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.

Best of MLB: Mets win in 10th on Yoenis Cespedes' walk-off HR

Best of MLB: Mets win in 10th on Yoenis Cespedes' walk-off HR

NEW YORK -- Yoenis Cespedes homered with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning to give the New York Mets a 2-1 victory over the Miami Marlins in the first game of a pivotal series between National League playoff contenders Monday night.

Jose Reyes dashed home to score the tying run in the eighth on a dangerous collision at the plate, and the Mets pulled even with Miami for second place in the NL East. With its seventh victory in nine games, New York remained 2 1/2 games behind St. Louis for the league's second wild card.

It was an exhilarating win for the Mets, who appeared to be at a major disadvantage on the mound in the opener of a four-game set. New York was shut out for six innings by Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, but Mets starter Rafael Montero also put up zeros in his first major league start since April 2015 (see full recap).

Martinez's 13 K's, throwing error give Cards win
MILWAUKEE -- Stephen Piscotty scored on a throwing error in the ninth inning after Carlos Martinez struck out a career-high 13, leading the St. Louis Cardinals over the Milwaukee Brewers 6-5 on Monday night.

With two on and nobody out in the ninth, Yadier Molina dropped down a bunt. Reliever Tyler Thornburg (5-5) threw to third base for a force out, but Jonathan Villar's throw to first was wild, allowing Piscotty to score.

After Martinez held Milwaukee to one run over six innings, the Brewers scored four runs in the seventh to take a 5-3 lead. St. Louis tied it in the eighth on a two-run homer by Randal Grichuk off Corey Knebel.

Seung Hwan Oh pitched a perfect ninth for his 14th save. Miguel Socolovich (1-0) pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings to pick up his first win.

Jedd Gyorko and Kolten Wong each hit solo home runs for the Cardinals (see full recap).

Royals keep rolling, take down Yankees
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Dillon Gee kept the Royals' momentum going with six sharp innings, Alcides Escobar hit a three-run homer and Kansas City beat the New York Yankees 8-5 on Monday night to open their three-game set.

Gee (6-7) allowed only four hits and a run in the latest impressive start by the Royals' staff, helping the reigning World Series champions win for the 18th time in 22 games.

Lorenzo Cain, Kendrys Morales and Alex Gordon drove in runs off Michael Pineda (6-11) during a five-hit salvo in the first inning. Pineda then retired 15 straight before getting into a two-on, no-outs jam in the seventh that led to Escobar's homer off reliever Blake Parker.

Starlin Castro drove in two runs for the Yankees, the second in a four-run eighth inning that forced Kansas City manager Ned Yost to summon fill-in closer Kelvin Herrera (see full recap).

Jake Thompson tweaks delivery, offers ray of light on a dark night for Phillies

Jake Thompson tweaks delivery, offers ray of light on a dark night for Phillies

BOX SCORE

On the surface, this was not a very positive night at the ballpark for the Phillies. They had just four hits and lost, 4-0, to the Washington Nationals in front of the smallest crowd of the season – 16,056, announced – at Citizens Bank Park (see Instant Replay).
 
But lest we forget, this is a rebuilding season and in a rebuilding season the final score isn’t always paramount. So on an otherwise dark Monday night there was a ray of light for the Phillies.
 
Jake Thompson had the kind of start those who traded for him a year ago and those who watched him pitch this season in Triple A said he was capable of having.
 
“It was great to see,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “That’s just what he needed. He needed a real positive outing. I think this will do wonders for him down the road.”
 
Thompson held the NL East-leading Nationals to two runs over seven innings, his longest of five outings in the majors.
 
“He looked like the pitcher that was advertised,” Mackanin said.
 
Thompson’s first four outings in the majors were poor. He was tagged for 22 hits and 21 earned runs in 19 1/3 innings. He walked 13 and struck out 13. Those results were starkly different than his last 11 starts in Triple A. He went 8-0 in those 11 starts and recorded a 1.21 ERA while allowing just 10 earned runs in 74 1/3 innings. He gave up just 52 hits and 18 walks over that span while striking out 42.
 
After watching Thompson for four starts, pitching coach Bob McClure decided to suggest some delivery changes to the 22-year-old right-hander.
 
Players are often receptive to making adjustments when they are struggling. Thompson incorporated the changes McClure suggested and found success Monday night.
 
