“Can two small guards form a successful NBA backcourt?”
“Who will have the ball coming up the court?”
“Will there be enough shots to go around?”
Since the drafting of Stephen Curry the entire basketball world has been asking themselves these questions — or at least similar ones — when talking about the backcourt that formerly graced Oracle Arena. The backcourt of Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis was the hottest topic in Bay Area basketball — for better or worse — for the last three seasons.
Both small, gifted guards the former teammates had unique skills that intrigued many.
Curry had the handles, shot and star power. Ellis had the flash, game winners and heart.
The NBA is filled with talented players, but it takes a perfect combination of talent to form a championship level harmony. And while the combination of Curry and Ellis formed a talented combo, that particular harmony between the two was severely lacking.
Even Ellis didn’t believe they could co-exist. Shortly after the drafting of Curry, Ellis didn’t shy away from sharing his thoughts on the new tandem:
“Us together? No, can’t. We just can’t. … just can’t…you can’t put two small guys out there and play the one and the two. You’ve got big two-guards in the league. You just can’t do it. Yes, you’re going to move up and down but eventually the game is going to slow down. You can’t do it.”
So what took so long? It became abundantly clear early that Ellis either didn’t like the drafting of Curry. It seemed the front office, media and fans alike were having their own internal struggle a la Twilight: were you Team Curry or Team Ellis?
Regardless of which team you were on, it became apparent that at least one of the two guards would have to go.
Years of trade rumors, injuries, great victories, befuddling losses and discontent ultimately led to a failed experiment.
It was a matter of when — not if — this once hopeful tandem would end in divorce.
This week, management finally made their choice and decided to ship the former Lanier High School star (along with Ekpe Udoh) to the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for Andrew Bogut.
The great debate is over: this would be Stephen Curry’s team. While many fans lay in disgust over the departure of Ellis, it was a move that had to be made now.
With every 360 layup came a crucial turnover. With every made jumper came a stalwart possession. With every game winner came a 8/22 shooting night. No one questioned Ellis’ heart or offensive skills, it was his connection with the other guard that lie the problem.
And while the trading of Ellis had become a real possibility for some time, when the deal did in fact happen this week the response was welcomed with universal shock. The shock came not from the move itself but rather the harsh realization that Ellis is no longer a Warrior. Loved him, hated him or somewhere in between, he was gone.
Stephen Curry is now the face of the franchise. While many crowned him the face of the franchise immediately after his selection, the shadow of Ellis has now officially left the building. With a healthy ankle, an improved Klay Thompson, an established center, a better-than-average bench and at least three picks in this coming draft the Warriors are primed for a real playoff push next season.
Still, the Warriors will only go as far as Curry — and his ankles — take them. In two games since Ellis has departed the ball movement has been exponentially better: nice rotations, sharp cuts and a beautiful offensive flow has been evident. Does this have more to do with Ellis’ ball stopping isolation’s being gone or merely a better team effort? Regardless, with a healthy Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut the possibilities are salivating.
The Warriors will have actually assembled a formidable NBA roster come opening night next season. Assuming all goes well — a big but healthy assumption — the lineup next season will consist of Curry, Thompson, Wright, Lee and Bogut. While that doesn’t spell championship it does spell playoffs, which is a some recovery after the convoluted mess the franchise has been in since the We Believe fallout.
Let it be known: this is a franchise renewed. The Warriors could have easily let the trade deadline pass with their two small guards on roster, forcing Curry back early from injury and pronounce that the playoffs were indeed close. Credit to management for finally realizing what most have known for awhile: that this isn’t a free agent destination, two small guards could not succeed as the team was then constructed and that in order to better the future, the now must be sacrificed.