Time to deal Monta Ellis

Ball hog isn't long for Milwaukee, so trade him now

Updated: December 21, 2012, 2:34 PM ET
By Joe Kaiser | ESPN Insider
Monta Ellis, Brandon JenningsRocky Widner/NBAE/Getty ImagesThe Bucks to need to keep Brandon Jennings, but they should trade Monta Ellis.

It doesn't take a long look back in the history books to find the last time the Milwaukee Bucks made a big, bold move to change the face of the franchise.

That's precisely what they did last season when they shipped Andrew Bogut to Golden State along with Stephen Jackson for Monta Ellis, Ekpe Udoh and the expiring contract of Kwame Brown.

It couldn't have been an easy decision. In Bogut, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2005 NBA draft, the Bucks had a strong defender, a skillful team-oriented offensive player and a guy regarded as one of the game's top players at a premium position -- center. These types don't come around very often, and when they do, they're usually not on your team.

But Bogut was also one of the game's most injury-prone players, and to the Bucks' credit, they realized this, acted fast and made the move they felt they needed to make, getting one of the game's most explosive young scorers (Ellis) back in return.

If only it were that simple.

Fast-forward nine months to today, and it's become increasingly clear that the Bucks aren't much better off. Yes, Bogut has played only four games for the Warriors as he works his way back from offseason microfracture surgery, and the trade did effectively move Jackson and the $10 million-plus owed to him this season. But as far as building around Ellis and Brandon Jennings to turn the Bucks into a true contender in 2012-13 or anytime in the near future? Not a chance.

With Ellis and Jennings both very likely in the final year of their current deals (Ellis is expected to turn down his $11 million player option for 2013-14 and become an unrestricted free agent, and Jennings will be a restricted free agent as long as he declines the qualifying offer he'll presumably get), the Bucks are faced with two real options going forward:

1. Make another big, bold move -- even if it means taking a temporary step backward -- to try to upgrade in a way that pushes them closer to the title contenders of the league like the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs.

2. Ride it out, play it safe, and try to sign both Jennings and Ellis to long-term deals, building the team around the undersize, exciting backcourt tandem.

Here's what we think they should do.


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Joe Kaiser

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