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.

Union-Galaxy 5 things: Union aim for 1st win against 'angry' Galaxy

Union-Galaxy 5 things: Union aim for 1st win against 'angry' Galaxy

Union vs. Los Angeles Galaxy
10:30 p.m. on TCN

The Union travel to the west coast this weekend in search of anything resembling success. Fresh off a bitter draw, which snapped a four-game losing streak but involved spoiling a three-goal lead, the beleaguered Union (0-4-3) will take on the angry Los Angeles Galaxy (2-5-0) on Saturday night (10:30 p.m., TCN) at the StubHub Center.

Here are five things to know:

1.Getting Away In LA
The Union could use a vacation. 

Two weeks ago, the league's lone winless club, were left embarrassed as New York City FC's David Villa scored a goal from midfield to cement the Union's fourth-straight loss. Last week, the hard-luck club gave up a three-goal lead in a span of 50 minutes to draw the Montreal Impact. 

"In some ways, our guys getting away right now, maybe clearing their head, to sleep in a different bed, can be an advantage for us," Union manager Jim Curtin said. "Nobody is happy with how things have gone. We have to look towards LA and try to get a result out there."

It's been said before, but the Union desperately need positivity. The club hasn’t felt victory since Aug. 27, 2016, and has gone winless through roughly 20-percent of their season. Once loaded with playoff aspirations, the Union are nearly four wins out the postseason picture.

"We're looking to take three points," Union midfielder Haris Medunjanin said. "We've been waiting so long, even some games we play good but don't take the points. This Saturday, we're going to play as a team, fight for every yard on the field and hopefully take three points to Philly with us."

Fafa Picault echoed his teammate's message. 

"We're looking for three points," he said. "We need them." 

2.Finding a Balance
Last week, the Union's focus was on scoring goals, finishing chances and making the most of their limited offensive opportunities. But after scoring three first-half goals against the Montreal Impact last Saturday, the focus is now on keeping goals out of their net.

"The balance isn't quite there," said Curtin, who is still looking for the perfect starting combination to deliver a win. "We've had good moments in 35-minute spurts but we haven't maintained it for 90 minutes, so we're still in search of a group that can go out and execute for 90 minutes." 

Yet that group Curtin is searching for won't be easy to find. Early in the season, the Union tried defensive-minded Derrick Jones at the No. 8 spot, which Alejandro Bedoya at No. 10. It didn't work, which forced Curtin to bench Jones, move Bedoya to his more natural No. 8 position and activate Roland Alberg at the 10. 

Last week, the manager even benched right back Keegan Rosenberry in favor of Ray Gaddis, making Saturday’s starting roster a mystery.

"It's very challenging right now," Curtin said. "The group still remains together, they continue to work and it's not for lack of effort. It's about getting little plays cleaned up in front of both goals."

Those little plays have cost the Union. The club has allowed an Eastern Conference-worst 14 goals in seven games, including eight in their last three matches. 

"I've said it every time, if we're gonna give up a minimum of two goals every game, we're not gonna win a game," Bedoya said. "You can't. You can't win a game if you"re letting two goals every game. We need to get better and step it up defensively and get a shutout, at least."

3. Troubled Galaxy
Much like the Union, Curt Onalfo's Galaxy are struggling. 

The typically powerful club was destroyed, 3-0, by the Seattle Sounders last weekend, marking its third loss in its last four matches. The downturn is an unusual sight for a team that boasts players like Giovani Dos Santos, Romain Alessandrini and Jermaine Jones. 

"It's a matter of when you go through adversity and difficult times, you find out what you're all about," Onalfo told LAGalaxy.com. "That's when people step up and true character rises. I believe in the group and the vision of what we're doing. We didn't draw it up this way at all, but we stay strong and stay confident. We're looking forward and we're going to get a result on Saturday."

Knowing that the Galaxy are marking Saturday as a must-win match, the Union are preparing for the host's best and most aggressive punches. 

