The deal is done. Golden State finally broke up it's backcourt of Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis after a couple years of hearing the drum beat from the media and some fans (apparently from fan reaction to the trade, "some" is a more appropriate quantifier than "most" or even "a majority of"). Along with Ellis, the Warriors gave up Ekpe "More upside than you originally thought" Udoh and Kwame "We hardly knew ye, but ye seemed better than I thought ye would be in the short time ye were a Warriors" Brown. While Kwame was "thrown in" for cap room and to make salaries match, Marcus Thompson made it clear that Udoh was an integral and likely necessary part of the deal:
But weeks ago, the Warriors learnedMilwaukeewas willing to part with Bogut. Days ago, the talks got serious.Golden State was trying to pull the deal off without giving up Udoh, but that wasn’t flying with the Bucks. The Warriors were also trying to getMilwaukeeto take back center Andris Biedrins.
Check out the reaction at SBNation blog Brew Hoop for their take and Bucks fans reactions.
Jump after the break to get a rundown of how members of the NBA media world are sizing up the big deal. (And my reaction to their reaction.)I'll start with John Hollinger, who surprised me with his apparently lukewarm reception of the deal for Golden State:
I see everyone connecting the dots. Curry and Ellis didn't work in Golden State. Jennings is smaller than Curry and less efficient. Ergo Jennings and Ellis won't work either. I'm not sure it's that simple. For one, Jennings is a pretty solid defensive player and Curry is not. But more importantly, Milwaukee is a very different environment than Golden State. Instead of the rah-rah gang ignoring his defensive apathy and trying to hype him for the All-Star Game, Ellis will be subject to the wrath of Scott Skiles when he jogs back on defense. Additionally, every other defensive combo in the Bucks' backcourt works much better. The Bucks' backup point guard is 6-7 Shaun Livingston, who is a perfect cross-matching backcourt partner for the smaller Ellis. Udrih is big enough to check some 2s as well. And with wing defenders like Delfino and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, and a real defensive system around them, the Bucks will likely be better able to his Ellis' defensive shortcomings.
Hollinger has always been one of Monta's biggest detractors, and mostly for his defensive effort or lack thereof, so it surprises me that J.H. seems to think that won't be such a problem in Milwaukee. FWIW, Curry's defensive RAPM is actually quite a bit higher than Jennings (+0.2 vs. -0.8), so I'm not sure I buy that the backcourt will be better defensively. Maybe Skiles can coach up Monta, but without Bogut, I don't see that combo working any better defensively long term than Curry-Ellis. Again, surprising take from Hollinger.
On the offensive side, Hollinger says:
Offensively it will be more interesting, as the Bucks are becoming Contested 20 Footers R Us with Jennings, Ellis, Drew Gooden and Ilyasova. But Milwaukee was also in need of another shot creator to help take the heat off of Jennings, and I suspect Ellis' presence may help elevate Jennings' true shooting percentage to closer to the league average. (His points-per-game average, alas, will likely dip.)
His overall conclusion:
In short, however, it's hard to imagine how this is worse than the status quo. Bogut and Jackson weren't playing; Milwaukee traded them for two guys who are, and both of them are faring pretty well. Longer term, it's true you'd probably rather have Bogut than Ellis. Even with all the injuries and the likelihood that 2009-10 was a career season he won't match, Bogut is an elite defensive center who will probably shoot better on a team that doesn't need to play through him so much. But would you rather have Bogut than Ellis, Udoh (a pretty fair defender in his own right, albeit one with hands of stone) and $7 million in cap space? I don't think so. Between that and the short-term considerations, I like this deal a lot for Milwaukee.
I've long felt that Ellis is one of the league's most overrated players, but every player has a right price. I think Milwaukee hit it here. The Bucks moved a lot of money and have some time to see the Ellis-Jennings combo in action before deciding to commit to one or both via contract extensions. In the meantime, the transition is as interesting for Skiles as for Ellis; in two years he's gone from coaching a lockdown defensive team that couldn't score in an empty gym to what is basically a Mike D'Antoni roster -- a floor-spacing, empty-middle outfit with zippy guards, jump-shooting bigs and a fast tempo. Before you chortle, remember that Skiles had considerable success playing this way with Ben Gordon in Chicago, and may be able to use that as a template for Ellis.
That seems to me like Hollinger gives the trade a thumbs up for Milwaukee. For us?
