I’m not negative just for the sake of being negative. If you read my last post, if you follow me on Twitter or are a friend of mine on Facebook, you probably think I think this is the worst trade of all time.
I don’t feel that way.
I get the deal and I see some real obvious benefits. Monta Ellis is the most athletic two guard the Bucks have had since Desmond Mason (if you’re unfamiliar, here’s a good write up on Ellis from Drew Olson). I’d say he’s pretty much the first athletic two guard the Bucks have had since then. I’ve been dying to see Milwaukee get an athletic two guard. He can get to the hoop and finish with real authority. Ellis has 16 dunks this year. Shaun Livingston has 17 and the next highest Buck guard is Carlos Delfino with … four. This has been a problem for years. Ellis solves it.
Getting rid of Stephen Jackson? Thank goodness.
And clearly it was time for Bogut to go. Gery Woelfel Tweeted that his relationship with Scott Skiles was beyond repair. His injuries held the franchise hostage over the past season or two as well, though it’s unfair to blame him for that.
But how are things any different now than they have been before? Sure, the Bucks have two guards that can score some points, but they had that with Michael Redd and Mo Williams. Turns out that didn’t win them many games. No, they didn’t have Luc Mbah a Moute to play defense then, but Luc hasn’t exactly been a cure all this season on that end. Milwaukee ranks 22nd in the league in defensive rating right now.
Maybe Kwame Brown and Ekpe Udoh can help shore things up in the middle defensively (he’s actually a good defender) and allow Drew Gooden to slide back to the four, but like I always say, when you’re relying on Kwame Brown, Ekpe Udoh and Drew Gooden … who cares? It looks a lot like we’re watching a franchise spin in a circle. I know they won’t be as bad as those Redd and Mo teams, the supporting cast is much better now, but this still isn’t a big time team.
This is the same move the Bucks always make.
I can hear everyone raving about how they gave up two players who weren’t playing for one talented scorer. How could that backfire? Well, Dan Gadzuric and Charlie Bell for Corey Maggette didn’t exactly put this team back on the map, did it? Ellis and Maggette are different players, but both have a habit of shooting a lot. The biggest difference is Ellis at least puts in the effort to gamble on defense, which is more than Maggette could have said.
I know the Bucks will gain some financial flexibility when Brown’s contract expires, but forgive me for being dubious about that extra money that’s going to be laying around.
Are free agents flocking to Milwaukee? Only a few guys have seen big deals from the Bucks over the past 10 years and the majority of those were re-signings. When the Bucks have spent money on free agents? Bobby Simmons and Gooden. The Mike Dunleavy’s of the world can work out sometimes, but the guys Milwaukee has identified as players they want to build around – Redd, Bogut, Jennings – those guys come from the draft. Free agent money isn’t a cure all here.
Good teams have a plan, they stick with the plan and they make small adjustments that adhere to the plan. What’s the plan in Milwaukee? Here’s a quote from the summer after the team acquired Jackson, Shaun Livingston and Beno Udrih:
“Those three guys create offense for other guys and draw attention. That’s big for us right now.”
Maybe it still is, but acquiring Ellis isn’t really acquiring a guy who creates a lot for others. He’s played out of position at point guard most of this season and is averaging a career high six assists per game, but he’s also got a usage rate of 30%. That means he’s shooting or turning over the ball on 30% of possessions while he’s on the court.
As far as having a plan, building around Jennings and Bogut was the plan two years ago. Things changed obviously. Bogut got bitter and rarely was healthy and Jennings is inconsistent and occasionally grouchy.
Now Bogut’s gone and Jennings’ name has been mentioned too. He’s probably not going anywhere in the next two days, but he sounds shook up by the trade talk. Without Bogut, are Jennings and Ellis the new “core?” Has Ersan Ilyasova made himself apart of it? Do the Bucks have even two “stars” now? Do they have one? There are some questions in the air. Not that there weren’t these questions before Bogut was traded, but it seems like another lateral move.
I don’t doubt that this team could make the playoffs. There may have been enough talent before and there probably is enough talent now. Ellis should be a net positive. But I still don’t see how that helps the Bucks get a star.
And that’s why I get upset. That’s why I criticize moves. I want to see this team succeed. I want to see a plan. I want to see efficient, talented players acquired. I want to see stars.
Instead, I watch the Bucks as they side step towards the future as well as any team in the league.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.