The Golden State Warriors traded perhaps their best player on Tuesday, dealing guard Monta Ellis, promising forward Ekpe Udoh and injured center Kwame Brown to Milwaukee for center Andrew Bogut and shooting guard Stephen Jackson.
Ellis has been rumored in trades all season long, even as a possible piece to acquire Orlando’s star center Dwight Howard. He is one the best perimeter scoring threats in the NBA but has received plenty of criticism for his defense and shot selection. The pairing of Ellis and point guard Stephen Curry was never seen as a good match because both were smaller guards, neither of whom will ever be called a great defensive player.
Brown was just a salary throw-in as he has been injured for most of the season. But including Udoh was a peculiar move. He had shown a lot of promise this year in limited minutes as a solid defensive player and future building block. While his offensive game was still maturing, he had the makings of being a solid starter for years to come.
Warriors fans are familiar with Jackson, who was a vital part of the last truly successful Warriors team in 2007. “Captain Jack” is a deadly shooter when he is on and a fiery leader, but is also seen as a malcontent when things aren’t going well. He has clashed with plenty of coaches, including this year with Bucks coach Scott Skiles. The Warriors could turn around and trade him to a team needing outside shooting before the trade deadline passes.
The real prize is Bogut who when healthy, is a top-five center in the league. He provides a defensive presence in the middle with his rugged style of play and also has a decent, unspectacular offensive game. The problem is that he has had real trouble staying on the court in the past four years. Injuries to multiple body parts have left him with the injury-risk label, never a good sign for a player you are hoping to build around.
I am not a Warriors fan but I have always respected the team. My problem is that when Joe Lacob and Peter Guber took control of the team, they brought much bravado, promising to change the culture in Oakland. They said they were going to make a splash and promised playoff runs in the near future. But all I see is empty promises. In the NBA, more than any other professional sport, winning teams are those with star players. Since the days of Magic, Larry and MJ to current champions like Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Dwyane Wade, there has truly only been one team that has won the title without a superstar and that was the Detroit Pistons in 2004. Ellis was the closest thing the Warriors had to a star and while Bogut is a good player when healthy, I just don’t envision him as the centerpiece for a championship squad. The same can be said about David Lee and Stephen Curry; nice players but never going to be that number one guy you need. Ellis probably was not one of those players either but why sell for 50-cents on the dollar? As my buddy who is a Warriors fan said, if you’re going to trade your future, why not completely go for broke and go after Dwight Howard? Or how about calling the Lakers and seeing if they’d part with Andrew Bynum or Pau Gasol for a package featuring Stephen Curry? Or if you’re going to completely blow things up, don’t you have to get rid of your worst contract (Andris Biedrins) in any deal you make? Or get expiring contracts for the rebuilding process? I’ve heard say that the Warriors are tanking so they can keep their draft pick this year, but even a year with plenty of talent is such a pitiful excuse. How have those other draft picks worked out? Klay Thompson looks like he has some promise, but they drafted a player that played the same position as one of their stars. I’m still not sold that Stephen Curry is anything more than a decent point guard in this league and he has his own injury concerns. They traded away their pick from two years ago, Ekpe Udoh. The draft is such a crapshoot that you never truly know what you’re getting. It’s an uneven science.
The worst part is that Lacob keeps telling the Warriors faithful that good things are coming. But no matter how rabid a fan base you have, how long can those empty promises be heard without the fans starting to say screw this and lose interest? Analysts and team officials can put all the positive spin on the move they want; if I were a Warriors fan, I would be turning a deaf ear right about now.
Photo Credit: Keith Allison, via Wikimedia Commons