Monta Ellis Doesn't Solve any of the Toronto Raptors' Problems

Mark BirdsellContributor IIIMay 10, 2010

OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 18:  Monta Ellis #8 of the Golden State Warriors in action during their game against the Chicago Bulls at Oracle Arena on January 18, 2010 in Oakland, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

In order for the Toronto Raptors to retain Chris Bosh’s services he has requested that Bryan Colangelo and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment do two main things this offseason: (1) spend in excess of the luxury-tax threshold, and (2) figure out a way to bring in an all-star caliber wing player.

Both are reasonable requests.

If history has shown us anything it’s that in the NBA, in order for a team to compete for the Larry O’Brien Trophy, a team must be willing to exceed the luxury-tax.

The NBA has set the luxury-tax level for the 2009-2010 season at $69.92 million. There are 14 teams that will pay the luxury-tax this year. Of those 14 teams 11 made the playoffs. Only one team which advanced to the second-round, the Atlanta Hawks, won’t pay the luxury-tax.

Now it’s not as if the Raptors aren’t spending money to try and put a quality product on the court. The team’s current payroll is approximately $67.9 million. However, Toronto needs to exceed the luxury-tax if they intend to compete for a championship in the near future.

The other main priority for the Toronto Raptors this offseason is to upgrade the shooting guard position.

Both DeMar DeRozan and Sonny Weems showed flashes this season, but neither one should be considered a starter on a championship team.  There are a number of potential players the Raptors could attempt to acquire, however the player a number of fans seem to be clamoring for is Monta Ellis.

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Ellis is a 6’3” combo guard, currently under contract with the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors drafted him in the second round of the 2005 NBA Draft.

Despite his draft position Ellis has turned into a very effective scorer.  After receiving very little playing time as a rookie, Ellis improved immensely in his second season as he was named the 2006-2007 Most Improved Player.

This prompted Golden State to trade then starting shooting guard Jason Richardson to the Charlotte Bobcats.

Ellis was rewarded in July 2008 with a six-year, $67 million contract extension.  He was also a fringe all-star candidate this season averaging 25.5 points, 5.3 assists, 4 rebounds, and 2.2 steals per game.

Despite his accolades Monta Ellis is not the answer for the Toronto Raptors.

The Raptors this season were one of the worst defensive teams in the league, giving up 105.9 points per game.  There were only three other teams that gave up more points per game than Toronto, one of which was the Golden State Warriors.

The Warriors starting backcourt consisted of Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry, both listed as 6’3”.  Both of these players are very talented, however when paired together they are a defensive liability.

The problem is that when a team features an undersized shooting guard there is no one left to defend larger guards on the opposing team.  This was the same dilemma Philadelphia and Denver faced with Allen Iverson.

It is possible to play him as the point guard, but his primary focus isn’t facilitating for teammates.  If you play them at shooting guard then the team’s perimeter defense suffers.  The Toronto Raptors have the potential assets to acquire Monta Ellis if Bryan Colangelo so desired.

The expiring contracts of Reggie Evans and Marcus Banks will be useful in any trade scenario.  Jarrett Jack is coming off a great season and makes a modest salary of approximately $5 million per season.  Jose Calderon and Hedo Turkoglu could also be used in a number of trades.

However, none of these players should be used to acquire Monta Ellis.

A starting backcourt of Ellis and either Calderon or Jack presents too many problems, the same problems which plagued the Warriors this season.  Now it is true Golden State had a number of issues with injuries to almost every one of their key players.  But ultimately, an undersized backcourt is problematic.

With Andrea Bargnani as the team’s starting centre and Turkoglu at small forward the 2010-2011 Toronto Raptors could easily be the worst defensive team of all time. Defense wins championships and if the Raptors are serious about competing that is what the team needs to focus on.

Sure it would be exciting to watch Monta Ellis put up 25 points per game, but ultimately it won’t make Toronto a better team.

Notes –

1. The Atlanta Hawks 2009-2010 team payroll is approximately $65.88 million, according to HoopsHype.com

2.  New York allowed 105.9 points per game (PPG), Minnesota allowed 107.8 PPG, and Golden State allowed 112.4 PPG

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