Where Golden State erred is in managing the cap. Taking on $10 million for Stephen Jackson is a hefty price to pay when the Warriors could have been players in free agency, and despite adding Bogut their depth in the frontcourt remains a major question mark going forward. That's why I like this trade better for the Bucks. But this wasn't a bad deal for the Warriors either … especially if they can manage the tanking part.
Sort of meh? You'd think he would give us some props for finally breaking up the back court and getting a defensive-minded "true" center.
Moving on to Grantland's take. They see why we did it:
With Andrew Bogut, the Warriors finally have their defensive center. Unfortunately, he's likely to miss the remainder of the season. It's pretty clear at this point that the Warriors front office got caught up in the dogged pursuit of two basketball truths. The first: You need a great defensive center to win a championship. The second: High-volume, low-percentage shooting guards are antithetical to winning basketball.
But have issues with the costs involved:
The problem? The Warriors' quest for an efficient, defensive-minded team came at nearly every conceivable cost. They burned their amnesty; they eroded their reputation with a fan base that expected the new ownership to be able to sign big free agents; they cut ties with the promising Ekpe Udoh; they filled their cap space with Steven Jackson's $9.25 million per year. They even relieved themselves of Kwame's $7 million expiring contract. Perhaps most important, they shipped off one of the 10 most gifted scorers in the league; a guy who, for two straight seasons, had been playing in the worst possible of situations. I understand the need for a new ownership and coach to change the identity of the team. But when every move comes with a crippling tax, when your Tyson Chandler dreams devolve into an injured Andrew Bogut, maybe it's better to be patient and make sure that you've properly assessed your best assets.
And apparently, all those problems with Ellis-Curry in Golden State are somehow great when they're in Milwaukee:
And while there are legitimate questions to raise about playing two smallish guards who don't shoot particularly efficiently, Monta and Jennings will instantly be the fastest backcourt in the league. Baron Davis never shot over 44 percent from the floor in Golden State, but he engineered the fast pace that allowed Monta to flourish beside him. I'm certainly not going to say that Brandon Jennings will ever be the distributor that Baron was for the Warriors, but, as Chuck always says, winning teams have always been able to establish the pace of the game.
Overall, another anti-Monta-when-he's-in-GSW-but-not-in-Milwaukee opinion that I find rather puzzling. Honestly, I can't see Monta-Jennings ending up a better combo than Monta-Curry. Maybe these pundits need some time to change their narratives, though.
Kevin Pelton over at Basketball Prospectus gives the kind of analysis that I love. The kind that actually cites one of my blog posts!
Using the Four Factors regularized adjusted plus-minus calculated by The City blog, Ellis rates as essentially neutral on offense. He ranks 319th in the league entirely because of his terrible impact on defense, where he rates as costing the Warriors 1.4 points per 100 possessions.
Pelton has issues with Monta that we've all heard by now:
Ultimately, Ellis' biggest problem is that he's a shooting guard in a point guard's body. Though he's improved as a playmaker, he still can't be used as a lead guard on a regular basis. (Partially because it means Stephen Curry is necessarily off the floor, the Golden State offense has been dreadful when Ellis has played the point this season.) And Ellis simply isn't big enough to match up with shooting guards. As I noted in this year's Pro Basketball Prospectus, Ellis has one of the 10 smallest wingspans in the NBA, making it all the more difficult for him to contest shots from bigger players. Add in Ellis' inconsistent defensive focus and it becomes difficult to build a competitive defense around him. That certainly was never going to be the case with the Curry-Ellis backcourt, and the best news of this deal is that--health permitting, and we'll get to that in a bit--the Warriors picked the right one of those two guards to build around going forward.
But, like the other guys, he seems to think Monta could work in Milwaukee:
In some ways, Milwaukee makes sense for Ellis. The Bucks have been surprisingly effective on offense this season thanks to an improved supporting cast, but their all-D/no-O history has always cried out for a volume scorer like Ellis. Taking away possessions from equally inefficient scorers and giving them to Ellis is a good idea. Like the 76ers, Milwaukee boasts a number of defensive-minded role players and a defense-first coach who can fill in around Ellis' skills. The problem here is Brandon Jennings. On paper, Jennings already occupies the Iverson role in the Bucks backcourt. His usage rate, 26.1 percent, doesn't quite reach such lofty heights but Jennings has the ball in his hands most of the time as the focal point of the Milwaukee offense. At a slight 6-1, Jennings is no more capable of defending high-scoring two-guards than Curry, meaning that task will continue to fall to Ellis. The best thing Scott Skiles can do is minimize the minutes Ellis and Jennings play together. In an ideal world, he'd sell Ellis on the idea of becoming a heavily used sixth man. More realistically, he ought to manage the rotation so that the starting backcourt is only on the floor together for limited stretches, filling in with Shaun Livingston. The 6-7 Livingston, who has primarily played off the ball for the Bucks but has more than enough playmaking chops to handle the point, is a nice match with Ellis. Beno Udrih might also be big enough to offset Ellis' size in the backcourt. But for adding Ellis to work, Milwaukee will need him Jennings to be able to thrive as a duo. That prospect is a question mark at best.