“We just tried to simplify his delivery so he could make better quality pitches,” McClure said.
 
In his old delivery, Thompson started off facing home plate. He pulled his arms over his head, turned and lifted his front leg before delivering the ball. McClure eliminated many of the moving parts. No more lifting the arms above the head. No more body turn. Thompson started his delivery with his body already turned, like a modified stretch. He simply lifted his leg, let his body go down the slope and fired. The new delivery slowed everything down for him. He looked poised, especially after the first couple of innings, and started attacking hitters with first-pitch strikes like a confident pitcher does.
 
Considering he only worked on the new delivery in two short bullpen sessions Saturday and Sunday in New York, Thompson was a pretty quick study.
 
“It was huge,” he said of the new delivery. “Just on the physical side of things, I’m in a better position to make pitches. I took away some moving parts to make it easier on myself.”
 
Thompson allowed seven hits, walked one and struck out three. All three strikeouts came in his final inning of work. He struck out leadoff man Trea Turner with two men on base with a slider to end the inning.
 
That’s another adjustment McClure made. He had Thompson stop throwing his curveball and focus on his fastball, slider, cutter and changeup.
 
Both of the runs that Thompson allowed came in the first inning on a solo homer by Jayson Werth and an RBI single by Anthony Rondon. After that, Thompson recorded six straight shutout innings. His teammates didn’t support him offensively. Washington right-hander Tanner Roark pitched seven shutout innings. He is 3-0 and has allowed just two runs in 28 innings in four starts against the Phils this season.
 
Thompson needed a start like this for a couple of reasons. First, if he had been pounded again, Phillies officials might have had to consider taking him out of the rotation just so his confidence didn’t get ruined.
 
And second, with Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin out with injuries, the team needed to know something was going right for one of the young pitchers being groomed for the future. Vince Velasquez, another young arm, had three poor outings before pitching well in New York on Sunday.
 
“This will help his confidence a lot,” McClure said.
 
McClure then offered a little glimpse into Thompson’s competitive character.
 
“He seemed pissed that he wasn't pitching well,” McClure said. “But he wasn't deflated. We felt like we should keep starting him because he didn't seem beaten. He seems like a tough kid mentally. We felt like once he started making better quality pitches, he'd get better results.”
 
It happened Monday, a ray of light on an otherwise dark night.

Instant Replay: Nationals 4, Phillies 0

Instant Replay: Nationals 4, Phillies 0

BOX SCORE

The Phillies were beaten, 4-0, by the Washington Nationals on Monday night, but wins and losses don’t matter as much as development in a rebuilding season, so there was a bright spot: Rookie right-hander Jake Thompson finally broke through with a good start in holding the Nats to two runs over seven innings.
 
The Phillies’ offense was not good. It produced just four hits on the night.
 
Washington got all the offense it needed when Jayson Werth, the second batter of the game, homered off Thompson in the first inning.

The Nats lead the NL East at 76-55. The Phils are 60-71.
 
The crowd of 16,056 was the smallest of the season at Citizens Bank Park.
 
Starting pitching report
Thompson had struggled in four starts — 9.78 ERA — since arriving from Triple A and there were questions whether he’d even make this start. But he put together a nice outing. After giving up two runs in the first inning, he pitched six straight scoreless innings, finishing his outing with three strikeouts, the last of which came on his 111th pitch when he froze Trea Turner with a breaking ball with two men on base. Thompson allowed seven hits — four in the first three innings — and walked one.
 
Washington right-hander Tanner Roark pitched seven shutout innings to improve to 14-7. He held the Phils to four hits and a walk and struck out five.

Roark is 3-0 with a 0.64 ERA (two earned runs in 28 innings) in four starts against the Phillies this season. The Nats are 15-4 in his last 19 starts.

Bullpen report
Frank Herrmann gave up two runs in the ninth.
 
At the plate
Odubel Herrera had two of the Phillies’ four hits.
 
Werth’s homer in the top of the first was his 19th. Anthony Rendon drove in a run with a two-out single in that inning. Clint Robinson and Turner had RBI singles in the ninth to push the Nats’ lead to 4-0.
 
ICYMI
Herrera is staying in center field for the remainder of the season, Pete Mackanin said (see story).
 
Up next
The series continues on Tuesday night. Jerad Eickhoff (9-12, 3.87) pitches against Washington right-hander Max Scherzer (14-7, 2.92).