Monta Ellis a Good Trade Return for Andre Iguodala?

Monta Ellis a Good Trade Return for Andre Iguodala?

Amidst the reports last night that color-commentary announcer and former
NBA great (well, former NBA very-good at least) Mark Jackson had been
named the next coach of the Golden State Warriors, a second story
floated out of Golden State, reported by
the normally reliable Ric Bucher: That the Warriors were considering a
trade with the Philadelphia 76ers, sending them combo-guard scorer Monta
Ellis in exchange for do-everything swingman Andre Iguodala. An
anonymous source with "direct knowledge of Golden State's thinking" (of
course) reports to Buch that such a deal is "not imminent, but that it
has merits for both sides," while he himself notes that the two players
are close enough in salaries that the swap could be made without needing
additional players for sweeteners.

The proposed deal is so simple and efficient (sort of a loaded word
for this article's purposes, but more on that later) for the Sixers that
it positively took my breath away when I first heard about it. We here
at the level have long been members of the Trade Iguodala camp, no time
moreso than the present, and on the surface, dealing him for Ellis would
check most of the boxes we wanted out of a 'Dre trade. It clears room
at small forward for Turner and possibly Thad, it saves us some money
and cap space (more each year and about $11 million total over the next
three years) and it fills a need the team was sorely lacking, in terms
of getting a true #1-option, crunch-time-ready scorer. Not to mention
that it gets Iguodala to a team loaded with offensive talent that could
desperately use his defense and other secondary skills without demanding
him to do anything he can't. Win-win, right?

Well, maybe. While certainly worth discussing, the deal may not
quite be a slam dunk for the Sixers. Though Ellis had been one of the
league's elite scorers the last few seasons, averaging about nine points
a game more than anyone on the Sixers did last season, he comes with
his fair share of drawbacks. For one, at a listed 6'3" (and I'm not
positive he's not actually an inch or two shorter than that), he's
undersized for a shooting guard, but not quite enough of a floor-general
type to be a long-term solution at point, aside from the fact that we
have one of those already in Jrue Holiday. He's also a defensive sieve,
frequently listed as one of the league's least-effective players on that
end of the court, a gambler who perpetually ranks as one of the league
leaders in steals, but whose lack of fundamentals will likely drive
Coach Collins insane. And his 25 or so points a game come at a cost—a
relatively low FG% and high turnover rate, the latter of which would be
especially troubling for a team that led the league in lowest turnovers
last year.

What's more, a number of his strengths and weaknesses are eerily
reminiscent of those of a player already on the Sixers' roster—Sweet Lou
Williams, another positionally ambiguous scorer with questionable
decision-making and porous defense. In fact, Sixers blog Liberty Ballers
is so taken by the comparison that they actually wrote an article
proclaiming "Monta Ellis is Lou Williams,"
pointing out the stunning similarity in the players' statistical
profiles given their numbers Per 36 minutes. (Ellis's field goal
percentage is better, but Lou turns the ball over far less.) And it's
true that there'd be absolutely no way to play the two guards at the
same time—I'd tend to think that the two players' talents are so
redundant that bringing in Ellis would likely lead directly to the
Sixers searching for a trade partner for Williams, a move that we've
long-since welcomed anyway.

Despite the hesitance over at LB, I'm not sold that the comparison
is a completely fair one. For one, though the Per 36 numbers are
similar, Monta also led the league in minutes in last year at over 40 a
game, making his numbers far more difficult to sustain than Lou's were
over his 23 a game—not to mention that Monta was asked to do a whole lot
more on offense for his lottery-bound team than Lou was for his playoff
squad. Monta has also shown great strides since taking over as the
Warriors' primary scoring option, cutting down on his turnover rate,
improving his three-point stroke and boosting his assist tally, and
though he's been in the league for six years, he's still a pup at age
25. And while I hate to have to get all old-school basketball here, in
some sense I can't help but throw out the numbers alotgether—I've
watched both players play, countless games on TV and even a couple times
live, and everything I've seen tells me that Monta, one of the most
stunning players I've ever witnessed in his ability to get to the
basket, is just on another plane than Lou. I can't believe that he isn't
a gigantic upgrade at the SG position.

But is he the right fit for the Sixers? I don't know. It'd be an
identity-changing trade, one that could potentially have rough
consequences for the team's chemistry and cohesion, and cause some huge
problems for Coach Collins in his second year manning the bench. But it
would also get the Sixers a premium talent for the one area—scoring,
still kind of important—where they most lacked production last season,
without sacrificing anyone who was (or should have been) in the team's
long-term plans to begin with or messing with the team's core strengths
of youth and athleticism. Besides, at just $11 million a year, Monta's
highly reasonable contract would very likely be flippable elsewhere
should he prove a poor fit for the Sixers, making him much less of a
binding long-term financial commitment then certain other players at his
near-All-Star level, Iguodala included. And I'm telling you, as
frustrating as his occasional 7-24, 9-28, 11-32 shooting nights would
be, there are going to be nights where Ellis would absolutely set the
Wells Fargo Center on fire, providing offense on a level not seen in
Philadelphia since that other little guy with efficiency issues got
traded to Denver four years back.

