The Monta Card
In the wake of losing out on Chris Paul and “winning” Kwame Brown: What can be done to improve a retread roster? NBA teams either become contenders through sweeping vets-for-youth trades (KG for Al Jefferson), or incrementally via lottery success (OKC). Neither path is available to GSW right now. Amundson-for-Rush is the kind of deal that happens in mediocrity’s vacuum–whether it improves or hurts GSW hardly matters because they’re so far from contention, and so far from a No. 1 pick.
The Warriors will soon touch the cap like scalp to fitted. The Goose is still on the books, a (planned) Stephen Curry extension should erase whatever savings they squirrel away. In theory, these Dubs are frighteningly overspent and undertalented. There is no hope, no future, and nothing to keep Curry from the teeming cosmopolitan dreamscape that is Charlotte, North Carolina.
But the Warriors do have a move, one they can never seem to pull the trigger on. I call it “the Monta card.” Ellis is an unusual player in that a) He may not help GSW win, b) He may even make them worse, and c) Another GM may perceive his play as immensely valuable.
Though shocked I was to discover a newfound league interest in the understated, effective, Aaron Afflalo, make no mistake: This league is scoring seduced. The ethos of “hooray points!” has determined player salary, and will for so long as ex-jocks and glad-handers populate executive ranks. While geeks made inroads with such concepts as “efficiency” and “defense,” analytical minds can never quite crowd out “killer instinct,” “clutch,” and “throat-ripping assassin swagger tooth tiger.” In the end, Joe Johnson gets max, Carmelo acts as self GM, and Harrison Barnes chucks towards a top-three draft slot. Scoring has an resilient emotional resonance, possibly because it’s so clutch in the fourth quarter with the game on the line ya know?
So while certain analytically-minded league executives may shun Monta, there must be a market for him. Or rather, I hope that there is.
To be clear, again: When I write that Ellis “doesn’t help the Warriors,” this often gets interpreted as “he stinks.” That is not the pose, though I can understand the confusion. Monta is an extremely talented player, and he certainly possesses skills that could help a team. A distant dream ago, he proffered efficient play alongside Baron.
But if the Warriors refuse to part with Stephen Curry when Chris Paul is on the table, Monta must go. GSW admitted as much when they attempted to swap Ellis for CP3, when only Curry would do. The backcourt is defensively dysfunctional, and it has much to do with how Ellis plays the two. Mark Jackson is a motivator, but I doubt he can motivate growth plates into Monta’s (relatively) stubby wingspan. Defense alone is enough reason to break up the pairing, but their clashing offensive styles evoke visions of an action movie where the characters fist fight near the pilot seat of a nose-diving aircraft.
The decision is a forgone conclusion and it’s now a matter of how the Warriors benefit from it. Can they sell high on Ellis for a shot at being say, the Grizzlies? Or will they continue down this road to low lottery nowhere, mismatched grinding gears, shrieking along the way…