It seems increasingly likely that the first big name to change teams in the NBA's offseason trade carnival will be Monta Ellis. The Warriors have a new coach, newish owners and a new front-office sage in Jerry West. They're looking to drag the Dubs out of their four-years-and-counting lottery slump, and Ellis is the guy they're shopping around in hopes of an upgrade. A possible deal for the 76ers' Andre Iguodala has been discussed most prominently, but today the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Warriors have also had Ellis-related trade talks with the Los Angeles Lakers.
No solid details have emerged about what the Lakers would be giving up for Monta. Perhaps the discussions haven't advanced to that level. According to Eric Pincus of HoopWorld, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol are off limits. From this, Eric infers that an Ellis trade would have to involve Lamar Odom. That sounds right. But though I'm open to the idea of a major roster shake-up, Ellis strikes me as a poor fit.
To begin with, he plays the same position as Kobe Bryant. More to the point, he occupies the same role as Kobe Bryant, as a high-volume shooter who wants the ball in his hands much of the time. Among shooting guards, Kobe and Monta had two of the four highest usage rates in the league last season. We've seen experiments like this before. Some of them (LeBron James and Dwyane Wade) have worked out pretty well. Others (Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony) have not. In either case, it means big men see their roles in the offense wither away. You can live with that when your starting center is Joel Anthony. But when you're taking shots away from Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, while shipping out the Sixth Man of the Year for the privilege, the net gains from the transaction become harder to discern.
Defensively, Monta gets mixed reviews. He regularly ranks among the league leaders in steals, but his positional D can be sloppy. No doubt the Lakers could use his speed and quickness, and perhaps Mike Brown could remake him into a steadier defensive presence. Obviously it wouldn't take much to improve on Derek Fisher and Steve Blake. Ellis, though, doesn't represent a plug-in solution to the Lakers' inability to defend opposing point guards. He also isn't an amazing three-point shooter. He made an Artestian 36 percent of his long-balls last season, and even that mark was a good three points higher than his career average.
Ellis has three years left on his current deal at $11 million per. Odom is due to make $8.9 million this season, so for salaries to line up the Lakers would have to throw in a bauble or two. Blake, Matt Barnes, Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter are all possibilities.
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