Golden State made a seemingly brazen move at the trade deadline by shipping away fan favorite Monta Ellis and budding youngster Ekpe Udoh to Milwaukee in exchange for injured center Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson (whom the team immediately flipped to the Spurs for forward Richard Jefferson).
The move shocked Warriors faithful initially, with fans even going as far as booing team owner Joe Lacob during Chris Mullin’s jersey retirement ceremony. However, despite the dismay of the Dubs' diehard fanbase, the transaction might have been the best gamble for the franchise going forward.
It's undeniable that Ellis was a star with the Warriors. He led the team in scoring since 2010 and is one of the most explosive 2-guards on the offensive side of the ball since Allen Iverson was in his prime.
But what else did the fan-endowed Mississippi Missile bring to the table? Ellis is one of the worst perimeter defenders in the league, doesn’t distribute the ball very well and oftentimes can be accused of selfish play on offensively. The Warriors haven’t finished better than .500 since Ellis became the team’s leading scorer and have failed to make the playoffs since 2007.
The team was floundering with a losing record at the trade deadline, and it appeared as if Golden State was en route to another losing season. Alongside scorers Stephen Curry and David Lee, Ellis simply wasn’t a good fit in Oakland anymore.
Meanwhile, Bogut presents a new hope for the Warriors. He fills a gaping hole at the center position, and his world-class defensive post prowess and shot-blocking ability is ideal for the defense unit first-year head coach Mark Jackson would like to transform his team into.
Yes, it might seem inherently idiotic to trade arguably the team’s best player in Ellis for a defunct star with a history of injuries that will likely not suit up this season. However, keep in mind that the Warriors' first-round pick goes to the Utah Jazz should they finish better than the league’s seven worst teams.
So while the move might hurt the team in the short run, losing now might be the best play for the team’s future.
Giving up Udoh must have been tough on the organization, as the 2010 first-rounder had finally worked his way into the starting lineup and appeared to finally be living up to his potential. On the other hand, Udoh doesn’t really have the size to be a true NBA center, and Bogut has to be seen as more than an upgrade.
Bogut essentially fills the role that the Warriors hoped Udoh could have assumed if he continued to progress. While Udoh was emerging as a fan favorite, Bogut is the more proven center.
Jefferson’s contract isn’t the most favorable for the Warriors cap going forward, but he does bring solid athleticism and scoring ability off the bench, as well as adequate perimeter defense. He fits Jackson’s system well and should be a solid contributor for the Dubs going forward. Jefferson's veteran leadership and playoff experience are an added bonus.
Granted, it will take some time to see if this trade pans out for the Warriors, but the idea that set the gears in motion certainly was made to change the culture in Oakland. Golden State doesn’t want to be a bubble playoff team, but rather wants to contend for a championship. Ideally, Bogut gives the team a defensive presence not known to the franchise in decades.
The move is still a risky gamble, however, and only time will tell if it all plays out in the Dubs favor. Lacob and GM Larry Riley can only hope.