It’s been a while now since the Golden State Warriors decided to trade Monta Ellis to the Milwaukee Bucks for Andrew Bogut.
They made a few assertions with that trade. First, they stated emphatically that the Ellis era, a popular player among fans and a player who loved being in the Bay Area, was over. Second, they officially decided to invest in the young Klay Thompson as their shooting guard of the future. Lastly, they backed up a statement that many had begun to make: that Ellis simply couldn’t exist in the same backcourt as Stephen Curry.
Then injury struck, and doubts began to surface. Curry went down, and the backcourt collapsed. Bogut went down, and it looked like the Bucks made off like bandits with a prolific scorer and tremendous talent in Ellis.
For a while, it looked like the answer to the question in the title above was a resounding “no.”
But then this year happened, and things changed.
Bogut was still struggling with injuries for a while. However, the backcourt began to mesh better than the Ellis days. Thompson and Curry played off each other fantastically, with Curry providing the assist and rim attack, and Thompson remaining his partner in crime, displayed his lights-out shooting on spot-up opportunities especially.
Perhaps even more importantly, it made a defensive statement in Golden State’s guards Ellis has been called a defensive liability, and him standing next to Curry in a lineup sets up opposing guards for a field day, with few stops on shot opportunities. Thompson has made a name for himself as a rising perimeter defender, taking on tougher assignments in better fashion.
In short, moving Ellis, who had a decent year in Milwaukee too, ended up as a net gain for Golden State’s backcourt when things fell into place the way they did this year. Ellis’ game is simply too shot-happy now that the Warriors have a strong frontcourt offensively, which is something that wouldn’t have helped them at all. It’s as simple as this: when the shots aren’t falling, the shots don’t stop. He’s too streaky with a shoot first and pass later attitude that would’ve led to horrid usage rates with Curry running point and taking his shots.
Now on to Bogut’s season…
Despite, as said above, struggling with injury, Bogut returned to the lineup back in the winter. He was slow to start. He made plenty of defensive impact but showed severe limits on the offensive side (though those could be attributed to his still being recovering). The most important impact, and it was a big one, was the fact that he presented a stopping threat below the rim. This, in part, made something of a positive difference on David Lee’s poor defensive skills by putting another body in between the opponent and the basket.
Later in the year, he began to make a difference on the offensive side. He dunked and regained some semblance of a hook shot. Despite that, his biggest contributions remain on defense. The good thing is that that’s exactly what the team wanted and needed from him.
So, who makes out better at this point as far as the swap? As of now, the Warriors gave up a shot-happy scoring machine who ends up as a minus rather than an even break or positive on defense, and in return (with some delay), they get a defensive plus. A massive shot-blocker. An interior anchor. And the opportunity to invest in a shooter with better defensive skills, better size and plenty of future upside (that doesn’t cost $11 million).
I’m thinking that the Warriors came out the winners here.