After noticing that Hasheem Thabeet has shown considerable progress in summer league this past week, I decided to revisit the much-debated O.J. Mayo/Thabeet for Monta Ellis trade rumor:
Reports surfaced last season that the Warriors turned down a trade offer from the Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies, interested in Ellis, offered packages involving Mayo (a shooting guard) and Thabeet (a center). Though the Warriors turned down the offer, reports indicated that this wasn’t the first time the Grizzlies had pursued Ellis and that this trade might still be available at a later date (like now).
The reaction to the trade was mixed from Warriors fans.
Some fans, tired of Ellis’ attitude, lack of defense and selfish, inefficient offensive game, welcomed the trade. Mayo, a bigger shooting guard who was a better defender and a more efficient scorer than Ellis, seemed to be a better fit next to Warriors point guard Stephen Curry. Thabeet was a promising prospect, a 7-foot-3, 267-pound athletic, shot-blocking center who was the second overall pick in the 2009 draft, struggled his rookie season, but still possessed a lot of potential.
Other fans, who loved Ellis’ fearless drives to the basket, consistent midrange jumper and elite scoring ability thought trading him would be a mistake that would haunt the Warriors for years. They railed against Mayo, lamenting his lack of elite ability at any skill. They were most harsh in their judgment of Thabeet, calling him a bust, a stiff and all manner of other adjectives. Looking back on the dormant trade offer now, how does it look?
Let’s look at the players’ per-game stats from the 2009-10 season:
MONTA ELLIS (24 years old, 4 guaranteed years remaining on deal at $44 million): 64 games, 41.4 minutes, 25.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 2.2 steals, 3.8 turnovers, FG (22.0 attempts per game, .449), 3P (3.6 attempts per game, .338), FT (6.1 attempts per game, .753)
O.J. MAYO (22 years old, 1 guaranteed year remaining on deal at $4.5 million w/ 2 non-guaranteed option years at a total of $12.9 million): 82 games, 38.0 minutes, 17.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.2 steals, 2.2 turnovers, FG (14.4 attempts per game, .458), 3P (4.3 attempts per game, .383), FT (3.2 attempts per game, .809)
HASHEEM THABEET (23 years old, 1 guaranteed year remaining on deal at $4.8 million w/ 3 non-guaranteed option years at a total of $19.9 million): 68 games, 13.0 minutes, 3.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, 0.2 assists, 0.2 steals, 1.3 blocks, 0.6 turnovers, FG (1.9 attempts per game, .588), 3P (N/A), FT (1.4 attempts per game, .581)
Summer-league addendum: ESPN’s David Thorpe, a former coach and scout, is covering summer league in Las Vegas and wrote that “Thabeet has made serious progress,” indicating that he is much more composed than he was as a rookie. In four games, Thabeet has averaged 32.5 minutes for the Grizzlies’ summer league team and is averaging 12.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game. His rebounding and blocks are no surprise; he’d excel at that in the NBA too if given the minutes. On offense, he’s done most of his work at the free-throw line, making 22 of 31 attempts. He’s only taking 6.5 shots from the field per game (and shooting 53.8 percent). I know that it’s summer league, but the fact that he’s been a pretty dominating post presence is progress. For comparison, Thabeet averaged 8.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 0.8 blocks in 25 minutes per game as a rookie during summer league last season.
Analysis: Looking back at this trade, I still don’t know why the Warriors turned this down. Mayo is not as good as Ellis, but he’s close. Consider this: If Mayo took as many shots as Ellis, he would average 26.6 points per game. He doesn’t take as many shots as Ellis and never will, which is a good thing. Mayo isn’t a lockdown defender, but he is a better defender than Ellis, primarily because he has the size (he’s only 6-4 but at 210 pounds, he’s strong and thick) to defend shooting guards that Ellis lacks. He’s a better shooter, from the field and the 3-point line, than Ellis. He doesn’t turn the ball over as much as Ellis. Again, I think Ellis is a better player, but it’s close and I think Mayo is a better fit with Curry than Ellis.
Taking into consideration the potential of a player like Thabeet and the progress he’s showing this summer, this trade looks even more favorable for the Warriors. Another plus for the Warriors is that both Mayo and Thabeet are still on their rookie contracts for the next three to four seasons. Neither of them will make close to what Ellis is making until those contracts expire and both players are only guaranteed for the next season. If it doesn’t work out, the Warriors could cut them loose and use the cap space to go after a big-time free agent in 2011 (maybe Carmelo Anthony).
This trade seems so lopsided in favor of the Warriors that I wonder if it would even still be on the table. If I was Chris Wallace (GM of the Grizzlies), I wouldn’t give up Mayo and Thabeet for Ellis. I also don’t know what the new owners of the Warriors think about Ellis. It will be interesting to see what decisions they make concerning their star shooting guard.
What do you think? If this deal was still available, would you be against it or in favor? Have your thoughts on it changed in the last few months?