The Monta Ellis Dilemma

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The Monta Ellis Dilemma
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Warrior’s fans have survived through a strange collection of players throughout the years. From the slashing days of Latrell Sprewell to the short-lived success of the longball years with Stack Jack, Baron Davis, and company, the Warriors have had an eclectic collection of scorers.

However, current Warriors guard Monta Ellis has caused more controversy among Warriors fans than any of these former players, all while rarely opening his mouth. Few question his scoring ability, Ellis is currently sixth in the nation in points per game, but recently his defense, leadership ability, and fit in the Warriors system have all come under fire.

Many we’re disappointed that he wasn’t swapped at the trade deadline, and the Warriors will certainly have more trading options for him when the season is over.

Ellis’ supporters point to his clutch play, developing defense, and pure scoring ability as reasons to hold on to the young star.

Fans that want Ellis traded fall into two categories; those that think he doesn’t fit the system and those that think his presence on the Warriors hampers the development of the Warriors other young star, Steph Curry.

In my opinion, Warriors Management should learn from past mistakes and the success of teams in similar situations and keep Monta Ellis around, at least for another couple of years.

In the past, Warriors fans have seen young and talented players leave before their primes for big paydays, while big name free-agents continually pass over offers from Oakland in favor of better offers in better locations.

Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison, Tim Hardaway, and Chris Webber are some of the higher profile names that have left the Warriors before reaching their primes (and the playoffs) with another team. These players seemingly established a formula for success; establish your name with the Warriors, earn a bigger contract with another team, and become a star.

The Warriors must stop bleeding talent. This starts with committing to players like Ellis, who are young and promising. We will not know for another three or four years if Ellis can become a complete basketball player. Fans often forget that he is 24 years old, at that age Chauncey Billiups was considered a tweener who could score but wasn’t much of a passer.

Ellis faces a similar challenge; he must prove to the NBA and Warriors fans that he can be more than a one-dimensional player.

Another recurring problem with the Warriors has been their inability to entice impact free-agents to come to Oakland. This has been due to two problems, a lack of success and a lack of commitment to players already on the team. To correct the problems, the Warriors should examine their final opponent, the Portland Trail Blazers.

As early as the 2005-2006 season, the Blazers were a team with no hope. They had just posted the worst record in the league, and had a much-deserved reputation as a team of troublemakers. Their turnaround has been stunning, and can be characterized by three key events:

1.     Commitment to young players: Brandon Roy and Lamarcus Aldridge are the foundation for the Blazers. Both were drafted in 2005, and both were given significant playing time in their rookie seasons despite being young and mistake prone.

The Blazers also committed many minutes to role players like Sergio Rodriguez and Martell Webster. This commitment has been lacking for the Warriors; Anthony Randolph is taken out after every mistake, Morrow has been jerked in and out of the lineup, and Ellis has been subject to constant trade rumors.

2.     Shedding large and long contracts, especially veterans: By ridding themselves of large contracts like Zach Randolph’s, the Blazers made room to sign their young drafted players to larger deals. The Warriors have historically taken a different route, tying up their money in long-term deals only to watch talented players like Gilbert Arenas leave without an offer.

3.     Offering only short-term deals to free agents: This is where the Warriors have made their most grave mistakes, and have paid dearly for them. As most NBA fans will remember, the Blazers campaigned hard to get Hedo Turkoglu, a high profile free agent coming off of a NBA Championship appearance. In a surprising move, the Turk backed out of Portland’s offer in the final minutes, opting instead to go to Toronto.

Instead of turning around and offering a similar deal to the next best free agent, the Blazers filled a need and improved their playoff aspirations by signing veteran point guard Andre Miller to a short term deal. This signing provides a stark contrast to the Warriors desperate signing of Corey Maggette after being shunned by Baron Davis in the summer of 2008.

The outcomes are clear: while the Warriors struggle through another season of mediocrity, the Blazers deep bench of promising young draft picks and veterans with short-term deals have kept them afloat even after losing much of their starting 5 to injuries.

In the end, Ellis’s success with the team hinges on his ability to adapt to his role as Curry’s sidekick. Recent games have made it clear that Curry is a special talent, with an understanding of the flow of the game that is unmatched by any rookie of recent memory.  Every great team needs a great distributor, and Curry promises to fill that role.

But there’s no reason that Ellis can’t be the secondary scorer, attacking the weak side of the defense and creating offense through turnovers. If the Warriors commit to developing his talents within their system, they just might wind up with a two-guard combo that rivals any in the Western Conference, and the NBA.

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