Call me a Grinch, call me a hater, but you have to call me consistent — there’s no way Monta Ellis’ recent surge convinces me that the Warriors shouldn’t do everything they can to trade him. In fact, his increased trade value gives the Warriors yet another reason to move their mercurial guard.
We’re all so starved for something to get excited about around here that Monta’s recent run over the last five games (35.2 ppg, 5.4 apg, 4 rpg, 3.8 spg, 43.4 mpg) has led to the guy being canonized like he’s the second coming of Rick Barry. Even Adam Lauridsen, whom I probably enjoy reading more than anyone else who focuses on the Warriors full-time, called him a “Superstar” last night.
Um, not so fast. Even though he was a fraudulent offensive foul call away from going off for 50+ against the Pacers last night, there are several red flags here to keep in mind regarding Ellis’ supposed ascension to superstardom:
He’s still just a combo guard
Monta’s been scoring like Allen Iverson after the first Reebok Questions came out, and he’s leading the league in steals, but he also leads the league in turnovers with 4.0 per game, including 25 turnovers in his last 4 games (when Keith Smart effectively handed Monta the keys). The point (pun intended, sort of): Monta needs the ball in his hands to score all these points, but he’s neither a great distributor nor careful with the ball.
We all have short memories
In the past year, Monta has ruined one Warriors season due to a “moped accident,” proclaimed he is “a Warriors” and that he’ll always “be a Warriors,” came back from his ankle injury without the ability to dunk, publicly ripped the team’s new rookie point guard on media day and threw a tantrum in front of the writers — in New York of all places. I’d rather bet my car on Monta winning an episode of Jeopardy than trust him to lead Golden State into the 2010’s.
What if this is all an “I hate Nellie” ploy? And why would that be a bad thing?
There’s two schools of argument on Monta suddenly becoming one of the most dynamic players in the league at the same time Don Nelson went on a massive bender got pneumonia. The most optimistic among us are claiming that “it’s all coming together” for Monta right now and the combination of maturing talent and the removal of Stephen Jackson from the Warriors’ equation have led to Ellis reaching the potential we all saw for him when he was a FG% machine in 2007-08.
The other, less optimistic theory is that Monta is playing harder than ever to prove how much better he and the team are without Nelson hanging around, collecting paychecks, making snide comments about tattoos and generally bumming everybody out.
I’m more inclined to believe the latter idea, that Monta’s trying to give as big an “eff you” to Nellie as possible. So that means you have a player with the talent to go off whenever he’s mentally engaged, but where was that same effort before? And what’s going to happen when Nelson returns tonight in Denver?
His agent still wants him out of Oakland
Jeff Fried was reportedly coming to the Bay to talk about getting his client out of town as recently as two weeks ago. Monta certainly isn’t the smartest basketball player in the world, but it doesn’t take a genius to listen to your agent when he tells you that the better you play, the better chance you have to get a one-way ticket out of town. And if you think Monta’s recent hot streak and the hope that Nelson will cede full control of the team to Smart before getting his wins record (which is about as likely as Andris Biedrins missing a tanning appointment) will change Fried’s mind, you’re more optimistic than Bob Fitzgerald and Tim Roye combined about the Warriors.
The “feed Monta” formula is fundamentally flawed
We all know Ellis can score, and he’s actually putting out some effort on the defensive end for perhaps the first time in his career. Still, playing the guy 48 mpg and allowing him to do whatever the hell he wants isn’t something you’d find in Chapter 1 of “The San Antonio Spurs Template For Success.”
OK, so we know Monta has the talent to put an injury-ravaged team on his shoulders for a week or two when he feels like sticking it to his hungover ill coach. Great. He still was right when he said that pairing him with Stephen Curry was a mistake, he still harbors an incredible amount of anger toward the franchise he’s supposed to be leading and the Warriors have needs at EVERY…SINGLE…POSITION.
The Warriors have a bunch of young talent, but none of it fits. The only way this team is going to become a regular playoff participant before Anthony Randolph, Anthony Morrow and Curry leave is to get creative now and figure out a way to radically change the team via trade(s). The Warriors’ M.O. has usually been to wait until their talented players either become disgruntled or they have already finished out their contracts to get rid of them. When smart teams have talented players that don’t quite fit, they trade them and get someone they can actually use.
Forget finding a great point guard (you have to ride with Curry at this point, and teams don’t get rid of good PGs these days), the Warriors need an established star at the 2, 3, 4 and/or 5. The way Ellis is playing right now, the Warriors may be able to trade for someone like Chris Bosh or some other expiring contract that can put them in position to get an elite free agent next summer.
Of course, what the Warriors will do in response to Monta’s hot streak is put together a huge marketing plan revolving around his newfound star power (such as it is) to sell ticket packages, let the Nelson/Ellis feud fester for a while and be forced to trade Monta at some point this year or during the summer after the entire league hears how he wants out of town. Then the Warriors will be forced to trade their best player to the Bobcats for Raymond Felton and Nazr Mohammed or something.
But at least on November 30, 2010 the Warriors will be able to look back to that same date a year before and reminisce over how the Warriors had a great win over the Pacers at Oracle where Ellis scored 45 with 5 steals and was a world-beater when Nellie wasn’t around. As always in Oakland, it will be a Great Time Out, where memories of All-Stars squandered are as plentiful as t-shirts shot up into the stands.