Milwaukee Bucks: 8 Reasons Why Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings Can Coexist
When the Milwaukee Bucks acquired swingman Monta Ellis, power forward Ekpe Udoh and center Kwame Brown just days before the trade deadline, the big story of the trade was the big piece (Andrew Bogut) heading to the Golden State Warriors.
At least that's what the Warriors front office kept saying.
For many in the basketball world, this trade was exciting because the Milwaukee Bucks had added two more pieces to a rapidly-improving (and youthful) roster.
Ellis seemed rejuvenated at the press conference, no longer the scapegoat for the Warriors' myriad problems.
But this was also a chance at a fresh start for the dynamic scorer. He had a new running mate, Brandon Jennings, who was nearly his equal in terms of scoring prowess. He had the chance to prove that his numbers were a product of his talent, not system-generated.
And as for Jennings, the trade opened a world of possibilities for one of the league's most exciting young talents. As productive as Bogut had been in Milwaukee, his slow, prodding play seemed a terrible fit with the athletic Jennings.
Now with a couple of gazelles (Ellis and Udoh) joining this herd of Bucks, there are reasons for excitement in Milwaukee. Eight reasons, in fact...
8. No Greedy Teammates
It's been said about other duos, and it will be said about this one: There is only one basketball to go around.
Whenever two of the league's top 20 scorers join, that will be a concern.
But to pretend that either of these two will need to sacrifice shots is a stretch.
Without a true third option (Drew Gooden, Mike Dunleavy and free agent Ersan Ilyasova were the only other double-digit scorers) on the roster, coach Scott Skiles will tailor the playbook around his backcourt.
7. Zone Defense Can Ease Bad Matchups
At 6'3", 185 lbs. Ellis actually has two inches and 16 pounds on Jennings.
In other words, it doesn't get much smaller in this league.
So, just like when Ellis paired with Curry in Golden State, this duo will face some tough matchups along the way.
But Skiles can find ways around some of these poor matchups.
The Bucks have plenty of length, and with Ellis and Jennings providing active hands in the passing lanes, Milwaukee could rely on the zone for lengthy stretches.
6. Both Players Have Shown Defensive Effort
As much as coaches are credited with installing and seeing out their own systems, the great coaches are able to adapt to their rosters.
Particularly when players make themselves coachable.
Ellis has long held the bad defender label, and Jennings is thought of first and second for his offensive ability.
But both players have shown signs on the defensive end, as both finished in the top 15 in steals per game.
Stealing is part gambling, but a lot instinct. With the right coaching and that instinct combined with the athleticism these two possess, they can play enough defense to win.
5. Offensive Versatility
Without a third option, Ellis and Jennings are going to be the focal point of opponents' scouting report all season.
If one was a shooter and one was a slasher, Skiles would have some big-time problems on his hands.
Luckily, the duo has enough tricks in their bags that Skiles won't have to diagram much for them to be successful.
Both players are perimeter threats (Jennings is a career 34.5 percent shooter from deep, while Ellis is a year removed from shooting a career-best 36.1 percent). That, combined with their ability to create off the dribble, will keep defenses off balance, and the better than advertised passers will have plenty of windows for attack.
4. They Don't Have to Always Share the Floor
Ellis is a good enough distributor (a respectable 6.0 assists to 3.05 turnovers this year) to handle the point guard position.
Likewise, Jennings is a potent enough scorer (19.1 points this season) to see stretches as a scoring guard.
So, Skiles may want to stagger his backcourt rotation to keep one of them on the floor at all times.
Between Beno Udrih, Mike Dunleavy and possibly Shaun Livingston (who has team option for next season), Skiles has some semblance of depth at the guard position, which could be bolstered if that's how the Bucks use their first-round pick (12th overall).
3. Small Ball Is Trending
If there's anything cooler than no-lense glasses in the NBA right now, it's undersized lineups.
This helps Milwaukee immensely because this should lessen the amount of unfavorable backcourt matchups.
If quick/athletic continues to replace big/physical, Jennings and Ellis give the Bucks a great leg up on the rest on the league.
2. The East Is a Fluid Conference
The fate of Boston's Big Three will be one the offseason's biggest storylines. The Dwight Howard drama did not leave Orlando with Stan Van Gundy and Otis Smith; it will continue to plague the franchise until something is resolved. Josh Smith may or may not be an Atlanta Hawk when the season tips off.
In other words, the Eastern Conference could be primed for a downturn in terms of talent. And the East wasn't all that tough this season.
Milwaukee lost Andrew Bogut after just 12 games, then made a franchise-changing trade midway through a hectic, shortened season...and were still in postseason contention during the final week of the season.
1. Western Conference Length Behind Them
With Ellis and Jennings racking up so many steals, it's inevitable that sometimes, they will gamble and miss.
Shot-blocking has to be a priority for Milwaukee, but it needs shot blockers who do not compromise the team's new up-tempo play.
Enter Ekpe Udoh and Larry Sanders, who blocked 3.13 shots combined despite seeing just 33.5 minutes combined. For comparison, Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler blocked 1.4 shots in 33 minutes. Dwight Howard sent away 2.2 shots in 38 minutes this past season.
But not only will Ellis and Jennings be backed up by shot blockers, but they'll have incredible length at the forward positions in 6'8" Luc Mbah a Moute and (potentially) 6'10" Ersan Ilyasova.
This disruptive length should key fast breaks from its blocked shots, steals and batted balls. With Jennings and Ellis leading those fast breaks, there will be plenty of reasons to "Fear the Deer" next season.