Bucks vs. Warriors Preview: Monta Ellis And Ekpe Udoh Debut Against Familiar Foes

2011/2012 NBA Season

Gsw


Mil
18-22 (10-11 home)
vs.
19-24 (8-15 road)
March 16, 2012
Oracle Arena
9:30 PM
Radio: WTMJ AM 620 TV: FSN Wisconsin
Probable starters:
Nate Robinson PG Brandon Jennings
Klay Thompson SG Monta Ellis
Dorell Wright SF Carlos Delfino
David Lee PF Ersan Ilyasova
Andris Biedrins C Drew Gooden

(7th) 106.0 - OFFENSE - 104.4 (14th)
(25th) 107.2 - DEFENSE - 106.2 (23rd)
(9th) 92.3 - PACE - 92.7 (7th)


Linkage

Golden State of Mind / The City / Warriors World

Three days after completing their blockbuster trade, the Bucks and Warriors face off in Oakland with fresh faces in tow. After missing Wednesday's game while waiting for the trade to be finalized, Monta Ellis and Ekpe Udoh will be available to make their Buck debuts against their former team tonight, while the injured Andrew Bogut will have his introductory press conference earlier in the day. Stephen Curry is also expected to be out again with his own ankle issues.

Adjustment time. The biggest question in Milwaukee right now is obvious: how in the heck do Ellis and Brandon Jennings co-exist? Ellis' inability to mesh with Stephen Curry in Oakland was a primary driver of his departure, so pairing him with an even less efficient, higher usage player like Jennings wouldn't exactly seem like a long-term solution for the Bucks. I wish I could dig up some stats to say otherwise, but for now? Well, I got nothing. Let's just play the game and hope it works out.

Interestingly, the Bucks and Warriors aren't quite as different as you might think in terms of playing style, which will hopefully help Ellis adjust relatively quickly. While many might still paint the Bucks as a grind-it-out, defensive team, the reality is quite the opposite. The Bucks actually play at a faster pace and score the same amount of fast break points per game as the Warriors, and they also take a higher percentage of their shots early in the shot clock (38% vs. 36%). The Bucks' vastly improved offense hasn't quite caught up to the Warriors' in efficiency terms, but the real issue for the Bucks is that their defense is now nearly as bad as Golden State's.

Plus/minus. The Warriors' improved play with Monta Ellis on the bench has been fairly well documented, but it pales in comparison to the impact Ekpe Udoh has had on the stereotypically defenseless Warriors. Despite Udoh's horrible rebounding numbers and poor offensive efficiency, this season the Warriors were an incredible 17.1 pts/100 possessions better with Udoh in the game vs. on the bench--8.6 pts/100 better offensively and 8.4 pts/100 better defensively. In fact, only Blake Griffin has posted better net +/- numbers this season.

And if you read any of the trade reaction from Oakland over the past few days, then you know that most Warrior fans seemed rather crestfallen at having to give up Udoh as part of the package for Bogut. As Kevin Pelton from Basketball Prospectus put it, Udoh is looking more and more like a "no-stats all-star" in the mold of Shane Battier or Nick Collison (I'd add Luc Mbah a Moute to that list as well). Other than his strong shot-blocking, Udoh looks like a below-average player even by most advanced metrics, yet +/- and other really advanced stats paint a remarkably consistent story of a guy who just makes his team better in spite of his own lack of obvious productivity.

Drew Gooden. Almost a year after his first improbable triple-double against the Cavs, Drew Gooden did it again on Wednesday night, dishing out a career-high-tying 13 of the Bucks' 38 assists--the most in the NBA this season. Gooden has now cracked 5+ assists in four straight games, which is rather remarkable considering that (other than two other occasions this season) he only managed that feat twice in the prior three seasons (both last year).

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