There have been several bright spots this year for the Golden State Warriors. They’re tied with Denver for the fifth best record in the Western Conference at 8-6. Not bad after losing Brandon Rush for the year, especially since the three players who have taken the most shots (Stephen Curry, David Lee and Klay Thompson) are all shooting considerable worse their respective career averages.

But perhaps the best part of this season has been the performance of their three draft picks. It’s early yet, but Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli and Draymond Green look like the most promising trio of rookies Golden State has added in one draft since 2001, when they selected Jason Richardson, Troy Murphy and Gilbert Arenas.

In very little time Barnes has gone from looking tentative to physically dominant. Just ask Nikola Pekovic, the Minnesota Timberwolf who’s listed at 6’11” and was having a pretty nice year (15.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg) until this happened:

Yikes. The Warriors haven’t featured an elite in-game dunker since Richardson left, and Barnes seems to throw down something vicious every contest … but nothing like this one on Pekovic’s head.

At least Minnesota’s center left Oracle Arena in full health, at least physically. Andrew Bogut is nearing return from his latest bout with ankle pain, but SFGate ran an edited transcript from an interview with KNBR’s Ray Woodson in which Bogut mentioned something rather alarming about the surgical procedure he underwent back in April:

Woodson: Is the tougher part right now the physical rehab or … the frustration?

Bogut: It’s both. It was a microfracture surgery, which is something that most players take 12 months to get over. I’m not saying it’s gonna take me 12 months, but … just because someone says you’re out six months, it doesn’t mean that in six months and one day you’re ready to go full speed in the NBA. That’s just not realistic. Hopefully another week or two and I can be back out there and not have any more hiccups for the rest of the season, but at the same time, if I’m not ready in a week or two, we’re going to have to re-evaluate again.

From the Warriors’ release back on April 28:

Golden State Warriors center Andrew Bogut underwent successful arthroscopic surgery on his left ankle yesterday in Van Nuys, California, it was announced today. The surgery, which was performed by Dr. Richard Ferkel, cleaned out loose particles and bone spurs in the ankle.

Microfracture surgery, which has either saved or buried the knees of several NBA players with varying success, isn’t thought of as a common ankle procedure like arthroscopy. The following is a description of when it can become an option:

Ankle arthroscopy is often used to assess these areas of cartilage damage and try to restore the normal cartilage surface to the joint. Restoring a cartilage surface can be accomplished by either repairing the damaged cartilage, or by trying to stimulate new cartilage growth with a micro-fracture, cartilage transfer, or chondrocyte implantation procedure.

Arthroscopy and microfracture are different procedures with different recovery times, and the fact that Bogut said “12 months” in the KNBR interview should give the Warriors pause.

“We have been, the overarching theme with him, has been very cautious. We need him for the duration of the season, so we are taking a long view of it. We’re probably being ultraconservative with him because he is so important to the team,” Warriors GM Bob Myers said back in September. Then Bogut played on opening night and three of the team’s next four games before Golden State shut him down.

It was reported that Bogut may practice today (he didn’t).

Yesterday Marcus Thompson reported a Warriors source as saying, “He could return Saturday or he could return two weeks after that. We just don’t know yet.” If the Warriors want to prove they’re “cautious” and “ultraconservative” with Bogut and they are truly looking at the “long view,” they should probably consider resting him even longer than two or three more weeks. Bogut is under contract next year for $14MM, and could provide great value to the team, either as a viable center or as an expiring contract that could fetch a decent haul in a trade. The worst course of action would be to force the issue and have him continue this play-sit-play-sit cycle, especially now that we know the true nature of his ankle surgery.

With the team playing fairly well and the youngsters producing while they show improvement, Golden State can afford to be “ultraconservative.” Actually, they can’t afford to rush.