That’s the immediate question afflicting the minds of sportswriters and fans alike after any notable trade. It’s natural to want answers, especially ones that set expectations for a team’s altered future. But reality moves at a deliberate pace, and trades don’t answer immediately burning questions. At least until they’ve scabbed over a bit.
The same can be said of the Milwaukee Bucks’ 24 hours-old acquisition of the Monta Ellis, Ekpe Udoh, and Kwame Brown from the Golden State Warriors in exchange for ex-franchise cornerstone Andrew Bogut and malignant tumor Stephen Jackson.
We can’t judge this trade with complete certainty for at least two years, but we can draw some conclusions about what the Milwaukee Bucks might look like with their newest players:
Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings will be inefficient
If a Monta Ellis-Stephen Curry backcourt didn’t work in Golden State, why would an Ellis-Brandon Jennings pairing fair much better?
Jennings and Ellis are a monolithic homage to scoring inefficiency, combining to average 40.7 points on 36 shots. Ellis’ offense mostly revolves around isolation plays (22.6%) and pick and rolls (28.3% as a ball handler), and in both situations, he mustered just .73 points per possession (according to Synergy Sports). Likewise, Jennings’ offense is heavily reliant on pick and rolls (29.2%, .83 PPP) and isolation (15%, .7 PPP).
Believe it or not, the Bucks’ offense runs a respectable amount of pick and rolls (10.5%) and isolation plays (10.4%), both to underwhelming success (.77 PPP, .75 PPP, respectively). However, there is a qualifier that could remedy these impending issues.
Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings will be exciting
Ellis likes to run (1.22 PPP in transition). Jennings likes to run (1.06 PPP in transition). People like watching offensive-minded basketball. Win or lose, the Bucks will do it in an exciting fashion as long as Ellis and Jennings are sharing the floor.
Ellis is also prone to drive and kick the ball out to a teammate for an easy spot up, and has done so with some consistency this year (career high 6 assists per game). Jennings is good as a spot up shooter (1.05 PPP, 37.6% 3FG), and as a team, the Bucks take those jumpers (20.8% of total shots, .96 PPP) and assists (6th in assist rate) very seriously.
Opposing backcourts are licking their chops
Ellis and Jennings have a combined wing span that would make a Tyrannosaurus laugh. Ellis is also the bigger of the two, measuring out at 6’3”, and his defensive shortcomings are well documented. This increases pressure on the hobbled Luc Mbah a Moute and Bucks front court to provide consistent help for two undersized guards that notoriously gamble on steals.
Ekpe Udoh could be a steal
The Bucks were asking for young talent in return for Andrew Bogut. Despite his age (24), Udoh fits that mold, and the more I read about him, the more I’m buying in. Udoh is a solid bodyguard around the rim (1.71 blocks in just 21.9 minutes per game), a lengthy defender (allows just .83 PPP), and uses his athleticism well out of a pick and roll (1.23 PPP).
Udoh is also used to playing an amorphous front court role. According to 82games.com, he’s spent most of his time playing center (37% of Golden State’s total minutes). Udoh’s offensive game is at a near-Larry Sanders level of unreliable, and his rebounding makes Brook Lopez look like Dennis Rodman. However, a few more steps in development could turn Udoh into the most valuable piece of this trade.
Ekpe Udoh is a +/- machine
The +/- stat can be dubious at times (Keyon Dooling was the Bucks’ leader in this category a year ago). However, Udoh’s +/- stats are insane enough for your attention, as the Warriors were +149 this season with him on the floor, and -215 without him.
A quick scroll through John Schuhmann’s Twitter timeline offers some more interesting nuggets about Udoh’s influence on the Warriors, including an answer to the question, “How does he counterbalance the +/- black hole of Monta Ellis?”
Scott Skiles is as good as gone, likely to tear out his remaining three hairs
What does it say about a coach’s future employment when his current team ships out the transmission that allows his vehicle to function at maximum capacity? Adding Udoh to the mix upgrades the Bucks’ defense, but Skiles is ultimately stuck playing two undersized, defensively-challenged guards for 35+ minutes each game.
John Hammond is not done making moves
The Bucks just jettisoned a franchise cornerstone in exchange for money savings, potential and pure scoring. It’s only logical to assume every other player is on the table to some degree, and Hammond would be wise to pick up his phone when it starts ringing.