One of the definitions of maturity is the ability to delay gratification. Today the Warriors pulled the trigger on a move sending away fan-favorite, high scoring, highlight producing Monta Ellis for a legit defensive presence at center who might not even play again this season in Andrew Bogut. If you buy into that definition of maturity, then this was a grown man move by Joe Lacob and the Warriors front office. So far the fan reaction has been mostly negative from what I've seen, but the Warriors have decided to take the short-term PR hit from the fans for what they believe will be in the best interest of the long-term health of the franchise. I for one am glad to see the front office shift their focus from short-term goals, like scratching and clawing their way to an 8th seed, to long-term goals like the future of the center spot on this roster, and maybe even keeping this years lottery pick. Say it with me! "MATURITY!"
"I'm a Warriors, and I'll always be a Warriors..."
The loss of Monta Ellis will definitely sting for a lot of Warriors fans. We've had some good times with Monta, and he has certainly provided more than his fair share of thrilling moments. I've consistently criticized him for his lack of defense and poor shot selection, but on an emotional level it's going to be hard to watch him walk out on the court in a Bucks uniform this Friday night. He has basically been the Warriors offensive identity in recent years, and with Monta gone other players will need to step up and take a larger role on that end of the court. Do I think this will be a problem? No, not really.
Stack Jack is Back?
I can't help but find this hilarious. I'm not sure why, but I just do. I have no idea what to expect from Stephen Jackson this time around. Last time we traded for Jax he was seen as a necessary evil that came along with landing Al Harrington, and next thing you know Jackson is an integral part of the We Believe Warriors and leading us to the second round of the playoffs. This time he's included in the deal because he has once again been making a fuss about a contract extension in Milwaukee. There is still a chance that he gets moved to another team, or even that the Warriors buy out the remaining year of his contract and let him walk. I'm just glad Rowell is still here to give him another contract extension. Let's be real here and recognize that having Jackson on the roster is likely a problem that will need to be solved, but in the long run it is a minor one.
Don't call it tanking... Call it resting.
With Bogut likely sitting out the rest of the season while his broken ankle recovers, and rumors swirling about that Curry may be shutting it down as well, you have to look at the rest of the roster and wonder if this team may have a shot at keeping their lottery pick after all. If - and that's still a big if - Curry does shut it down for the season, the Warriors are basically looking at this roster for the rest of the year:
PG: Robinson, Jenkins
SG: Thompson, Rush (Jackson?)
SF: Wright, McGuire
PF: Lee, C. Wright
C: Biedrins, Tyler
I'm not sure how bad this team will have to be to drop down far enough to keep their lottery pick (7th pick or better after the lottery) but I can certainly see this line-up losing a lot of games. Yes, the Warriors came out with fire and blew out a very bad Kings team tonight, but when the post-trade adrenaline wears off this may be a very painful stretch of games for Warriors fans who are still looking for some on-court entertainment. But hey, that's where that whole maturity thing comes in.
Hey, a draft pick would be nice!
Like I said above, there is no guarantee that this deal helps us lose enough games to keep our pick, but it cannot be overstated how much keeping that pick would brighten the future of the franchise. I'm not saying that we will land a franchise changer at the six or seven spot, but we need all the good, young, cheap assets we can get, and watching our first round pick turn to vapor would be (and probably will be) devastating. Watching some really bad basketball the rest of the season would soooooo be worth it.
Bogut will be the best Warriors center since... since... I guess I'm too young to answer that question.
At the start of next season the Warriors will have a seven foot big-man, in the prime of his career, who can block shots and defend the post with the very best in the league, rebound his position, pass well for a big, and even score a bit. Outside of selling the farm for a Dwight Howard rental and praying that he stays, there is just no other way the Warriors could have expected to so completely solve the problem at the center spot. Yes, he has a reputation for being injury prone, but most of his injuries have come from his aggressive style of play, and not from a chronic condition. I'm not sure if that should make me feel better, but it does. Let's for a moment assume that between now and the beginning of next season everyone is able to get healthy. We would be looking at a lie-up of:
PG: Curry, Jenkins (Nate?)
SG: Thompson, (Rush?) (Jackson?)
SF: Wright, (McGuire?)
C: Bogut, Biedrins, Tyler
Jackson is obviously still an X-factor, but let's just assume that the Warriors do very little in the offseason, and just re-sign their free agents and add a second rounder and someone with the MLE or whatever is left of the cap. Now you have:
PG: Curry, Robinson, Jenkins
SG: Thompson, Rush
SF: Wright, McGuire, (2nd round wing)
PF: Lee, MLE PF
C: Bogut, Biedrins, Tyler
Am I the only one that likes that roster 100 times better than anything we've seen since We Believe? And that's assuming they find zero creative ways to improve the roster from now until then. I can't help but be a little excited. That looks like a defensively sound, well balanced roster that can score in a variety of ways, and that is assuming we don't keep our pick or make any other improvements.
I can't wait to see what these guys can do together on the court. Bogut might not be a true go-to scorer in the post, but like Lee he can be effective playing in the high post or elbow-extended. With two quality passing bigs surrounded by shooters I can imagine the Warriors looking a lot like those Kings teams with Webber and Vlade. On the defensive end Bogut will be the anchor of the defense providing both weak-side shot blocking and excellent post defense with his full seven foot frame. He might not be as mobile of a help defender as Ekpe Udoh, but he is certainly a better post defender, and you would hope that without Monta the Warriors should be surrendering less penetration from the perimeter.
Maybe I'm being being overly optimistic with my first reaction to this trade. There is certainly plenty of risk involved in pinning the hopes of your franchise on two players with significant injury issues. The line-up above isn't anything near a title contender, and the Warriors front office would obviously still have some work to do, but you don't change a franchise overnight. I think now was the time to act, and I think the Warriors made a bold move that improved the team and showed a solid understanding of the actual value of their players in the NBA marketplace. Tomorrow morning the Warriors future will be a little bit brighter.