He's sort of mixed on Bogut:
There are two factors at play here, actually. Even if we assume that Bogut is no more likely than anyone else to suffer serious injuries going forward, the effects of his elbow injury appear lasting. Over the last season-plus, Bogut has not been nearly as accurate a shooter. His All-NBA-caliber 2009-10 season looks like the high-water mark for his career. At a lesser level, Bogut remains incredibly valuable because of his defense and rebounding. Actually, Bogut makes me think of an ancient study that Dean Oliver did and I later updated on the records of teams based on the position of their leading scorer. What we found was that teams led by their centers tended to be best, but because of their defense and not their offense. The explanation seemed to be that those centers were good enough to stay on the floor for 35 minutes a night, allowing teams to take full advantage of their defensive prowess. Bogut is a little like that. He might not be a far better defender than Ekpe Udoh, but if nothing else a healthy Bogut will earn heavier minutes by virtue of his name recognition.
He seems a bit more optimistic about Milwaukee's end of the deal:
For Milwaukee, Udoh can be a long-term solution in the middle. Drew Gooden has held down the position since Bogut's injury, and has proven again to be the anti-Udoh. Gooden is the team's second-leading scorer, and decent on the glass, but the Bucks' defense allows 14.1 more points per 100 possessions when he's out there. (That's bad.) In fairness to Gooden, he's miscast as a center. He's not a shot blocker, lacks the length to contest shots and struggles with defensive positioning. These are all areas, not coincidentally, in which Udoh excels. Ideally, Ellis and Udoh work in concert for Milwaukee. Udoh dramatically upgrades the defense while Ellis replaces some of the scoring punch lost if Gooden sees less action. Fitting all the pieces together may take some time for Skiles, and that's the danger of making a major trade during this compressed season. With so little practice time, the Bucks will have to integrate newcomers on the fly. Now that the race is on for the last spot in the Eastern Conference Playoffs, however, a slight upgrade could make a difference. If so, Milwaukee achieved it without sacrificing long-term thinking. Though Udoh won't replace a healthy Bogut's production, he softens the blow and the Bucks freed some $8.5 million in salary for 2012-13, which could help them re-sign Ersan Ilyasova next summer.
And in the end, KP doesn't seem to think we got a good deal:
My choice with Golden State would have been to shop Ellis for a bigger shooting guard who could complement Curry, keep Udoh in the starting lineup and see how that mix worked out. This is a bolder gamble. I think the Warriors probably gave up too much on the periphery in terms of salary and Udoh despite upgrading in the Bogut-Ellis part of the swap. So it's really all on whether Bogut can stay healthy and put together an effective 75-plus games next season. We'll see.
If the Warriors get the Bogut we saw in 2009-10, my gut says they will "win" this trade in the end–especially when you consider so many of Western Conference’s old lions are in a state of flux or decline. But Bogut is the biggest "if" of many in this deal. The trade reminds me in a way of the Mavericks’ play for Tyson Chandler before last season, in that some Warriors fans are probably saying, "That’s it? That’s all we got for Monta Ellis? A slow-footed big man with a scary injury history and a big contract?" Dallas fans said the same when Mark Cuban turned Erick Dampier’s non-guaranteed deal, thought to be perhaps the most appealing asset on the trade market at the time, into an injury-prone, defense-first center who couldn’t stay healthy. Then they won the championship. That kind of reward is not happening here in the near future, but this is the kind "if all goes right" deal that could improve the Warriors more than expected.
