to Milwaukee at the 2012 trade deadline, fans were not happy. The team received center Andrew Bogut in return, a supposedly offensively-challenged big man who was dealing with the same sort of ankle woes that guard Stephen Curry was working through. Later in the season, at a function designed to celebrate the career of W’s legend Chris Mullin, Golden State fans booed new’ish owner Joe Lacob mostly in reference to that deal.When the Golden State Warriors traded Monta Ellis
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It was not a fun time to be a Warriors fan, but nearly four years later just about everything has changed. Curry has stayed healthy, while Bogut regained his abilities to act as a destructive two-way player while mostly staying on the court. Ellis left the Bucks as a free agent before moving on to Dallas, and now Indiana where he averages 14 points and nearly five assists for the 28-24 Pacers.
In a discussion with Jared Greenburg and Rick Mahorn on Tuesday on SiriusXM’s NBA channel, Ellis made an odd claim. He posits that he’s the only person in the NBA that can stop the Warriors from winning a championship – merely by remaining a member of the team. Listen:
That sort of humility, coming from the player that once claimed to “have it all,” is striking. There’s really no reason to think that a refocused Ellis couldn’t have played a significant role on the 2015 championship Warriors, perhaps coming off the bench to act a scoring reserve guard behind Klay Thompson (who was a rookie the year Monta was dealt).
Of course, the Warrior bench (both last season and in its title defense this year), is rather crowded. The team features Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala as do-it-all ball handlers, with veteran Leandro Barbosa in a scorer’s role. Meanwhile, though sat out goodly chunks of the NBA Finals as Golden State went with smaller lineups, Andrew Bogut still plays a key role for this team.
The knock on Monta Ellis is that he dominates the ball far too often while acting as an inefficient scorer despite putting up gaudy point totals. Moderately successful stints in Dallas and Indiana haven’t done much to change that reputation: Monta’s not a thoughtless chucker, but at times the 30 percent three-point shooter does seem to play like the anti-Stephen Curry.
While standing at about the same size, as the Warriors no doubt noticed prior to dealing him, something that Ellis referenced in the above clip. Klay Thompson wasn’t ready to compete for an All-Star berth in his rookie season, but his ability to both spread the floor while guarding three different positions made him a perfect fit alongside the smaller Curry.
It’s best not to paint the championship Warriors as the league’s top purveyors of altruism, Curry can still eat up entire possessions dribbling around all by his lonesome. Still, even when just one Warrior touches the ball it’s hard to argue with the results – under Steve Kerr and Luke Walton this has turned into a devastating offense. Bogut and Thompson’s inclusion also helped turn the Warriors into an impressive defensive team.
Would Ellis’ presence on last year’s team get in the way of a championship? That’s hard to stay: Kerr can always sit a guy if he’s using up too many possessions, and Kerr’s maneuvers with David Lee early in the season and Bogut in the Finals were telling – he’s not afraid to tinker with lineups and rotations. The easy narrative that would paint Monta Ellis as too selfish to ever play a role on a massive winner is just far too simple.
That’s presuming, of course, that Thompson would eventually replace Monta in the starting lineup, and that he would temper his shooting ambitions coming off the bench. That he would have accepted a gig as a bit player, and not the sort of guy that wants to shoot 17 times a game (as Ellis did in Dallas last season).
That’s asking a lot from Ellis, whose time in Golden State far predated that of any of his teammates. Perhaps it was best, for both sides, to have yet another thing happen for a reason.
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