Why the Warriors Pulled the Trigger on the Monta Ellis-Andrew Bogut Trade

I actually heard these words from a member of Warriors management, who could not officially talk about the trade because it wasn’t done yet, about the trading of guard Monta Ellis.

“This had to happen at some point. Who are we kidding?”

On the bright side, you can chalk up the Warriors’ jaw-dropping blockbuster trade – sending Ellis, second-year big man Ekpe Udoh and injured Kwame Brown to Milwaukee for center Andrew Bogut  the fact that management finally accepted reality. It had already accepted the fact that major roster improvements were needed and had spent the last year-plus trying to make those changes.

But, in the end, after all the posturing and promises, Warriors’ brass agreed with most fans – they cannot win significantly with a backcourt of Ellis and point guard Stephen Curry.

Golden State had been hard after a big man for some time now, with no apologies to center Andris Biedrins. First they set their sights on Nene, then Tyson Chandler, then  DeAndre Jordan, then Dwight Howard. Of course, Warriors’ brass knew Howard was a pipe dream. According to one member of management, “we just want to be in the race.”

But weeks ago, the Warriors learnedMilwaukeewas willing to part with Bogut. Days ago, the talks got serious.Golden State was trying to pull the deal off without giving up Udoh, but that wasn’t flying with the Bucks. The Warriors were also trying to getMilwaukeeto take back center Andris Biedrins.

“Nobody wants that contract,” one source with knowledge of the negotiations said.

But Ellis, it appears, gave the Warriors the incentive to do the deal. He began chirping about wanting out behind the scenes. Then, Tuesday morning before shootaround, he gave the Warriors all they needed by going public.

ELLIS (after shootaround): “I probably could go to Orlando or Chicago and get a championship. But if they don’t move me, what can I do? Hopefully — if they don’t move me – they get somebody in here so we can win and I don’t have to go through this every year.”

The Warriors obliged. Said one source: “You want to be traded? Fine then.”

Now, if Ellis had not started chirping, the Warriors might have pulled the trigger anyway. The fact is they’ve been on the hunt for a center for some time. Bogut was on the Warriors short list last summer. But Milwaukee wasn’t willing to part with him.

No doubt, Bogut’s latest injury (fractured left ankle) helped make the Bucks willing to ship him. Plus the rise of Ersan Illyasova. Plus the fact Milwaukee has made the playoffs once with Bogut since he was drafted in 2005.

None of that was enough to chase away the Warriors. Though Bogut may not play the rest of this year,Golden State couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get a center. In Bogut, the Warriors get a legit defensive presence and a few offensive skills to work with. To the Warriors, him paired with David Lee instantly makes the Warriors formidable on the front line.

“You watch,” one team source said, “David Lee is going to be an All-Star.”

Trading Monta gives Warriors rookie swingman Klay Thompson a chance to blossom. Most important, trading away Monta also officially hands the keys of the franchise to Stephen Curry. Since Don Nelson left, Curry has had a hard time wrestling the point guard role away from Ellis. Both Keith Smart and Mark Jackson preferred running the offense through Ellis instead of letting Curry learn on the job. Now, the Warriors get to see what they have in Curry, who they have touted as a core future piece since drafting him in 2009. Golden State, at one point or another, turned down the chance to get Amar’e Stoudemire, Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo so they can keep Curry.

The Bucks inquired about Curry, but in the end Monta was simply more expendable and the guy they most wanted to get rid of. Ellis, with all his skills, has long been a source of controversy and drama for the Warriors.

In the summer of 2008 – after signing a six-year, $66 million contract –  he messed up his ankle riding a moped and lied about it. Most of the season was lost to injury and the situation berthed a feud with then-Warriors president Robert Rowell, who suspended Ellis for 30 games and threatened to void Ellis’ contract.

In 2009, he opened the season by criticizing the drafting of point guard Stephen Curry, deeming the two couldn’t win together. During the 2009-10 season, Ellis had multiple run-ins with then-coach Don Nelson. Back in early February, Ellis made national news when a sexual harassment charges against him were made public by accuser Erika Smith, a former Warriors employee.

And all that was on top of constantly having to manage his unhappiness (perceived or not), walk on egg shells to prevent rubbing him the wrong way – even the difficulty of getting ahold of him.

