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After rumors involving Monta Ellis and the Orlando Magic surfaced, Ellis reportedly had a sit down meeting with Golden State Warriors brass and the mutual conclusion they came to was that it was time for the two teams to part ways. A few hours after that report came out, Ellis had been shipped off to the Milwaukee Bucks in a somewhat surprising blockbuster deal centering around himself and center Andrew Bogut. Ellis and Bogut were both involved in trade rumors over the past couple of days but a swap of the two didn’t stand out as a perfect fit.
The complete deal is Ellis, forward/center (or defensive anchor) Ekpe Udoh and center Kwame Brown (out for the season with a torn pectoralis major chest muscle) for Bogut (out with an ankle injury) and shooting guard Stephen Jackson.
It’s very tough to say that one team won this deal at this point. There are several variables that are foggy at this time and whether or not they clear up as time goes on will be the key to evaluating this transaction. From now until the season the Bucks will be the team that benefits the most of this deal but you have to understand that the Warriors didn’t make this move to get wins this season.
The Warriors are banking on Andrew Bogut, a 27-year old franchise center piece, to remain healthy over the next few seasons so that they can start to build around the big Australian. I wrote earlier this year that an Ellis deal was written on the wall because a Curry/Ellis backcourt wouldn’t be viable defensively and I think the Warriors did good to swap out the offensive minded Ellis for a defensive anchor in Bogut, who is no slouch offensively, either.
The problem is that Bogut hasn’t played in 70 games since the 2007-08 season and he’s been playing hurt for the majority of the past two years. “If Bogut stays healthy” is a huge if and that’s what makes this deal somewhat questionable for the Warriors. While dealing Ellis has set them up to build around a core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, David Lee and Bogut, you’d think that Ellis could have drawn in a more reliable core piece than Bogut. That said, if he stays healthy, this could be the starting point for a contender in the Western Conference.
I’m obviously inclined to like the Bucks side of this deal more right now but that doesn’t mean they don’t have questions that need to be answered as well. They did good to make the Warriors take back Stephen Jackson, who was a cancer in the lockerroom, but the backcourt duo of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis has the potential to go South, very quickly, especially with Scott Skiles as the coach. Even though Jennings is a bit better defensively than Stephen Curry, without seeing how Jennings and Ellis will work together yet, the idea of a Curry and Ellis backcourt sounds better to me than the idea of an Ellis and Jennings backcourt.
Adding Udoh was a great move, though. Reports said the Warriors were hung up on throwing him into the deal and for good reason. Udoh will provide a steadying defensive presence to a team that has missed Bogut this season. With a defensive minded coach in Scott Skiles, Udoh will have a ton of value for the Bucks and you can kind of sell yourself on the idea that the worker’s class culture that surrounds the Bucks will also help Ellis become a bit more inclined to play on that end of the floor.
With all of the turmoil going on with the Knicks right now the Bucks have a realistic shot at making the playoffs. They have the same record as the Knicks right now and with Mike D’Antoni gone it’s hard to see things getting better for New York. A first round exit is the most likely scenario for the Bucks if they do make the post-season but this is a team that has given Miami a ton of fits in their head-to-head match-ups, so if they end up matching up with the Heat, perhaps they’d have a chance. Either way, no team wants to face a scoring duo like Brandon Jennings or Monta Ellis, who could score 80 combined points on a good night, especially in Milwaukee.
The Warriors will be content dropping quite a few games with Ellis gone. In fact, the best case scenario for Golden State is finishing the season with a bottom seven record, which will preserve the lottery protected pick that they traded to Utah. If they lose enough the Warriors could theoretically start next season with a starting five of Curry, Thompson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Lee and Bogut. That’s a pretty entertaining group with some potential to compete for a playoff spot. Again, everything hinges on Bogut’s health, but if the Warriors can get their lottery pick back because of this trade, that’s pretty valuable.
There isn’t a clear winner to declare in this deal right now but one thing is certain: these two teams will be incredibly fun to watch going forward, if only to see how these new experiments turn out.