Monta Ellis: Can Jerry West Deliver Monta to the L.A. Lakers?

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Monta Ellis: Can Jerry West Deliver Monta to the L.A. Lakers?
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Golden State Warriors shooting guard Monta Ellis' days in the Bay Area appear to be numbered, and there has been plenty of speculation on where one of the NBA's top 10 scorers will land if the Warriors do decide to deal him.

Some of those rumors have identified the Los Angeles Lakers as a possible destination for Ellis, and normally I would dismiss the idea of Ellis in purple and gold if not for an announcement made by Golden State on May 19th, 2011.

On that day the Warriors announced that former Lakers great Jerry West had accepted a position as head consultant for the franchise, in addition to an undisclosed minority ownership stake in the team.

West has demonstrated his ability to build a team as he is arguably the most successful former NBA star-turned general manager in league history, but does his true loyalties lie with the Warriors or the franchise that helped make him a legendary player and executive?

For those of you who scoff at the notion that West may be secretly helping to re-build the Lakers at the expense of Golden State, I offer the Memphis Grizzlies and Pau Gasol as exhibit A.

West vacated the Lakers general manager position in 2002 for the same position in Memphis citing a desire to build a franchise from the ground up and within two seasons the Grizzlies were in the playoffs and West was being named the NBA Executive of the Year.

In 2007 West handed over general manager duties for the Grizzlies to fellow West Virginia native Chris Wallace, but not before laying the groundwork for what would come to be considered one of the most lop-sided trades in NBA history, at least on the surface.

Wallace, under the guidance of West brokered a deal that sent the Grizzlies best player Gasol to the Lakers for a group of non-descript players that included the likes of under-achievers such as Kwame Brown and and Javarris Crittendon.

The Lakers who were reeling from a  season-ending injury to blossoming center Andrew Bynum were instantly revitalized and the addition of Gasol helped the franchise return to the NBA Finals in 2008.

The Grizzlies were roundly criticized for their gifting of Gasol to the Lakers, but as West proved in the past with decisions to acquire Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, "The Logo" was taking the long approach when it came to building the Grizzlies.

Most people focused their attention on the throwaway players that the Grizzlies accepted in exchange for Gasol, but the rights for Gasol's younger brother Marc were also included in the deal.

Memphis had no intentions of building their franchise around the likes of Brown, but once again West demonstrated his eye for talent in targeting and insisting on the younger Gasol as a condition for the deal.

It's no coincidence that Gasol is the center-piece of a rapidly improving Memphis team which disposed of the top seeded San Antonio Spurs in the 2011 NBA Playoffs, and their decision to accept a group of mediocre players with bad contracts from the Lakers directly led to moves that will keep the Grizzlies relevant for the foreseeable future.

It was a masterful stroke orchestrated by West who in one fell swoop re-stabilized the Lakers who were previously floundering in the wake of the Kobe-Shaq split, and he laid the foundation for a Grizzlies team who should be competitive for seasons to come.

Under that pretense it would be ridiculous to assume that West couldn't deliver Ellis to the Lakers if that were his intentions, but West's love for the Lakers and his proven ability to build franchises will likely prevent any such scenario.

West might be one of the best judges of player talent that has ever roamed an NBA sideline, and if this is the case he surely recognizes Ellis for the one dimensional player that he is.

Don't get me wrong.

As a fan of basketball I appreciate Ellis' ability to fill up a stat sheet, but points are not what the Lakers need.

Bryant, Gasol, Lamar Odom and Bynum are more than capable of providing the Lakers enough points to beat most opponents, but none of them can guard Chris Paul on a consistent basis.

And neither can Ellis.

What the Lakers need more than anything is a point guard who can run new head coach Mike Brown's motion offense, defend bigger, quicker lead guards, and identify the spots on the court where his teammates are most offensively efficient.

Unfortunately, Ellis doesn't fit the bill.

Ellis can score with the best of them but no one will ever confuse him with a point guard and it's probably a little late in the game to convince Ellis that he is really a lead guard in disguise.

Call me crazy, but for some reason I don't think Bryant's 25 points per game last season and Ellis' 25-plus points will mesh very well in the same back court either, and that thought has probably crossed West's mind as well.

The Gasol trade demonstrated West's unique ability to identify what player specifically fit the Lakers need the most, and as brilliant as that move was, a deal for Ellis would be in direct contrast.

I will always admire and respect West from his days as a player and his dedication to the Lakers brand, so if he wants to influence the team's future in a positive manner from the confines of a rival franchise I'm all for it.

But, in this case if West really wants to continue the Lakers tradition he should ignore any Ellis to Los Angeles thoughts and think about sending Ellis' back court mate Stephen Curry instead.

 

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