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COHN: Trading Monta Ellis was shrewd move for Warriors


There has been disappointment about Andrew Bogut, and with good reason. He has been a presence on the Warriors in the sense of mostly being an absence. And now, in addition to his bum ankle, he has a bad back and he has a doctor's note for more absences. If he were a student, you'd call him a truant.

Bogut's status — call it non-status — raises a question. Did the Warriors blow it March 13 when they traded Monta Ellis for Bogut? Other players were involved, but Ellis and Bogut were the crux of the issue.

There's another way to phrase the question. Would you prefer the Warriors never had made that dramatic trade?

If you answered yes, if you prefer the Warriors did not make that trade, you need to look at the NBA standings where the Warriors, who finished third from the bottom in the Western Conference last season, are currently in sixth place. The Ellis-for-Bogut trade was a winner even though Bogut has missed a ton of games, even though, for a while, he was playing every other game — admittedly, a peculiar arrangement — even though he has a bulging disk which could keep him out a while.

How can this be? You trade your best player for essentially no player and it's still a good deal?

Let's start by saying life can be very strange. But something so vague won't satisfy you. How about this?

The Warriors benefited tremendously by getting rid of Monta Ellis. Understand, this is not a bash-Monta column. He was a hard-working, popular Warrior and he is a good player. But he was all wrong for the Warriors.

He and Stephen Curry did not play well together in the backcourt. They also did not defend well as a unit. Someone had to go. And Curry is the better player. That's obvious.

Before the Warriors traded Ellis, they were a few games under .500. That means they were Nowheresville. Ellis' heroic efforts elevated them to the Land of the Mediocre. After the Warriors traded Ellis, they lost 22 of 27 games, really tanked — although "tanked" is a loaded word — and entered the Land of the Miserable, and finished with an unspeakable 23-43 record.

The result? They moved up in the draft and were able to select Harrison Barnes. Call that a net plus.

If the Warriors still had Ellis, they could not have signed Jarrett Jack. They would have been paying too much for their backcourt, and the backcourt would have been crowded. Jack will be the Sixth Man of the Year in the NBA or the voters are absolutely crackers.

And Jack is a point guard, a very good point guard, something Ellis really isn't. Ellis is a 2 guard in a point guard's body, and that's not good. Having Jack and Klay Thompson sharing time in the backcourt is better than having Ellis in the backcourt. It's not even close.

Ellis never could defend against good shooting guards. How many times did you see Kobe Bryant diddle around for three quarters, then take Ellis apart in the fourth quarter for an easy Lakers' win? It wasn't Ellis' fault. He tried hard but he's a shrimp by NBA standards or, if you prefer, a giant prawn.

Without Ellis dribbling the ball — sometimes off his toe — and driving the hoop, more of the offense goes through David Lee and Carl Landry and Thompson and certainly through Curry. And that means the Warriors are more of a team without Ellis.

And there's this. Brandon Rush was supposed to be their sixth man. He was the backup shooting guard and small forward, and he's a tough defender, a tough guy who also can shoot. He injured his knee in the first game and is out the entire season. The Warriors are very much in contention without Rush. Somebody is doing something right.

So, we summarize. The Warriors would have been better off if they dumped Ellis for no player. I know what you're thinking. They sure dumped Ellis for no player because Bogut is No Player.

You've got a point there.

Except for this. The Warriors are a lock to qualify for the playoffs — the first time in six years — unless they utterly collapse. That is astonishing progress and the Warriors would not have done much better with a healthy Bogut. That is my assumption.

And that means the Warriors are in a strong position. Presumably, Bogut starts next season reasonably healthy and the Warriors meld him into the lineup and play a more center-oriented style and they do even better than this season.

Or Bogut becomes a permanent non-combatant and retires and maybe takes up ornithology or orthodontia, and the Warriors, already game-hardened by adjusting to his absence, are stronger than before. And they move on without him.

Win. Win.

For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at lowell.cohn@pressdemocrat.com.