Stephen Curry became a superstar only after the Warriors traded Monta Ellis.
Maybe it would’ve happened anyway for Curry in Golden State. He’s the greatest shooter of all time, and it seems unlikely a teammate who was never even an All-Star was going to stand in his way.
But Curry and Ellis were both score-first guards who appeared to step on each other’s toes. And we know only what happened in reality: Golden State traded Ellis to the Bucks for Andrew Bogut in 2012, and Curry took off.
The Warriors might not have made it easy on themselves to elevate Curry over Ellis.
Milwaukee – according to owner Marc Lasry, who hadn’t yet bought the team and might not be a reliable source – said the Bucks rejected a trade for Curry before settling on Ellis. Golden State also previously had internal issues dealing Ellis.
Former Warriors executive Travis Schlenk, who’s now Hawks general manager, on The Woj Pod, as transcribed by Drew Shiller of NBC Sports Bay Area:
“One moment (that) really changed the course of everything — there was a trade that we wanted to do. And we were sitting down with the owner at that time, Chris Cohan. And we said we think we should do this trade — we’re getting back two guys, it frees up our cap, it’s gonna allow the growth of Steph. And Chris said, ‘We can’t do that trade. Player X is the most popular player we have, and season-ticket renewals (are) around the corner.’
“And I was just like, you gotta be kidding me. We are gonna make this decision based on who our fans think should be on our team, not the guys that you’ve hired to put together the team?”
At this point, Woj interjects and says, ‘This was the Bucks, right?”
“No, this wasn’t the Bucks,” Schlenk answered. “I don’t want to name the players. So, we didn’t do the trade. And then later on we were able to do a trade with that player that brought us Andrew Bogut. And that was obviously a big piece of the championship puzzle.
Cohan sold the Warriors the summer after Curry’s rookie season. So, there was a narrow window in which this could have happened. Golden State didn’t trade Ellis until a couple years later.
Would Curry have progressed faster with this trade? Would this trade still have netted someone as helpful to the Warriors as Bogut?
There are plenty of intriguing “what ifs” here.
Ultimately, it worked out well for the Warriors. Curry still developed into a dynasty-leading superstar with Bogut playing a supporting role for one title.