Ellis was so good, was such an attractive  part of their entertainment product, the Warriors dealt with it. Plus he had made noted strides in several areas. He was a much better teammate, much better leader. But this latest episode, plus the growing reality that they were not going to win with him as their best player, plus the opportunity to get a legit center, compelled the Warriors to pull the plug.

In the end, the Warriors got exactly what they said they wanted in exchange for Monta – a star player. Bogut has never made the All-Star team, but he is reputed around the league for being a tough, skilled, physical center. Plus, he’s only 27.

His injuries aren’t chronic ailments, but more freak accidents resulting from his willingness to sacrifice his body.

Bogut played all 82 games his rookie year. The end of his sophomore season was cut short after a sprained left foot forced him out the final 15 games. In 2008-09, he played just 36 games. He missed the final 31 games with a lower back injury. Then in 2010, a fall on a dunk led to a dislocated right elbow, broken right hand and a sprained wrist.

With Curry’s ankle issues, the Warriors seem to be relying heavily on oft-injured player to get healthy. Ellis was one of those guys you knew was going to show up and play every day. You know he’s going to ball in Milwaukee. Monta is simply a guy who produces. He will no matter where he goes.

Curry and Bogut, with Lee and Klay Thompson, almost has to pan out because the Warriors gave up their cap flexibility for this coming offseason – especially if they keep Rush. They still have the Stephen Jackson chip, and maybe they can get something good in return if they pair him with Dorell Wright. Otherwise, the Warriors won’t be able to make any significant signings since they’ve already used their amnesty.

Marcus Thompson

  • Greg

    Yes, we know he was going to be traded eventually. Why a talented young big man was included for an injured center and a godawful contract is why we say this reeks of incompetence.

    This franchise is cursed.

  • Dan

    I’m fine with moving Ellis. As talented as he is, that’s addition by subtraction based on the Ws numbers when he plays vs. when he doesn’t. To give up Udoh and all the cap space, though, is too much for Bogut. For all the talk that Udoh can’t play center, he was the Ws most effective player period when he played center based on his relative +/-. In fact, he was one of the most effective players in the league based on adjusted +/-. The talk that he is too small or isn’t a “true” center is ridiculous. Just look at his production. That’s all that matters. He can’t shut down Dwight Howard or Marc Gasol? Guess what, nobody else can, either.

    I think this trade does make the Ws better by clearing out Ellis. Plus, Bogut is a legit player. But a better trade would have been Ellis for just about anyone and keeping Udoh and the cap space.

  • Scotty

    Pretty childish quote from a Warriors exec there;

    “The Warriors obliged. Said one source: ‘You want to be traded? Fine then.'”

    Management has always clearly favored Curry and then they drafted a guy at Monta’s position with their Number 1 pick this past draft and call him a starting 2 in this league. Writing had been on the wall for a while, but for some reason Monta was able to read it before the Front Office.

    Gonna miss Monta, hope he tears it up and can make his way to a contender.

  • Donald Royal With Cheese

    I’m just glad they didn’t over pay for Jordan or Chandler.
    I’ll miss Ellis, but it is best for both that he was traded.
    Not sure how Stack Jack is going to respond if he ever suits up for the Dubs, but he’ll help the team win games and give them back some swagger with his nastiness.

  • Grey Warden

    #3 Scotty, exactly. When Curry was drafted by the Warriors, he didn’t look too happy. I don’t think he minds being traded either. Yet the execs still keep him. Biedrins and Dwright want to be traded, yet they’re still here. Trade them away as well.

  • Niners in 2012

    We really missed Udoh and his 4 ppg/3rpg last night! I’m personally glad that mistake is over with, its just painful looking at him knowing we could’ve should’ve had Greg Monroe or Paul George instead. Worst draft decision since taking Ike Diogu #9.

  • OMG Chris Cohan

    They had to trade Monta? You mean the same Monta on the team that beat Chicago, Miami, LAC (twice), Dallas, and Atlanta this year? Could it not be that it’s the coach, that Lacob picked, is the problem? After a gutsy comeback win against Miami he immediately claims his team doesn’t know how to win close games against Memphis. His theory on offense: great scorers know how to get their shots. Well maybe when you’re the focal point and everyone has their defense geared on stopping you, that’s not so easy. Hence, Monta’s decreased FG%.

