This is No. 4 on Golden Gate Sports’ list of the Top 10 Bay Area Sports Stories of 2012. For a quick reminder, please read No. 5.
You can’t look back on the Golden State Warriors’ previous season without thinking about the deal that shipped away their star player, Monta Ellis.
The Warriors traded Monta Ellis, Ekpe Udoh, and Kwame Brown to the Milwaukee Bucks for Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson. Golden State then shipped off Jackson to San Antonio for Richard Jefferson and a first-round pick, which ended up being Festus Ezeli.
Warriors fans were in shock, to say the least. Many fans criticized the trade and blasted the front office for pulling the trigger on such a deal, as Bogut was still recovering from a bad foot injury and was questionable to even play at all during the year. Owner Joe Lacob was even booed during a game by the home fans. That game just happended to be Chris Mullin’s jersey retirment night. Nonetheless it was a huge sign of a disrespect, but voiced the feeling around the situation.
But through it all, I always believed that it was a terrific trade for the Warriors. Sure, Ellis would put up twenty points a game and dish out about six assists, but his need for the ball and lack of defense were a critical part to the franchise’s failure. It wasn’t until Monta’s last few years with the Warriors that he started to become more of a willing passer instead of wild shot-taker.
Ellis was clutch, he was a scorer, and he was loved. But the Warriors had one key player in their line-up that wasn’t really playing up to his potential. And that guy was Stephen Curry, who is now thriving without his ex-running mate.
Curry came into the league and was impressed from the get-go, as he averaged 17.5 PPG and 5.9 APG during his rookie campaign. He finished second in Rookie of the Year voting, trailing only Tyreke Evans for the coveted honor.
But just by watching Curry play with Ellis, you could always tell that he was being held back. Curry is a point guard, but he is a scoring point guard. He is one of the best pire shooters in the league and his range is seemingly unlimited with a quick release.
Ellis was a marvelous scorer, and he could always find a way to the rim. However, he would often settle for jumpers or make bonehead plays that would cost the team big games. Oh yeah, and don’t forget about his 50-game suspension he received a few seasons ago for saying he hurt himself playing basketball, but later admitted to getting in a moped crash (moped, really?).
Watching Curry and Ellis play together at times was a beautiful sight, but most of the time it just didn’t look like a well-oiled combination. Everyone knew that the tandem wouldn’t last, and one of them had to go. And I applaud the Warriors for sticking with Curry and shipping off Ellis.
Without Ellis, Curry has been able to dominate. He is averaging a career-high 20.3 PPG and has lead his team to a 19-10 record thus far in the season, which is good for the fifth seed in the loaded Western conference. He’s getting to the line at a respectable rate, and he is shooting free throws better than 89 percent. Curry is also dishing out a career-high 6.4 assists.
My point is, without Ellis hogging the ball, Curry is able to be himself on the court. He can takeover in crunch time when the Warriors call his number, and he can also run the offense and push the tempo to his liking. He’s been nothing but productive this season and the Warriors are slowly but surely forgetting about Ellis. Curry is the face of the franchise and you’d have to be a fool to deny it at this point.
So with Monta gone and Curry playing out of his mind, what about Andrew Bogut? You know, the guy they acquired for Ellis?
Well, Andrew Bogut has only played four games as a Golden State Warrior, and they all came this season before the team announced that he will be out indefinitely to repair his foot that has been nagging him for quite some time.
But the amazing thing is, the Warriors have been playing terrific basketball without him. Golden State currently ranks third in the NBA in overall rebounding and that is without their seven-foot All-Star center.
How can this be?
Well, it’s simply because of guys stepping up and collaborating to rebound as best as possible. David Lee is averaging just over 11 rebounds per game, while first-year Warrior Carl Landry is grabbing just about seven RPG. Rookies Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli are also holding their own on the boards. It’s just a total team effort and the transformation has been amazing to watch.
With how well the Warriors are playing without Bogut, it makes every fan wonder, how will the Warriors adjust when Bogut returns?
I believe that the Warriors will become the best rebounding team in the league and finally be able to show off their true talent and potential. Bogut will finally fill the void in the middle for Golden State and their defense will thrive with a veteran big man manning down the painted area. Ezeli and Biedrins are playing well, but once Bogut is back, the position will be a huge upgrade, and will also even deeper their already strong depth.
The trade made last March was a stunning one, but ultimately, it was one that has thus far benefitted the Warriors greatly, whether you agree or not.
Stay tuned as we continue our countdown on December 28th with No. 3 on our Top 10 Bay Area Sports Stories of 2012.