The Warriors finally traded Monta Ellis today.
They had to part with Ekpe Udoh (a player whose attitude is only surpassed by his defensive activity) to do it, but in the process they landed a legitimate center. The first true center they’ve had since (hold on, I’m thinking…) Joe Barry Carroll?
Many have accused the Warriors of being petrified to take risks — scared of supposedly wasting a regular season in a fashion that leaves fans disillusioned and finally unwilling to part with their money for terrible basketball. The fans have been buying tickets to watch mediocre basketball at Oracle Arena for what seems like an eternity, and if the team didn’t do something to change the makeup of their roster before next season, that wasn’t going to change.
After Golden State agreed to send Ellis, Udoh and Kwame Brown to the Bucks for Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson (he’s back!), things FINALLY be changin’ in Oakland.
Warriors fans love the individuals on their team. They feel empathy for their plight (playing on a perennial also-ran) instead of getting angry that they root for a team that has sucked for the better part of two decades and still charges NBA prices. It’s either incredible loyalty or a blatant disregard for their own collective sanity, but many fans are incredibly upset that the Warriors traded Ellis away for someone who isn’t a sneaker-endorsing superstar. Many are hurting over the loss of Udoh, as well.
Sorry, but that’s how trades work. The Bucks aren’t interested in two more years of Andris Biedrins. Nobody is, including the Warriors. Just because the Warriors squandered the amnesty on Charlie Bell doesn’t mean this is a bad deal. In fact, it’s a great trade that can reshape their roster in several ways.
1. Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry were never effective together, and that wasn’t going to change.
Some ask why not trade Curry? After all, he’s nowhere near as durable and Ellis is a 25 ppg scorer who racks up a respectable amount of assists. But we know what the Warriors look like when Ellis plays and Curry isn’t available. Curry’s never had a shot without Ellis around, dominating the ball and freelancing on defense. Paired with other guards (like Klay Thompson), both guys might look like average defenders … or at least slightly below average. Together, they looked like the worst pair of defensive guards in the league.
2. The Warriors weren’t going to make the playoffs this season, and now they have a good opportunity to lose enough games to get into the lottery.
Call this the not-so-hidden tankalicious bonus. If the Warriors make the smart move and sit Curry for the rest of the season (although trading Ellis away could act as a virtual cortisone shot for Curry’s ankle), they unexpectedly drop back into what’s supposed to be one of the best drafts in many years. Curry shouldn’t be playing anyway, not in this short, compacted season where rest isn’t an option.
3. For the first time in forever, the Warriors have a chance at a balanced roster (next year).
Unless the Warriors flip Jackson (and if you don’t think I’m looking forward to stepping into a Warriors locker room that includes both Stack and Nate Robinson, you don’t know me very well), next season’s rotation looks like it’ll be Curry, Thompson, David Lee, Bogut and either Jackson or Wright as the starters, unless the Warriors draft someone good enough to start immediately — which is very possible.
Instead of the Warriors needing to get creative with small-ball and all that other gimmicky garbage, they can put their team against other squads straight-up. And they can stop pretending they ever had a chance to both trade for Dwight Howard and convince him to stay in Golden State.
(Prediction: Jackson’s going to come back to life after this trade … he wasn’t all that bad in Charlotte, he just predictably hated playing for Scott Skiles.)
4. Udoh and Lee can’t play together.
This was one of the unsaid problems with this team all season. With Biedrins being so worthless and Udoh showing improvement, Udoh and Lee had to play together quite a bit. However, it was never destined to work long-term because they’re both power forwards (and Lee’s contract makes him almost impossible to trade). Udoh’s defensive strength is in pursuit, both inside and (especially) on the perimeter, not defending true centers. Lee’s a weakside rebounder who can’t really close out or body up anyone consistently. He needs a center who can protect the basket (Bogut led the league in blocks last season at 2.6 per game). The Warriors also improved their interior scoring quite a bit in this deal for next season, and Bogut’s a much better rebounder than Udoh.
5. This shakes the Warriors up, and boy did they need it.
In the mood to laugh? Check out the Warriors whining to the beat writers:
This, from the same team that looked and sounded pretty content in the locker room after getting crushed at home by the Memphis Grizzlies less than a week ago. This team deserved a chance to stick it out and see if they could squeak into the playoffs as a No. 8 seed? Please.
There wasn’t a trade out there that would’ve added a piece for a playoff run without subtracting one of the Warriors’ top players. So, they had two choices:
— Sit and let the same soft, mediocre team play out the string in front of 17,000 a night (at home — on the road it’s much lower because everyone else knows how bad the Warriors are) and roll into next season with the same guys and NO FIRST ROUND DRAFT PICK.
— Make a move for the future. Worst-case scenario: the Warriors get an impact player that will make everyone forget about Udoh. Best-case scenario: the Warriors get an impact player that will make everyone forget about Udoh, Curry flourishes after months of rest and a life free from Ellis, Lee gets better with a true center next to him, everyone stays relatively healthy (remember, this is the best-case scenario) and Thompson becomes a legitimate starter at shooting guard.
They had to do something. Ellis was the leader of this team, and that had to change. Lee was the vocal leader, but nobody really listens to Lee because the Warriors are under .500 and Ellis is the one who had the ball in his hands at the end of every game.
Not that it matters, but most NBA leaders talk to the media after every game, regardless of the result. Not Ellis. Most NBA leaders refrain from texting pictures of their genitalia to team employees. Not Ellis. Most NBA leaders give their all on the defensive end at all times. Not Ellis.
Ellis is a good player. He can score 50 points in a game, a rare skill that lights up a home crowd. But the Warriors should’ve divorced themselves from Montaball a long time ago, and now they have. Joe Lacob and the rest of the organization deserves credit for absorbing the pain of future losses to come in the next couple months, and hopefully for their long-suffering fans they’ll reap the rewards next season.