"They are a dangerous team coming off a 3-0 loss at home, so they will be angry," Curtin said. "It won’t get any easier for us. We have to work on some things defensively and in our attack, we're fighting to get our first win."

And while the Union hope preying on the limping Galaxy can give them a spark, the Galaxy hope facing the struggling Union can help jump start their season.

"We have to start collecting points so we can move up," Galaxy center back Daniel Steres told the website. "We're just worried about the next game, that's why it's a must-win. It's at home and we have to get three points."

4. Keep an eye on
Jermaine Jones: Looking to spark the Galaxy attack, Onalfo may choose to play Jones in a more aggressive midfield position. Jones has never scored against the Union in three tries and has one goal this season.

Roland Alberg: Once again, Alberg is the player to watch for the Union. Expected to make his third consecutive start on Saturday, the Union’s new starting No. 10 scored twice against the Impact. As he goes, so does the Union’s offense.

5. This and that
The Union are an unfavorable 1-6-2 against the Galaxy all-time. 

Former Union forward Jack McInerney could face his old club on Saturday. McInerney, who was signed by the Galaxy on April 18, wasn’t quite ready to be activated because of conditioning. He played four full seasons with the Union.

Because of injury, the Galaxy will be without Sebastian Lletget and Robbie Rogers, while the Union will continue to miss Josh Yaro, Maurice Edu, John McCarthy and Ken Tribbett. 

Phillies-Dodgers 5 things: Phils face resurgent Brandon McCarthy

Phillies-Dodgers 5 things: Phils face resurgent Brandon McCarthy

Phillies (11-10) at Dodgers (12-12)
9:10 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

The Phillies' six-game winning streak came to an abrupt end out west Friday night. The beauty of baseball is that you have a chance to start a new streak a day later. Zach Eflin looks to avenge a poor performance from last season while the Dodgers send out veteran righty Brandon McCarthy at home.

Here are five things to know for Saturday evening's game.

1. Two strong starts for Eflin
In his second season as a big-league starter, Eflin is off to a lot better start than last year. 

If you remember his MLB debut, he gave up eight runs and retired just eight batters against a Blue Jays team that could hit the snot out of the ball … and did. Through two starts, Eflin had a 10.80 ERA and two losses to his résumé before coming into his own over the next two months.

This year has been just about the opposite. Eflin clearly looks comfortable on a major-league mound. He's turned Clay Buchholz's spot in the rotation into a positive. He's allowed just three runs and one home run in 12 innings, good for a 2.25 ERA.

The modern thinking is that an ideal pitcher strikes out a lot of batters, avoids walks and home runs, and induces weak contact. Eflin has done all but the strikeouts. His sinker has been marvelous and the Mets/Braves had little chance to do damage against it. Pete Mackanin described the sinker as a bowling ball. That just about says it all. The sinker won't induce that many swings and misses — thus the lack of strikeouts — but he can throw it in the zone and keep hitters off balance.

The Dodgers kind of ended Eflin's season last year. In reality, it was dueling knee injuries that did Eflin in (see story), but the Dodgers were the last team to take advantage of an ailing Eflin, hitting three home runs and scoring seven runs in just three innings Aug. 8. Even the outs in that game were generally line drives. Chase Utley, Yasmani Grandal and Corey Seager — all of whom could be in the lineup Saturday — took the now-23-year-old righty deep.

Being a righty against the Dodgers isn't all that advantageous as the team boasts those three hitters and Adrian Gonzalez, Andrew Toles and Cody Bellinger as lefties who can put up disruptive plate appearances. Unfortunately for the Phillies, they have a rotation full of righties and are unable to take advantage of the Dodgers' platoon issues.

2. Dodgers send out resurgent righty
The first two seasons of Brandon McCarthy's deal with the Dodgers essentially went by the wayside. Now, the 33-year-old starter is picking up where he left off in 2014.