As for whether or not Thorn and Stefanski should (or will)
ultimately pull the trigger on the deal, I'm still not sure. I'd first
like them to explore their options with Minnesota, who are in desperate
need of the kind of veteran, defensive help that Iguodala offers, and
have at various points been dangling the #2 pick in the draft, as well
as potential first-option scoring forward Michael Beasley (himself the
#2 pick a few years back) as bait for potential sellers. If we could
work out some sort of 'Dre-focused deal with the Wolves for one of those
two assets, I think they'd be a little more valuable and less
potentially destructive to the team than trading for Monta would be. But
if not, I think Iguodala-Ellis is a deal that definitely has its
advantages, and might be the kind of dice-roll that the team needs to
take in order to start moving towards taking that next step at a team.
At the very least, it would guarantee that next year would break the
team's streak of seasons where nothing but low-leverage, lateral moves
were made, and show that Thorn and Stefanski are willing to make moves
that might actually put their jobs in jeopardy should they not pan out.
It's a sign of life I'd like to see on occasion from our front office.

Vince Velasquez feels the heat in Phillies' Sunday loss to Pirates

Vince Velasquez feels the heat in Phillies' Sunday loss to Pirates

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH --- Vince Velasquez wasn’t able to stand the heat Sunday afternoon.

The game-time temperature was 89 degrees with humidity to match at PNC Park. The Phillies' right-hander admitted he didn’t handle the weather well.

"You're going to go through various conditions, and it's something that you've got to really take into consideration -- to really lock in, stay hydrated because it can mentally drain you,” Velasquez said. “It kind of took a toll on me but I have to make the best of what I've got.”

Velasquez wound up pitching six innings in the blistering heat but did not factor in the decision as the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Phillies 5-4 on pinch-hitter Adam Frazier’s leadoff home run in the seventh inning, his first in the major leagues, off fellow rookie Edubray Ramos (see Instant Replay).

Velasquez had his worst of his five starts since coming off the disabled list June 26, allowing four runs and seven hits while walking four and striking out five. He threw 107 pitches, 64 for strikes.

In his first four outings after begin activated, he was 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA to raise his record to 8-2.

“Just looking at his body language, he showed that he was struggling to find the strike zone,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “He didn't have his best location. He did a good job; he just made a couple bad pitches when they scored the two runs. Obviously, he wasn't at his best, but he kept us in the game.”

While that kind of outing can breed confidence in a 24-year-old pitcher, Velasquez took no consolation in it. He was bothered about not being able to hold a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, giving up a tying two-run home run to Matt Joyce.

“I knew it was my last inning when I went out there and I have to be able to close it out there,” Velasquez said. “I’m disappointed in that. I need to be better in that situation.”

Joyce’s blast came on pitch after Starling Marte doubled on an 0-2 pitch. That, too, annoyed Velasquez.

“That's just a matter of finishing at-bats,” Velasquez said. “You've got to lock in on 0-2 counts when you're ahead. You've got to finish the at-bat. Knowing that that was my last inning, that's where you have to bear down and give it all you've got.”

Ramos then gave up the game-winning homer to Frazier an inning later, the first long ball given up by the 23-year-old right-hander in 14 career outings. The Phillies wound up losing two of three games in the series and are 3-7 since the All-Star break to drop to 10 games under .500 at 45-55 through 100 games.

“It’s a game we should have won but I put us in position to lose it,” Velasquez said.

Dallas Cowboys bus involved in fatal crash in Arizona

Dallas Cowboys bus involved in fatal crash in Arizona

KINGMAN, Ariz. -- Four people were killed Sunday when bus carrying Dallas Cowboys staffers but no players collided with a van on a northwestern Arizona highway.

The fatalities were passengers in the van, Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman Quentin Mehr said. But the bus occupants emerged uninjured.

"All on the bus came through OK with some bumps and bruises," Cowboys spokesman Rich Dalrymple (DAHL'-rimp-ul) said in an email.

Dalrymple said the bus was only carrying members of the franchise's staff but would not say how many. There were no players on board.

The two vehicles collided in the afternoon on U.S. 93, about 30 miles north of the city of Kingman, according to DPS.

The crash shut down at least one lane of the highway that serves as the main route between Phoenix and Las Vegas.

The bus was on its way to a Dallas Cowboys fan event in Las Vegas. Charles Cooper, manager of GameWorks entertainment center in Vegas, said the session with 50 to 75 fans was scheduled for 3 p.m. PDT. People were already waiting when the president of a Las Vegas Cowboys fan club called to relay news of the accident. The event was subsequently canceled. Cooper says the team mascot was supposed to appear.

After the Las Vegas stop, the bus was scheduled to go on to Oxnard, California for the team's training camp. Members of the organization typically take a bus two weeks before the camp starts and make stops along the way.

Report: Phillies preparing for possible Jeremy Hellickson trade to Marlins

Report: Phillies preparing for possible Jeremy Hellickson trade to Marlins

Jeremy Hellickson may be staying in the NL East past the trade deadline. 

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that the Phillies are scouting the Marlins' minor league teams in advance of a possible Hellickson deal. 

This comes on the heels of a report from a radio host in Miami that Marlins starter Wei-Yin Chen may need Tommy John surgery. Chen left with an elbow sprain during Wednesday's loss to the Phillies and was placed on the disabled list. Ironically, Chen was starting against Hellickson, who will face Jarred Cosart in place of Chen on Monday.

Hellickson's value rebounded significantly this season after struggling in Arizona and Tampa Bay the last few seasons. After dealing with a shoulder injury, Hellickson pitched to ERAs above 4.50 in each season from 2013-15, leading to the Diamondbacks trading him to the Phillies for limited value. 

However, in 20 starts, Hellickson, who will be a free agent after the year, has anchored the Phillies' rotation, bringing a 3.84 ERA over 119 ⅔ innings into Monday's scheduled start. He also has a nearly career-best strikeout rate and has regained his signature command that made him a strong performer with the Rays.

The Phillies are aided this trade deadline by a lack of starting pitching options available on the market. With many teams in contention looking for an additional starter, Hellickson is an attractive piece who could help a team in a pennant race.