I thought this analysis was a bit sad to think about, because I like Rush:
As for Jackson’s contract, the work of the Warriors in 2008, acquiring a disgruntled 33-year-old who reportedly wants a contact extension was the price of doing business with Milwaukee. Jackson’s $10 million deal for next season essentially caps out the Warriors, though it at least gives them the flexibility to wave goodbye to Brandon Rush, a free agent shooting the lights out this season, if they choose to do so. They could still have had cap room, of course, had they used the amnesty provision on Biedrins, but perhaps it’s time to stop bringing that up.
Like all the others, Lowe has lots of good stuff to say about Udoh:
The most painful price of doing business, in terms of on-court talent, may well be Udoh. He’s at least two inches shorter than Bogut and thus not a "true center," but the Warriors have played top-10-level defense with him on the floor in each of the last two seasons, per Basketball Value. That may not sound like much, but when you consider Golden State ranked among the bottom five in points allowed per possession in both of those seasons, you realize something really interesting might be going on here. Udoh is a willing defender with smart feet and a wingspan longer than those of several taller players, and he has lately flashed an improving offensive game. He’s not an explosive pick-and-roll threat at the rim — not even close — but he has a steady mid-range jumper, and the Warriors have been going to him on the block with solid results. He is a very nice (and cheap) get for the Bucks, who are suffering with the game but overmatched Drew Gooden and Ersan Ilyasova splitting minutes at center. It is not a stretch to say some in the Warriors organization are probably sadder about surrendering Udoh than they are about Ellis, though that could reverse itself if Curry’s right ankle continues to fail him. The Ellis/Curry experiment simply didn’t work, though it worked much better when Udoh was holding the fort at center instead of Biedrins. The Warriors were a worse team, in terms of scoring margin, with Ellis on the floor in each of the last three seasons, and it will be fascinating to watch if that trend reverses itself in a new setting.
And also some common Monta-cuses (I just coined that, perhaps, a little too late):
Ellis brings lots of good, useful skills, and his awful on-court/off-court differentials result in part from him playing so many minutes — he’s always among the league’s top five or so in minutes played — for sub-.500 team featuring two other sub-par defenders around him in Curry and Lee. Curry’s defense has been so bad, in fact, that Ellis has usually had the task of defending whichever opposing guard is most threatening, whether it’s a top-level point guard (Chris Paul) or a 6-8 shooting guard, such as Joe Johnson, against whom Ellis has little chance. The Bucks, on the other hand, have a wide array of versatile wing players capable of either swinging between the guard spots or wing positions — Beno Udrih, the 6-7 Shaun Livingston, Carlos Delfino, Mike Dunleavy and Tobias Harris. Toss in Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, capable of defending shooting guards and power forwards alike, and you can envision Skiles finding a way to minimize Ellis’ issues on defense. Some teams have weapons at point guard and both wing positions, but many teams play lots of minutes with a limited offensive player somewhere on the perimeter. The Bucks are better-equipped to hide Ellis on such players than the Warriors were, even with Rush on board. The Ellis/Jennings combination is probably not going to help anyone’s defense, but it doesn’t have to be fatal, either.
I don't think it will be as easy as some of these analysts think it will be to "hide" Monta on defense. Monta and Jennings, that is.
In the end, like many analysts of this trade, Lowe hedges his bets, basically calling it a draw for now, and "wait and see" until later (i.e. until we can employ hindsight):
The long-term is where it gets interesting. You can see the long-term vision in Golden State, tenuous as it is, given the health issues of Curry and Bogut. It’s murkier in Milwaukee, but that’s fine, considering the cap savings it has built up here. The Bucks don’t know if the Jennings/Ellis backcourt can really work in the long run, and they don’t know whether Udoh will ever be skilled enough on offense to justify playing 40 minutes a night in games that matter. Golden State was confident Udoh might eventually develop into that kind of player, and if he does, the Bucks have something. But the upside isn’t quite as high here as it is in Golden State. But where the "upside" lies on the day of a major trade means little. Let’s see how it plays out.
One thing I find interesting about all these analyses is that while they talk about how Ellis and Udoh will fit in Milwaukee, they don't really give the same treatment for Bogut in Golden State, other than to say if he's healthy, he'll help. I don't think they appreciate how much defensive help Bogut would offer a team running Curry, Klay, and Lee on the floor for the next few seasons (at least). We absolutely will need more defensive pieces. Bogut will not be enough. I'd go after a guy like Mbah a Moute, who is apparently on the trading block now. I was going to post some links to local blogs, but you guys have that pretty well covered with FanShots and such. Add any interesting takes on the trade that you find in the comments.