Asking the Warriors to trade their top scorer in order to establish a strategic vision for the future of the team without posing some suggestions for what to actually trade him for would be a little like writing about foreign policy for Newsweek. So I asked my friend Brian Bottari, the Cézanne of tradecrafting, to propose a few possible directions for the team.
N.B.: Links to the trades are the involved teams in bold
By Brian Bottari
Disclaimer: As a 49er fan/Laker fan/new father I have watched approximately 90 minutes of NBA basketball this year. At first, I blamed this fact on the 49er fan/new father traits. In actuality, it is the Laker fan in me who is putting the kibosh on my NBA enjoyment.
No, it isn’t because they suck this year. They’ve played slow, unentertaining basketball for practically the entire Kobe 3.0 era. And they’ve had more than enough success to allow them a good decade or so of mediocrity. The fact is I’m still furious about the Chris Paul hijacking. Since the games started every NBA fan has completely forgotten about this travesty, probably because it is the Lakers (who cares if the Evil Empire gets dicked, right?). I didn’t even like the trade for the Lake Show, but I just cannot shake my feelings that the Association is completely illegitimate now. As much as I love what is going on this year (especially in Minnesota), it’s like watching the WWE in the glory days of my youth. The Rock and Stone Cold are fun, but I can’t summon anything more than detached bemusement when I watch.
That said, I’ll never resist an opportunity to mess with the trade machine. Here are some Monta deals that likely make no sense at all but sure are fun to talk about:
Makes the team better/ About the same
PRO: Makes them better immediately. Love the Beans to Camby upgrade. Long term is more of a question but it unloads Beans’ deal.
CON: This may cost them their draft pick this year (top 7 protected) if Camby has enough left in the tank. Creates a Felton/Steph problem in the backcourt.
MMW Take: I love this trade for a number of reasons. First, it makes the Blazers an incredibly fun team, conceptually. They’d have no true point guard, but a plethora of fast, long, athletic players that could press and trap on the wings, much as the Memphis Grizzlies did so effectively in last year’s playoffs. That said, I don’t know if the Blazers would be willing to piss off LaMarcus Aldridge by making this trade. He’s already been lamenting the loss of Andre Miller and the stream of easy lobs he got in years past. For the Warriors, this is a no-brainer. They clear an extra $20 million in cap space leaving them with just $26 million in guaranteed salaries for next year. That means they would have room to add two max contracts. Even in an iffy year for free agency, that much room, wisely spent, could transform the Warriors while they retain Steph and David Lee.
PRO: This one has been discussed ad nauseum. Still think it makes sense for both teams basketball-wise.
CON: A cap-crippler. Would doom the Dubs to their patented mediocrity for the foreseeable future. To take on $60M over 4 for Gay he’d better be the last piece you need. He isn’t.
MMW Take: I would be much more eager to acquire Rudy Gay before he got hurt last season. Gay began last season playing much better defense and sharing the ball more on offense. He’s regressed somewhat on the offensive end, relying again on his stepback isolation jumpshot instead of getting to the basket and racking up free throw attempts. Still, this deal makes a lot of sense from a roster balance prospective. Klay Thompson, after looking like a lost boy (and not Rufio) in the first quarter of the season, was extremely impressive in the past two weeks. In fact, he’s the best shooter in the league this year when he doesn’t have to take a dribble, according to Synergy Sports. If Klay/Dorrell/Brandon Rush can team with Gay on the wings, and Steph could stay healthy enough to run the point, it seems possible that core could develop in a positive direction. Again, this does nothing to address the fundamental problems of the Warriors (like getting outrebounded by 20 against the hapless Anaheim Kings), but it would be a step in creating an NBA roster instead on an NBA sideshow.
PRO: Nash makes Portland a title contender- goes home (ish) to the Pac Northwest; GSW gets a nice expiring deal/trade chip in Felton and a great backcourt mate for Curry; Sarver gets some talent to keep butts in the seats.
CON: Nash would have to demand the trade, because Sarver won’t blink.
MMW Take: Now we’re talking. This trade seems to benefit everyone. First, the Warriors add a perfect compliment to Steph (and by all accounts one of the best people in the league) in Wesley Matthews. Matthews is having an off-shooting season, but is an extremely efficient offensive player and a hardnosed defender. According to 82games.com, Matthews is holding opposing 2s to an abysmal 11.1 PER. They also clear enough cap room to offer a max free agent contract this offseason, and might be bad enough to retain their draft pick from Utah. Most importantly, this trade gives the Warriors a clear set of assets and a way to maximize the value of those assets. Portland would be a clear favorite to take on Oklahoma City in the West, and Phoenix would have a scorer to build around as they bottom out. I’d feel bad for Monta since he would be playing for one of the worst teams in the league, but I’d get over it.
Makes the team worse
PRO: Major salary dump with promising young SG in return in George. Makes team worse in the short term to hold on to 2012 1st rounder. Celts get to begin the rebuilding process with the most entertaining backcourt in the league. Ray Allen was born to shoot J’s in a barn in Indiana. Indiana gets to take a shot.
CON: I love everything about this one. Indiana probably says no, right.
MMW Take: While I love the idea of Ray Allen increasing his lead over Reggie Miller in career 3-point makes in a Pacer uniform, there’s no way this trade is happening. Indiana is one of the best-positioned teams in the league for the next three years, and their problem is the lack of ball movement in their offense, not the lack of shooting. Also, Paul George will be a star in three years, and the Pacers, unfortunately, know this. If the 2011 draft were to take place today, George would be taken, at worst, 3rd behind John Wall and Greg Monroe (and 135 places before Ekpe Udoh). Replace Paul George with George Hill, and the Pacers might think twice about this deal. However, the Celtics seem to be back on track with Paul Pierce leading the charge back to relevancy, so I don’t see the Celts breaking things up before this offseason.
(1st Rd pick from DEN to GSW)
PRO: Indiana gets the PG they need; Monta would be FUN in Denver; GSW gets a great young 2.
CON: Indiana may not want to part with Hill – substitute Paul George and it’s still a good deal for GSW.
MMW Take: I love this deal, and I think it’s got a fair chance of happening. Ty Lawson has been hurt pretty often this season, and Monta fits exactly what the Nuggets are trying to do. George Karl is on record as a Monta Ellis fan. The Pacers have been on a hunt for a true point guard, and Miller somehow manages to keep steadily performing despite an offseason regimen centered around, well… not picking up a basketball. The Pacers would likely advance past the first round of the playoffs and have the most money to spend in free agency this offseason. In fact, the only thing that would give me pause as the Warriors is the concern that any free agent I pursued (see Gordon, Eric) would be more likely to jump to Indianapolis than Oakland. Then again, have you been to Indianapolis?
PRO: Major fire sale. Gets rid of atrocious Lee deal and allows team to bottom out if KG lets it happen. Same as above for Celts.
CON: KG goes on killing spree around Bay Area and writes “UBUNTU” in the blood of virgins all over the walls of SF MOMA.
MMW Take: For the safety of children throughout the Bay Area, let’s hope this doesn’t happen.