Commentary

Monta Ellis' value unchanged by trade

Klay Thompson stands to benefit the most

Updated: March 14, 2012, 2:02 PM ET
By John Cregan | Special to ESPN.com

It's only one trade. It's didn't involve any teams you'll see playing come, say, mid-May. But for us in Fantasyland, it's a mini-almost-blockbuster.

Let's recap; the Bucks received Monta Ellis, Ekpe Udoh and Kwame Brown for Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson.

This involves a top-30 player (albeit one of my least favorite, most inefficient guards in Ellis), two other players with top-30 potential when ambulatory/psychologically balanced (Bogut/Jackson) and a high-upside big man with low-level Ibaka potential (no, not Brown).

The deal, which, by the way, I like for both teams in NBA terms, will have a ripple effect on the distribution of minutes in both teams' lineups, one of which I'm particularly excited about.

Let's start with the now-running-and-gunning Bucks.

Milwaukee Bucks

PG: Brandon Jennings/Beno Udrih
SG: Monta Ellis
SF: Carlos Delfino/Mike Dunleavy
PF: Ersan Ilyasova
C: Drew Gooden/Ekpe Udoh

A common misassumption about this swap is that Ellis is leaving a wide-open attack for a more grounded, defensive-minded system. But in actuality, the teams are nearly identical in terms of Pace (Milwaukee 95.5, Golden State 94.6) and points per game (Golden State 97.8, Golden State 96.6).

Milwaukee's biggest problem area in terms of reliable fantasy production -- shooting guard -- will be immediately filled by Ellis. But his addition is going to definitely dent his new teammates' fantasy value across the board.

The question here is which players will yield the most touches to Ellis. Because when we talk Monta Ellis, Usage Rate where we have to start. His Usage Rate is currently 30.6 percent, good for ninth in the NBA. With that volume, if Ellis were a more efficient player, he'd be a top-12 fantasy contributor. Instead, he's barely in the top 30.

At least Brandon Jennings gets a chance to defend himself; as the Bucks' starting PG, he is guaranteed the ball once per possession. I see Ellis staying around 21-22 ppg and his assists and 3s leveling in the 1.5 range, with a slight dip in assists (down to around 5.0 apg). Ironically, I anticipate Jennings almost mirroring Ellis' numbers, with fewer points (down to 18 ppg) and more assists (up to around 6.0 apg).

Poor Beno Udrih can't buy a break. He's always been a sneaky-good fantasy contributor, but just can't seem to find the right spot in the right rotation (imagine what he'd do as with the Lakers). The guess here is that Udrih and Carlos Delfino end up taking a major hit in value. They've both been inconsistent this season, so it's not a huge blow to owners in shallow-to-moderately deep leagues.

Obviously, Bogut's been out for some time, so this deal won't greatly affect Milwaukee's frontcourt rotation. Ersan Ilyasova will continue to be one of fantasy's most talked about pleasant surprises, and Drew Gooden will continue to be one of fantasy's least talked about pleasant surprises.

Both Ilyasova and Gooden's scoring will be dinged by Ellis, probably to the tune of 2-3 ppg. It's going to be open season from 18-22 feet, Bucks fans (though the "NBA Jam" implications could be absolutely monumental.)

The wrinkle up front is Udoh. A change of scenery could do him some good, as could backing up a solid vet like Gooden (I can't imagine Andris Biedrins was the most positive influence). As I've mentioned recently, Udoh's blocks rate suggests he could still turn some blocks battles if he gets 20 minutes a night. If Milwaukee fades, Udoh could get his chance down the stretch.

Golden State Warriors

PG: Stephen Curry/Nate Robinson
SG: Stephen Jackson/Klay Thompson/Brandon Rush
SF: Dorell Wright/Stephen Jackson/Brandon Rush
PF: David Lee
C: Andris Biedrins

So the shift away from Nellieball is nearly complete. No player (save for Baron Davis and one other guy I'll mention in about three paragraphs) benefited more from Nelson's fantasy-fantastic system than Ellis.

His departure is as much a symbolic move as it is a basketball move. For the past couple years, we've all pondered what Curry would do in an Ellis-less existence. But if you think you're about to find out, you'd be misinformed for one of two reasons.

Reason 1: There's a good chance Curry gets shut down. If you wonder if there were something mildly sinister about the Warriors trading their leading scorer for someone who might not play again this season and then shutting down their best young player, you'd be well informed. Why? Because the Warriors' Chris Mullin traded for Marcus Williams in 2008, that's why. It's a long story, but the Warriors' first-rounder goes to Utah unless it happens to be a top-seven pick.

Reason 2: Even if Curry returns, he might be running alongside an older, ornerier version of Ellis in Jackson. I'm guessing Jackson wakes up sometime in the next 2-3 days, realizes he doesn't play for Scott Skiles anymore, reaches down and discovers his hamstring has miraculously healed. He'll play. The question is, where does he go?

I've been publicly drooling at the prospect of Thompson inheriting Ellis' spot (I wrote on it just last week). He's trending up, and a whole bunch of scoring opportunities just became available. It behooves Warriors management to develop Thompson (averaging 2.5 3-pointers over his past four games), who could be a late-season difference-maker.

The hope here is that Jackson ends up siphoning minutes at the 3 from Dorell Wright and Brandon Rush. Wright's been perhaps this season's biggest fantasy disappointment. And while I've been hoping Rush would steal his job (blocks plus 3s plus SG eligibility!), the logical move would be to let Jackson get 30-32 mpg mostly at small forward.

Now, if Curry is shut down? Nate Robinson becomes an immediate, drop-everything, Tivo-the-tourney pickup in medium-to-deep leagues. Don't believe me? Look at Robinson's game log from Jan. 10-18, when he was averaging over 30 minutes a night: 16.5 ppg, 5.9 apg, 1.8 spg, and 2.0 3-pointers per game, with a digestible turnover rate to boot.

Either way, I think Thompson holds down the starting shooting guard job and begins posting 14 points and two 3-pointers a night. Jackson should come back soon and do about the same, while chipping in 3-4 assists and 1.5 steals. David Lee should see a slight uptick in his scoring just due to Ellis' absence.

The final, numbing afterthought is that Andris Biedrins just reassumed a temporary stranglehold on the Warriors' center spot, because barring a miracle, Bogut's not coming back.

There was a point when Biedrins was one of the NBA's most promising big men. Then he became paralyzed at the prospect of shooting a free throw to the point that he became afraid to touch the ball on offense.

It's difficult to fathom that in 2007-08 he shot .626 from the field and .620 from the line, and both were career bests. It's easy to take shots at Biedrins. But I for one remember when he was so much fun to watch, and am pulling for him to put it back together.

John Cregan

Fantasy Basketball
John Cregan is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.

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