    This team fancies modeling itself on OKC, but OKC built patiently. The Dubs, instead of trying to get a center like Kaman or a higher quality starting 3 in free agency, they decide to blow up the team. Building on around 2 people who are perpetually hurt? Nice one. And let’s be frank: Bogut is not a star. 13 ppg, 9 rbs, 1.6 blocks…in the Eastern Conference. Even if he’s healthy, he will not be getting those numbers against the front line of Western conference opponents.

    I thought we’d buried the Chris Cohan torch; apparently Lacob found it and dug it up.

    Good luck, Monta. You’ll be an All Star in the East.

  • Twinkie defense

    I love Udoh but when you have a chance to trade an undersized two guard (the most easily replaceable position in the League) for a center, when you have Monta’s replacement waiting in the wings in Klay Thompson, when you are replacing Udoh with a guy who is bigger, a better rebounder, and just as good a defender – plus you increase your chances of keeping your pick this summer! – my god you do that fast, and don’t look back.

    I was beginning to lose faith that this franchise had any idea what it was doing, trotting out the same losing starting five year after year. So great job with this trade! Now do Steph Curry right and let him heal. And I’ll give the team a little more rope…

  • Young

    Gotta disagree. Udoh is the reason this deal sucks (and Stephen Jackson). He is young big with an unknown potential. Ike had like 3 good games in his gsw careerl. Udoh had like 8 in a row. He’s the type of player that comes back to bite you in your buttocks. A risk the warriors just didn’t have to take.

    If you read the analysis on this trade almost everyone says the Bucks won. That doesn’t mean bogut won’t ball. We all know he can. But he’s a risk! Why take a bad contract and give up a prosiming big? The deal was even steven. Monta for Bogut. We got took no matter how it turns out.

  • Warriors GM’s I cannot tell you how brokenhearted I am because you obviously didn’t consider the Warrior fanbase, take some time out and read comments from facebook, twitter and etc.. Why couldn’t you have taken biedrins and somebody else instead of Monta and Epke, surely you could have done that, oh right Stephen Jackson was begging to come back, right? I guarantee you that half the fanbase of the Warriors is gone, you take the good people and leave us with crumbs, I still can’t understand why you let Udoh go, the Warriors needed a big defender, he had grown, you have an real bad way of getting rid of the people that caused outrageous ticket sales to soar. I am truly upset about this trade, it was wrong and no matter how the broadcasters on comcast sportsnet try to make it seem like it was a good move, the fans will show you that it wasn’t, why don’t they report that.

  • Young

    Marcus – Can you write a column explaining what you think the strategy of management was here?

    I can’t see how this will lead to an NBA championship. Best case we are somewhere around the Memphis grizzles (assuming no injuries which nvr happens)

    Bogut = Gasol
    Lee = Randolph (lee slight advantage)
    6Pick = Gay (In our dreams, if we get the pick)
    Klay = Tony Allen (klay slight advantage)
    Curry = Conley (curry decent advantage)

    Memphis needs a big trade before they dream of a championship…

  • DW

    Maybe its just me but I have a hard time seeing how Bogut, Lee, Klay Thompson, and Curry are gonna scare Wade & Lebron, Kobe & Bynum, or Durant & Westbrook.

    Think about the 4 guys we have. Some of sports competition is intimidation and those “choir boys” on our roster might make Lacob ‘feel safer’, but we wont win.

  • I’m still wondering why did they give up Epke? you explained in the article about why Monta was traded, but wy did Udoh get traded? he was good for the Warriors, I believe he was really hurt, he didn’t deserve to find out he was traded in the way that management did it, that is unacceptable. And besides, when Monta was interviewed in the locker room moments after he found out, he said that he never said that he wanted to leave the Warriors, I know Epke felt like he was a part of the Warriors family, management, you guys are a piece of work.

  • Bogut is a pretty intimidating dude. He’s Australian!

  • dan

    hey I heard that Bogut likes to ride Kangaroos down under, that is tough enough.

  • slamdunk

    Monta Ellis started chirping about getting traded because he knew this team was not good enough as constructed to get into any playoffs, and he was frustrated at the lack of action taken by management to improve the team, so it was only a matter of time before he mouthed off. He is only saying what most Warrior fans knew all along, and it is surprising that Lacob and Guber took this long to make this kind of move. Didn’t they see before they bought this team from Cohan, that they were obviously not going anywhere playing small ball for Nellie all these years?

