Monta Ellis a Good Trade Return for Andre Iguodala?

Monta Ellis a Good Trade Return for Andre Iguodala?
June 7, 2011, 6:11 am
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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.

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