(AP Photo/Morry Gash)

In one of the best games of his career, Andrew Bogut made a shock return from injury yesterday, monstered his way to 22 points, 15 rebounds, 4 blocks, 3 steals and 3 assists, lead his Bucks to a two-point win over Chicago, and ended a four-game Milwaukee losing streak in the process. It’s right up there with the 20-20 game he had last season against Indiana, and it’s the only 20-15 game he’s had with 4+ blocks. An all-time classic Bogut performance.

I first heard murmurings that Bogut would play in this game from Jim Paschke’s Twitter (play-by-play announcer for the Bucks) a few hours prior to tip-off. I honestly didn’t believe it though – was it possible he could return in just 12 days when it was initially diagnosed as four weeks? So it was a pleasant surprise when I woke up to see the box-score, photos of Bogut yelling like a cave man, and six emails/SMSs from people wondering what heights the Bogometer (TM) would be reaching.

Well, I can tell you it has hit record never-before-seen heights – 93%. Why only 93%? Let’s not short-sell our Aussie hero, ok? He’s got plenty of room to improve and there’s bigger games to be had than 22pts-15rebs-3ass-3stls-4blks. For the statistically curious folk, I can tell you there have been only eleven 22-15-3-3-4 games since 2000, by the following players:

- Kevin Garnett (twice, including a ridiculous 24-15-8-4-3 back in ‘03 against the Clippers)
- Shaq (twice, both epic -  40-17-8-5-3 and 37-19-6-5-3)
- Pau Gasol (against Tim Duncan when he was with Memphis)
- Chris Webber (a triple-double with 26-22-10-5-3)
- Josh Smith (25-16-5-4-4)
- Tim Duncan (twice, barely above his averages anyway)
- Raef LaFrentz (WTF is he doing on this list)
- ANDREW BOGUT (the ONLY player on this list that didn’t register a turnover)

This brings me to my next point.

This guy kind of looks like an All-Star, right? It’s not just the Aussie bias in me, right?

Statistically, the only centers playing better or as good, are Dwight Howard, Marc Gasol, Chris Kaman, David Lee, Brook Lopez, Andrew Bynum, Joakim Noah, and lets throw in Ben Wallace for old times sake (I’m counting guys like Pau and Duncan as “forwards”).

When you factor in team success and contribution to wins, Bogut automatically jumps six of those players – Marc Gasol, Kaman, Lee, Lopez, Noah and Wallace. His value to the Bucks was made even more obvious by his absence, during which they won two games against inferior opponents (Charlotte and Memphis) and then lost four in a row. All of a sudden the Brandon Jennings hype died down and people started to realise the Bucks’ success wasn’t solely due to their freakish rookie. A big part of it was the big Aussie, who as always, plays with little flair and little fanfare, but at the end of the day gets the job done.

That’s always been the case with Bogut, except this season he’s been more aggressive and taken a more prominent role in the Bucks offense – something we’ve been screaming at Coach Skiles to draw up for a while now. Throw in the damaging play of Brandon Jennings and a solid supporting cast, and you have a Bucks team that has shocked the league, standing at 9-7 which is good for equal 5th in the East. Except without Bogut in the line up they’re only 2-4.

When I look at my Eastern All-Star Ballot, I’m punching in Dwight as my starting center without question. Lining up the rest of the East Centers, I can’t see how I can go past Bogut for my reserve spot (remember the coaches pick two guards, two forwards, one center, and two players regardless of position). There’s no way Shaq gets a jersey this year. Al Horford has been big for Atlanta but there’s too many other good players on that team. Likewise, Bargnani has the luxury of playing alongside Bosh. Lopez has been huge, but as we all know his team is historically shit. Jermaine O’Neal is quietly putting together a superb season but has Wade to do the heavy lifting. Noah has had a breakout season so far, and I could see him getting votes if the Bulls can shift a gear, but he’s not the inside offensive/defensive force that Bogut is. Same goes for Lee. Ben Wallace makes for a great story if he’s still dominating the boards by late January, but c’mon, you can’t be an All-Star when you average less points than Sasha Pavlovic.

So as far as I can tell, I’m left with no alternative. Andrew Bogut should be an All-Star. His numbers are there, his team success is there, the improvement from last season is noticeable, and he’s having enough big performances to make headlines. Who else do the coaches vote in ahead of Bogut? Apart from Dwight out East, what other center is carrying his team’s interior offense/defense and putting up W’s on the board in the process?

It’s not just the Aussie bias, right?

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