It is possible that Jerry West came to the Warriors with the sole purpose of fashioning the franchise to the exact and entertaining specifications of Monta Ellis, for now and forever. But I would not bet that way. In fact, when you study all things Warriors and West — not necessarily in that order — the Ellis foreshadowing is hard to miss. It’s nothing personal. It’s just basketball business. And with West on board as management’s newest, sharpest voice, it seems likely that West already has begun to survey trade options for Ellis. “I’ve seen teams trade players that score tons of points and people say, ‘How in the world can you trade that player?’ ” West said last week. “Because he might score tons of points and the team doesn’t win. “When I look at (the Warriors), obviously they need more size.” Of course, West was not definitively referring to Ellis when he spoke those words, and throughout the conversation he added that he admired Ellis’ toughness and inventive scoring ability. But if West is instantly the team’s most influential voice in personnel moves, which I believe he is, and if he’s going to make a major move, which everybody in the NBA expects “… whom else but Ellis could he trade? This is part of the West methodology; since coming to the Warriors, he has emphasized the need to take risks, and my assumption is that co-owner Joe Lacob understands and embraces this.
West also mentioned two unpopular trades in his Lakers past — when he dealt Norm Nixon for rookie Byron Scott and when he dumped Nick Van Exel to Denver.
Both moves, by the way, involved trading away high-scoring, ball-dominating smaller guards to clear the way for more versatile, younger talent.
The point of the Nixon deal: Handing the Lakers offense, once and for all, to Magic Johnson. “I’ve always said that with the ball in his hands, Earvin Johnson was Magic Johnson; with the ball out of his hands he was Earvin Johnson,” West said. “(Johnson and Nixon) had a difficult time sharing the ball and being successful.” The point of the deal to move Van Exel, one of West’s favorite players: Beginning to tailor the backcourt to Kobe Bryant. The point of a potential Ellis trade: Handing the keys of the Warriors offense to Stephen Curry, and, if possible, adding larger players who can play defense around him. “I love to watch them play,” West said of the Ellis-Curry combo. “They’re so much fun to watch play. But at the end of the day, you want to win. “Monta Ellis, a fierce competitor. He competes his fanny off every night. Love to watch him play. “But to me, size helps. Size helps.” Curry is the more versatile player, and he is younger. I think Ellis is a special offensive player who has done some wondrous things here in six seasons, but if you’re building a backcourt, you would start it with Curry over Ellis.With that in mind, it’s probable that West and the basketball operations staffers are viewing their No. 11 pick in the June 23 draft as a reasonable way to add a larger guard to pair with Curry.
Two names to remember: Colorado’s Alec Burks and Washington State’s Klay Thompson, both taller, rangier two-way perimeter prospects who could be available at the Warriors’ spot. And it is logical that the best time to trade Ellis will be draft night, when NBA executives always are at their most active. When the time is right for bold decision-making, if you’re willing and eager to pull the trigger on trading a popular player. “They have attractive players on this team that a lot of people would like to have,” West said of the Warriors. “If you’re in a position of strength, and you have (a player) somebody might want badly, you might be able to acquire a couple of really good players that give you more depth — it gives you a better balance to your team.”
Then there is the matter of getting the right deal for Ellis, who is due $11 million in each of the next three seasons. After checking with a few NBA sources, two teams kept coming up — both with the combination of potential interest and the right roster pieces to intrigue West and the Warriors.
They were: Chicago, which might have been a big-time perimeter scorer away from pushing Miami to the brink in the Eastern Conference finals. Would the Bulls think about Luol Deng for Ellis? Could the Warriors sweeten that offer? And Memphis, West’s old team, which has Rudy Gay at a huge salary and which offered O.J. Mayo for Ellis in the recent past. That doesn’t mean it will be easy for the Warriors to trade Ellis — emotionally or practically. It will take some guts. But again, that’s precisely why West was brought to the Warriors in the first place.
Read Tim Kawakami’s Talking Points blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/kawakami. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 408-920-5442.