  • Cranky Teacher

    Wow, some folks are short-sighted.

    Unless you think centers are no longer important in the NBA, then you HAVE to support this trade.

    Here’s the deal: Lee’s contract makes him untradeable. Udoh is a good defender but plays the same position as Lee.

    Without Udoh in the deal, why would Milwaukee do this? Monte will have the same problems playing with Brandon Jennings as with Curry, so now you have to move him. Ellis’ +/- numbers are not strong.

    Yes, it would be nice to keep Udoh, but the deal doesn’t happen w/o him and for once the Warriors have a legit center who could rip off 5-10 healthy seasons in a row. And he is a good complement to Lee, everybody agrees.

    Ellis was ENTERTAINMENT deluxe, but this is much better if people actually want to win, which they always claim to. And if the Warriors can become a great passing team like the old Kings, they’ll actually be more fun to watch overall.

  • Cranky Teacher

    And don’t forget Ellis’ contract.

    This good trade still does not excuse not using the amnesty on Biedrins.

  • P Faced T Nose

    They need to shut down Curry and play SJax and D. Wright 40 minutes a game and let them shoot as much as they want.

    Biedrins should play 40 minutes a night and can just stand away from the action.

    This should help keep the Draft Pick.

  • Oaklandsfinest

    The only thing that makes me nervous is the injuries of Curry and Bogut. You can be the best player in the World but if you cant stay on the court what good is that.

    I started to believe that maybe the Warriors were going to keep Monta and trade Curry. That ankle is scary.

  • Dan

    @Cranky Teacher- Have you been watching the games? Udoh has been the starting center! He is a perfect complement to Lee. He can defend while Lee can score and rebound. Both have excellent b-ball iq’s. You can say Udoh is not tall enough or whatever, but the fact is he has been an incredibly effective starting center for the Warriors – by far the highest +/- on the team. If Bogut is healthy we can only hope we helps the Ws score more than their opponent as much as Udoh did.

  • PhillyJ

    Great trade for the Ws. Glad to see some positive movement from them. Definitely, the teamwork will improve and we should see a better well-rounded squad.

    Now to get a real PG.

  • Stan

    You leave out some real world possibilities too Marcus..Monta’s wife couldnt be happy about Monta and Warrior female employees..and the employees couldnt be comfortable around Monta..that could have been the real reason Monta wanted out.
    And wouldnt it be ironic if Monta goes for 50 vs the Warriors..and the Bucks still lose?. Something we’ve seen so many times in the Golden State.

  • Stan

    Udoh? worked hard…but another skinny underweight Warrior.
    I dont know how many times the Warriors vs the GOOD teams looked like boys vs men..our players both short and anorexic.

  • rio kid

    Young: I personally would be very happy if the warriors were as good as Memphis. We need to get at least good and without a superstar man it’s tough to win the big one and some franchises are lucky (San Antonio)and then do a good job managing their luck and then there’s the W’s, Bucks, Cavs etc. But the one thing that the W’s do have are great fans, I know if is corny, but all we need here is a good team that is fun to watch and allows for hope and if a Hall of Famer falls our way…

  • Angrygswfan

    So pretty much,the front office is telling us to go fuck ourselves this season

  • moreaufan2

    Curry is not an effective PG. He is a Shooter! Period!

  • Yoda

    I don’t think Warriors fans really understand what a real, full-sized talented center actually does. Most of them have never seen one in a Warriors uniform.

    The only risk to this deal is Bogut’s ability to come back from the injury. But then, that risk is the only way Bogut was available for that package. Anyone who thinks the Warriors gave up too much fails to recognize a couple of things. First, Bogut is the best player in the deal. Second, Monta can and would have opted out of his contract after next season, so he was gone anyway. In addition, all of the complainers about this deal are horribly overrating a guy who scores inefficiently and will be easily replaced. Not to mention he’s an obvious pain in the ass to deal with internally.

    And please, stop with the dumb “should have traded Biedrins instead” b.s. That’s just ignorant.

    I’m only sorry they had to include Udoh rather than someone like D. Wright, but that’s pretty understandable from the Bucks’ point of view. And I’m sorry about that because Udoh could have been a great asset at power forward, NOT at center where he was a stopgap.

    This is a good deal.