The Milwaukee Bucks recently acquired Monta Ellis, Ekpe Udoh and Kwame Brown's Expiring Contract from the Golden State Warriors in exchange for Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson, but you know all of that already. If you are a Monta Ellis or Ekpe Udoh fan joining Brew Hoop for the first time to follow your favorite player(s), I assure you we have enough diversity in our coverage to satisfy everyone from the advanced stats crowd to the eye test crowd. Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings are a fascinating and unconventional offensive experiment, while Udoh is the perfect reason to play close attention to the less flashy details of winning basketball. The next couple of months should be a lot of fun.
I focus on the next few months, because that's what GM John Hammond is doing. He eschewed the opportunity to position for a premium pick in the 2012 NBA Draft in favor of a playoff push in the top-heavy Eastern Conference. That creates a strange rift between long-term thinking and short-term realities. Our reactions to the trade are manifold and came in these two articles Steve here and Frank here. They can be summed up thusly: Steve thinks (1) the Bucks sold low on Bogut for no good reason, (2) they unnecessarily prioritized getting rid of an invisible player (Stephen Jackson) and (3) an eighth seed push completely eliminates the possibility of getting a premium player in the draft and could lead to embarrassment in the first round against the Chicago Bulls, while Frank thinks (A) the team is more talented now but the future is murkier than ever, (B) the old Bogut-Jennings core is done for, and the Jennings-Ellis pairing is temporary, and (C) at least the Bucks improved their cap flexibility.
All of this shouldn't stop anyone from being excited about watching Ellis and Udoh in Bucks uniforms in 2012. If anything, excitement over the "now" is the one thing left on the table for Bucks fans. Let me explain what I mean (there will be no advanced stats this time, I promise).
Here is where I am coming from in the analysis of this deal and any big move made by the Bucks. Sports franchises exist for two reasons, to make money and win championships. That's it. Each organization occupies a different spot on the continuum with regards to those goals, and some prioritize one over the other out of necessity or greed. That's how things work. For the Bucks, it probably leans towards an emphasis on the former, especially in the wake of this trade. The secret is knowing that the two goals are not mutually exclusive, and winning is the ultimate promotional tool. Maybe the Bucks will win big with this trade. Maybe they won't. But I am certain they will be exciting.
Having watched 100+ Warriors games in the past two years, I understand what Monta Ellis brings to the table. Everything that needs to be written about his inefficiency has already been stated in terms more eloquent than anything I could offer, so I'm willing to drop that line of argumentation for the moment. Besides, the first time Monta transforms a rhythmic crossover into a slicing drive to the rim capped by an acrobatic finish unlike anything Bucks fans have seen in at least a decade, there will be no argument. He's immensely talented and impossible to ignore.
Everyone understands the entertainment value of a guy like Monta. The Bucks certainly do. No long-term, reasoned argument will ever be able to compete with the immediate payoff of tantalizing highlight plays. That's one thing Brandon Jennings has taught me over the years. However, I'm still a firm believer that while entertainment is a suitable goal for fans, it should remain a happy byproduct of a franchise focused on building a contender. To me, the lines got blurred by the Bucks a bit in this deal, but that won't completely stop me from being entertained. I just think a high-end winner is the most entertaining product of all, and can't quite suspend my disbelief on a seemingly myopic move.
Just to be clear, I typically use a lot of advanced stats in my work. Those more precise measurements help to keep my basketball sensibilities tethered to the most reasonable inferences about the game and what leads to both wins and championships. Maybe you don't share my interests or beliefs in that regard, but there is always some common ground. Aren't we all interested in identifying talent and value in sports?
At times, the insights of advanced stats can be difficult to communicate in the face of eye-popping athleticism and small sample size surges. It can come off as snobbish, even if that's not the intent. Imagine walking up next to someone admiring a seemingly magnificent painting in an art gallery and trying to explain the portrait is merely a debased imitation of more truly valuable works of art down the hall -- all despite the number on the price tag and the stunning visual exhibition staring back at everyone. It's not a glamorous predicament, that's for sure. Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings will always be more fun to watch than to read about or hear about, so it becomes a losing battle at some point along the way.
So here I am, offering a humble promise to share in the enjoyment of right now while simultaneously holding serious reservations about the future of the franchise for all the reasons stated above. Just another confused fan of a confused franchise. Even so, the next few months are going to be very exciting. I know it.