn’t exactly a national treasure back home. His story isn’t widely known, and he’s not enough of a presence there for it to be exhaustively hashed and re-hashed to the pAndrew Bogutublic as some sort of inspiration to youngsters or reaffirming of his status as our best hoops export. We know he’s good, we know he’s wealthy, but a large portion of locals have never seen Bogut do what he does best, as he plies his trade in a sport much more profitable and on the national conscience over there as it is in his homeland.

He was a clumsy kid, and very tall, thanks to two sharp growth spurts as a teenager. The game came slowly, but not as slowly as it was just to prove himself – there were plenty of doubting coaches, teams to be cut from, feelings to be hurt. He, thankfully, in a manner not unlike Dirk Nowitzki, found himself a mentor, a trainer, someone who could teach him subtle things like footwork and agility. And then he worked. That’s what people forget about Bogut: He worked. He always loved the game, played it and watched it as a kid, but now he wanted to prove people wrong. Bogut was never cut from another team.

Bogut has always taken his time. He was an aforementioned late-bloomer as a teenager before becoming a world-level talent as a junior. His freshman season at Utah was inconsistent, before a sophomore season where he was the Wooden Award winner. Now there’s his professional career, where perhaps at times he was passive offensively, his aggression not evident enough. But that came. Last year he took more shots than ever, passed less, blocked more shots, and was overall a firmer presence inside. He led the Bucks (and was among the league leaders) in rebounding and blocks, placed second in scoring, and his team made the Playoffs for the first time since 2006.

The injury derailed him, there’s no doubt about it. He watched Milwaukee’s first round series with Atlanta from the bench with his arm in a contraption; by mid-summer, full range of motion in that right arm was yet to be experienced. The doubters, once again, are lining up.

But in truth, from looking at Bogut’s history of showing perseverance and gaining steam, the only question that matters is: Why on earth would you doubt him?

SLAMonline TOP 50 PLAYERS OVERALL RANK POSITION RANK
Player Team Position 2010 2009 2010 2009
Ray Allen Celtics SG 50 36 11 10
Gilbert Arenas Wizards SG 49 34 10 9
Lamar Odom Lakers PF 48 33 14 10
John Wall Wizards PG 47 NR 13 NR
OJ Mayo Grizzlies SG 46 46 9 12
Al Horford Hawks C 45 NR 6 NR
Jason Kidd Mavs PG 44 45 12 10
Joakim Noah Bulls C 43 NR 5 NR
LaMarcus Aldridge Blazers PF 42 39 13 12
David West Hornets PF 41 31 12 8
Monta Ellis Warriors SG 40 NR 8 NR
Andrew Bogut Bucks C 39 NR 4 NR

Notes
• Rankings are based solely on projected ’10-11 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jeremy Bauman, Maurice Bobb, Erildas Budraitis, Sean Ceglinsky, Ben Collins, Bryan Crawford, Sandy Dover, Adam Figman, Manny Maduakolam, Eddie Maisonet, Ryne Nelson, Doobie Okon, Ben Osborne, Charles Peach, Branden Peters, Quinn Peterson, David Schnur, Todd Spehr, Kyle Stack, Adam Sweeney, Dennis Tarwood, Tracy Weissenberg, Lang Whitaker, Eric Woodyard, and Nima Zarrabi.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.