McCarthy has long been one of the more entertaining and thoughtful players in baseball, as evidenced by his Twitter account. The veteran righty has also been a steadily average to occasionally above-average pitcher in 12 MLB seasons, bouncing around teams mostly on the west coast. He posted career-worst numbers with the Diamondbacks in the first half of 2014, but he rebounded in the second half with the Yankees, pitching to a 2.89 ERA in 90 innings despite the hitter-friendly confines of Yankee Stadium.

He parlayed that second half into a four-year, $48 million deal with the Dodgers and that was almost immediately derailed by Tommy John surgery. Going into 2017, he had thrown just 63 innings and made only 13 starts in the first half of his contract. McCarthy was one of many Dodgers pitchers on the disabled list during a 2016 with a record-setting number of injuries for the club.

But now he's apparently back to form and, perhaps most importantly, he's healthy. He's made it through four starts unscathed this year and is 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA to boot. He's allowed just 18 hits in 24 innings. Similar to Eflin, he relies primarily on a dynamic sinker that sits in the low-to-mid 90s. He also features a low 90s cutter and an 80 mph curveball, both of which grade out well this season.

Only three current Phillies have any history vs. McCarthy. With his history in the AL West with the Mariners, Michael Saunders has faced McCarthy plenty with sub-par results, going 2 for 13 with five strikeouts. Freddy Galvis is 3 for 3 off the righty while Andres Blanco is 0 for 1.

3. How does the Dodgers' bullpen stack up?
Going into Friday's action, the Dodgers' bullpen had a 3.15 collective ERA, good for eighth in all of baseball and second-best in the National League. As a whole, the crew strikes out 10.29 batters per nine innings and has the highest wins above replacement of any bullpen in baseball.

Any conversation about the Dodgers' 'pen starts with Kenley Jansen, one of the premier closers in the game today. He overwhelms hitters with a cutter many consider reminiscent of Mariano Rivera. It isn't quite up to Rivera's level, but it is still wildly effective. He has a 2.16 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings this season, locking down six saves in six chances. He dominated the Phillies on Friday night.

Setting up for him primarily is righty flamethrower Pedro Baez. Baez pitches with a dreadfully slow pace but great results, striking out batters at a similar clip and takes a 1.08 ERA into the weekend. Righty Josh Fields and lefty Grant Dayton each hadn't allowed a run this year before Fields let one up in the eighth inning Friday while lefty Luis Avilan has been effective primarily vs. lefties. 

While Chris Hatcher and Ross Stripling, both righties, each has a loss this season, they've still achieved OK results pitching often in low leverage situations. The biggest disappointment for Los Angeles has been the offseason signing of former Giants closer Sergio Romo. The 34-year-old has a 10.57 ERA through 10 appearances and has walked as many batters as he's struck out. If the Phillies get to face Romo in a big situation this weekend, it'll be a tremendous opportunity to do some damage.

4. Players to watch
Phillies: Freddy Galvis takes a 10-game hitting streak into action on Saturday night. Not only does he have good numbers off McCarthy, he's also simply off to the best start to his career. The Phillies' shortstop has traditionally been a better second half hitter but he has a career-best .269 average and .487 slugging percentage thus far.

Dodgers: While he is currently playing corner outfield, rookie Cody Bellinger is the Dodgers' first baseman of the future. Currently the No. 10 prospect in baseball, he had five home runs in Triple A Oklahoma City and is projected to have legitimate in-game power at the major league level. 

5. This and that
• The Phillies went 2-4 vs. the Dodgers last season and haven't won a series at Dodger Stadium since April 21-24, 2014, when they took three of four.

• Frequent trade partners in recent history, the Phillies and Dodgers have teamed up for eight trades since the 2012 trade deadline. Eflin himself came to the Phillies in the 2014 Jimmy Rollins trade.

• McCarthy is typically at his worst in April. He has a 5.01 ERA for March/April in his career, his worst for any month. However, he pitched well the two times he faced the Phillies. He threw eight shutout innings in 2013 and gave up two runs while striking out 12 in seven innings during the 2014 season.