How the Monta Ellis trade affects your fantasy team
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
We all feel its presence. Thursday's trade deadline is looming ominously over the NBA like a dark cloud.
It's a confusing time for many NBA teams. What is Dwight Howard's future? Will the Boston Celtics' "Big Four" break up? Will Josh Smith, Pau Gasol or Deron Williams be on the move? There is plenty of uncertainty surrounding the league right now.
One major trade is already in the books. Tuesday, the Milwaukee Bucks swapped hobbled center Andrew Bogut and temperamental swingman Stephen Jackson for Golden State Warriors guard Monta Ellis, forward Ekpe Udoh and journeyman Kwame Brown. While the Milwaukee-Golden State deal certainly isn't as earth- shattering as a Howard trade would be, there's still plenty to discuss here.
Let's put on our fantasy caps and evaluate for a second. Ellis has been a steady producer in fantasy hoops for nearly half a decade now. He has always put up prodigious point totals for the Warriors (24.1 ppg the last three seasons) and his assist totals (six per game in 2011-2012) are passable (seriously, no pun intended there).
But that was with the Warriors, where Ellis was always the unquestioned leader of Golden State's offense. Even when Stephen Curry was healthy, he knew he was second banana to Ellis, the Robin to Ellis's Batman.
Now Ellis enters a situation where, for the first time in his career, his go- to status may be in question. He'll share the backcourt with Brandon Jennings, another capable scorer who is used to having the ball in his hands most of the time.
It's an interesting dilemma. Jennings may be listed as a "point guard" and Ellis as a "shooting guard," but they are remarkably similar players. They both shoot a ton.
Ellis has been near the top of the league in shots per game for several years. Only Kobe Bryant (23.9) and Kevin Durant (19.6) have chucked up more shots per game than the free-shooting Ellis (19-field goal attempts per game). Jennings isn't far behind: his 17.1 shots per game are 12th most in the NBA this season.
So who ends up playing second fiddle? Maybe nobody, but my guess is Jennings. Even though Ellis is the "new guy," Ellis (age 26) has more experience than Jennings (22). Ellis has had to play alongside another shoot-first point guard in Curry these past few seasons, so teaming up with another free- shooter in Jennings wouldn't be a big adjustment for him.
Jackson, Shaun Livingston and Mike Dunleavy have never played enough minutes at shooting guard (not to mention that all three are injury-prone) for that to be the case in Milwaukee. So it seems like Jennings will be the one making the bigger adjustment.
While I'd expect Jennings's scoring average to drop to around the 16- to 17- ppg range, I think Ellis's points per game totals might actually improve.
Think about it. There hasn't been much to play for in Golden State this season. Meanwhile, the Bucks are in a battle with the Knicks for the East's final playoff spot. Being in a playoff race should rejuvenate Ellis, who hasn't even sniffed the playoffs since his second year in the league.
Ellis will probably be a little conservative the first few times he's on the court with Jennings, but after that, I think he has a chance to be fantasy gold the rest of the way.
The same cannot be said of the rest of the Bucks roster. With Jennings and Ellis in tow, the ball may never leave Milwaukee's backcourt. Dunleavy, Drew Gooden and Carlos Delfino will be doing a lot more watching than scoring with Ellis around. So if Delfino, Dunleavy or Gooden are on your team, plan accordingly.
It's hard to figure out how the other pieces in this trade, Udoh and Brown, will factor into Milwaukee's game plan.
Udoh doesn't have much fantasy value aside from blocked shots (1.7 per game) and Ersan Ilyasova, who is having a very good season for the Bucks (12.2 ppg and a team-leading 8.7 rpg), should continue to get most of the minutes at power forward. So Udoh is a non-factor.
We can hold off on any predictions about Brown until he's healthy (which is usually never). He's been out since mid-January with a chest injury.
Brown isn't the only hobbled player who switched cities Tuesday. Bogut and Jackson are injured as well.
Jackson is still being listed as day-to-day (even though he's been out for nearly a month) with a hamstring injury. Here, through process of elimination (Curry's bad ankle, Jackson's hamstring and Ellis's departure), Nate Robinson has suddenly become relevant in fantasy again.
Little Nate is incredibly streaky, but, remember, he's only a few seasons removed from his 2008-09 campaign when he was scoring 17 points a game coming off New York's bench. Youngster Klay Thompson (12.3 ppg this month) also has upside in Ellis's absence.
With Golden State out of the playoff race, coach Mark Jackson probably won't push for Curry or Jackson to rush back from their injuries. So for now, Robinson and Thompson are safe plays.
The final piece in the puzzle, Bogut, likely won't be of fantasy significance again until next season. When Bogut's broken ankle heals, he will almost certainly replace Andris Biedrins (who is little more than a fill-in) as the team's starting center.
But it's tough to judge Bogut until we have a better idea about his health. Remember the seven-footer has a long history of injuries (he's missed 126 games to injury during his seven-year career). For now, David Lee is still the only Warriors big man worth owning in fantasy.
It's amazing the kind of domino effect one trade can have on a whole team's fantasy value.
Who will be the next domino to fall before the trade deadline?
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