Joe Lacob called the Andrew Bogut acquisition a "transcendent move." Jerry West and the rest of the Warriors brain trust nodded with approval.

Assuming Bogut finally returns to health, can he really live up to that kind of hype?

"He's a top-three center behind Dwight (Howard) and Andrew (Bynum)," one Pacific Division scout said.

"As a total package, I think he's better than Bynum," said one Central Division scout.

According to the experts, Bogut might just warrant the high expectations coming from the Warriors since the March 13 trade that sent Monta Ellis and Ekpe Udoh to Milwaukee. He's 7-foot, 245 pounds and known to possess basketball skills useful inside the paint and out. When he suits up for the Warriors, he'll be the first center with All-NBA credentials to start for the franchise since Wilt Chamberlain.

Of course, all of the high praise comes with the condition of health. Bogut is out the remainder of the season with a fractured left ankle, which by season's end will have cost him 42 games. And he's yet to play with a healthy right arm since breaking his wrist and dislocating his elbow in a fall two years ago.

But, in an interview with this newspaper Wednesday, Bogut expressed little doubt he'll be healthy when next season begins. He has even less doubt about the impact he'll have on the Warriors -- particularly where they need him most.

"I know I'll strengthen up that defense tenfold," he said.

Perhaps that recognition isn't surprising given that everything with Bogut starts upstairs, begins with having a full awareness of the game.

"He understands angles. He understands the game plan," said Warriors scout Larry Harris, who as Milwaukee's general manager drafted Bogut No. 1 overall in 2005. "He has a great understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the guy he needs to defend. He's so cerebral about the game of basketball that he understands his position and everyone else's."

Bogut's basketball IQ was shaped as a kid in Australia. Every Saturday, he'd watch the one NBA game that aired. He'd tape the weekly show "NBA Action" and watch it over and over, mimicking the moves when he played.

When he got to high school -- not having sprouted to full height yet -- he played swingman and had an affinity for the point-forward position. Rather than Patrick Ewing or David Robinson, he idolized Toni Kukoc and loved the way Penny Hardaway would drive, get in the air and drop off a no-look pass behind his head.

When he was 16, Bogut was invited to the Australian Institute of Sport, a government-funded year-round training camp for Olympic hopefuls. Pegged as a basketball prodigy, Bogut lived a year-and-a-half around elite athletes. Finding a place to play in Melbourne was tough, he said, so the 24/7 access to the gym at AIS was like heaven.

"I had to give up a lot," Bogut said. "I lost a lot of friends ... because I knew if a guy who was as good as me was out partying, I'd say, 'Nah, I ain't going. Because I'm going to be better than him.' That was my mentality back then. I knew it would be to my advantage."

Eventually, Bogut sprouted and switched to center. But he still saw the game like a point-forward. The way he sees the game, the way he understands spacing, the way he anticipates and reacts, it's all borne of being a basketball junkie who didn't always see the game from on high.

It was at the University of Utah when then-coach Rick Majerus started getting Bogut to use that vision on the defensive end. Then, in Milwaukee, coach Scott Skiles helped him take it to another level. In 2009-10, Bogut finished second in the NBA in blocks per game (2.5) and defensive rating and was named third-team All-NBA.

Last season, though Bogut played through "immense pain" as his right elbow still needed surgery, he led the league in blocks per game (2.6) and finished with a career-high 11.1 rebounds.

So it's no wonder -- again, if he's healthy -- Golden State is licking its chops at adding such a massive component to its traditionally porous defense.

"He's tough, a big body. He's long and can block shots," said Detroit center Ben Wallace, whose poundings motivated a younger Bogut to get in the weight room. "He's a solid defensive player. He has quick hands. Anytime you're a big guy who can clog up the middle and block some shots, it makes you a good defender."

Typically, big men who play good defense possess a limited offensive skill-set. Even though Bogut isn't a 20-points-a-night kind of scorer, the experts like his offensive toolbox.

Bogut, like Warriors power forward David Lee, can use either hand close to the basket.

"Majerus was big on that," Bogut said.

Bogut said you'll see him handling the ball, crossing over defenders, looking for a cutting teammate. You'll see him facing up and creating his own shot. Arguably his best offensive skill is his passing.

But perhaps most important to the Warriors, Bogut said you'll see his low-post game produce. He said he feels comfortable getting the ball on the block and making a play, especially with the game on the line.

"He's an adequate scorer, good with both hands," the Pacific Division scout said, adding, "He'll change the dynamic of the team from being a perimeter-based team with a lot of pick and rolls to having a true center you can go down low to. He can command a double team and open up space for the shooters."

Bogut said he realizes many Warriors don't know much about his game given that he's been tucked away in Milwaukee the past six-plus seasons. He said he realizes his arrival came at the expense of a fan-favorite in Ellis.

But Bogut isn't worrying about whether he'll get Warriors fans to embrace him. After all, Golden State landed a top-three center, right?

"I think Dwight's No. 1," Bogut said. "For a while, it was me and Bynum, but I think Bynum's solidified the No. 2. But I'm up there."