Are the Warriors going to trade Monta Ellis? Nobody really knows for sure. It seems like dealing Ellis and Andris Biedrins and their large contracts may be a priority for the new owners, but there’s no concrete evidence they feel that way. ESPN ran with a reference from Tim Kawakami’s blog and made a big deal that the Warriors might be looking to deal Ellis and Biedrins and fire Don Nelson. I think the Worldwide Leader tried to make a sensational headline out of nothing. Here’s what Kawakami wrote:
Speaking of signals, Lacob made it all too obvious that he questions whether Don Nelson should coach the team this season, pointing out that Nelson is here for one more, tops. Why waste that year with Nelson as a lame duck? The players will know–and could run wild. The fans know it. The management know sit. Nelson knows it. Useless to bring him back, unless the approval process just takes too long. And even then, Lacob and Guber certainly aren’t prohibited from starting the search process now. I’ll go back to my active-owner point: If Lacob is decidedly less than 100% on-board the Nellie train now and is already saying he wants a younger coach at some point… then once Lacob takes over, I have to assume Nelson is gone. Why would Lacob sink all this money into the team and keep a coach he doesn’t want? Lacob sounded a lot more excited about Lee and Stephen Curry than he did about Monta Ellis and Andris Biedrins. Nothing wrong with that. I wouldn’t presume that these guys will definitely be traded. But it’s also something everybody in the league will be watching.
It certainly qualifies as interesting analysis from Kawakami. He himself said the preceding points were ideas he “gleaned” from Joe Lacob’s interview with KNBR. In other words, much of this was Kawakami’s interpretation of what Lacob said. It seems like ESPN jumped the gun a little bit putting a big picture of Monta Ellis on their NBA page with the headline, “Ellis Island: With next owners set to take over the Warriors, is Monta Ellis on the way out?” But, it sparks dialogue, so I won’t complain too much.
If the Warriors are going to trade him and actively shop him to other teams, here’s how I think the process should unfold.
Ellis is a player with a unique skill set and noticeable shortcomings (no pun intended) because of his size and position. There are some teams in the NBA that wouldn’t be interested in Ellis, despite his talent, because he doesn’t fit in their backcourt. The Warriors need to reach out to teams that have a big guard who can defend the two position. Because Ellis isn’t a point guard and isn’t effective when playing that position exclusively, whatever guard he’s paired with needs to be the kind of player who is comfortable (or even prefers) running the offense. Ellis can play the shooting guard position if paired with a big point guard who can guard shooting guards. He can play point guard if he’s lined up next to a big shooting guard who can run an offense. Send Ellis to a team without those prerequisites and the same problem will exist that plagues the Warriors: two guards in the backcourt, neither of whom can guard opposing two guards. Teams that already have two in-their-prime established starters at the guard positions probably won’t be interested in Ellis either. You don’t bring Ellis and his $11 million contract to your team unless you have a place for him to start.
With those requirements, we can deduce that the following teams would be good options for Ellis:
Atlanta Hawks: With Mike Bibby on his last legs, pairing Ellis in the backcourt with Joe Johnson, a big two guard who can direct the Hawks’ offense is a good fit.
Charlotte Bobcats: Neither D.J. Augustin or Shaun Livingston are established starters at point guard and Stephen Jackson plays shooting guard for the Bobcats. We know Jackson can run an offense and he’s definitely capable of defending his position.
L.A. Lakers: Makes a lot of sense. Derek Fisher is in the twilight of his career and Steve Blake is best as a backup. Kobe Bryant prefers to run this offense. Ellis would be a great sidekick and would get a lot of open looks playing next to Bryant. But can he play the triangle?
Miami Heat: Dwyane Wade. LeBron James. Good defenders who like to run the offense. Ellis might get lost on this team with so many options on offense, but the puzzle pieces fit.
Portland Trail Blazers: Right up there with the Lakers in terms of a perfect fit. Brandon Roy is a big shooting guard and he is at his best when he’s directing the offense. There’s the question of whether Ellis would thrive in Nate McMillan’s slow-down offense, but he’s a good fit next to Roy.
Sacramento Kings: We all know I like Stephen Curry more than Tyreke Evans, but Evans, with his size and ability to play point guard, is a much better fit with Ellis than Curry.
Now that we’ve determined the teams that would probably show the most interest in Ellis, it’s time to look at what the Warriors should look for in a trade for Ellis. Barring a fortunate swap that would net the Warriors an All-Star (not likely), the Warriors would be looking for young talent and expiring contracts for Ellis. The Warriors shouldn’t completely mortgage their future for a shot at free agency in 2011, but if they can make some smart moves involving either Ellis or Biedrins while retaining their core (Curry and Lee) and go into 2011 with a fair amount of cap space, it wouldn’t be a horrible thing. I don’t think it’s completely out of the realm of possibility that a year from now, the Warriors could be an attractive option to Carmelo Anthony, the jewel of the 2011 free agent class. That is, if a lockout doesn’t happen first.
So, using ESPN’s trade machine (these trades have to work financially) and keeping in mind that any trade idea needs to work for both teams (no horribly lopsided trades, please), fashion your best trade ideas involving the Warriors and any of the teams mentioned above. Post your ideas (with a trade machine link, preferably) in the comments field below. Later, I’ll post Part 2 with my best trade ideas involving all the teams listed above.