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Count the Warriors among those looking to nab David Lee

Jul 5, 2010, 12:30 PM EDT

david_lee.jpgThe jury’s still out on exactly what kind of salary David Lee can command this off-season. Yet with Rudy Gay and Joe Johnson topping out on their earning potential, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to see some team give Lee a max deal. Hooray for the Summer of 2010, where basketball paupers become princes (ahoy, Darko) and the middle class is elevated completely.

Lee has met with the Wolves, drawn interest from the Raptors, and been linked to just about every team with cap space (except the Knicks), and now the Warriors want to be a part of the fun and games. According to Marcus Thompson of Inside the Warriors, Golden State has their sights set on Lee and are looking to acquire him via sign-and-trade. Such a trade would practically necessitate Monta Ellis going to New York, which could actually be interesting for all parties involved.

The Knicks apparently have Amar’e Stoudemire locked down, but Mike D’Antoni desperately needs a point guard to run his offense. D’Antoni’s style is even more dependent on PGs than most, and as we’ve seen over the last few seasons, guys like Sergio Rodriguez and Chris Duhon just won’t cut it. Ellis would not only provide a stylistic fit (he’s been running and gunning with the Dubs his entire career), but also a far more talented alternative at the 1.

However, if New York was to take on Ellis’ salary, that would likely preclude them from signing another free agent. Monta and Amar’e would be an upgrade over last season’s Knicks in both talent and entertainment value, but is that really the future New Yorkers have been waiting for? Two talented but moody scorers, each a defensive liability in their own way?

Lee’s potential place on the Warriors would be a bit more complicated. Golden State has all kinds of bigs at the moment, and adding David to the rotation doesn’t make the picture any less muddled. Someone would clearly have to go. Ekpe Udoh, Andris Biedrins, Dan Gadzuric, Anthony Randolph, Brandan Wright, Ronny Turiaf, and Vladimir Radmanovic will all be vying for minutes at the 4 or 5, which doesn’t exactly leave room for Lee as a plug-and-play candidate.

However, such a move would be particularly notable for two reasons. The first is that it would demonstrate the Warriors’ faith in Stephen Curry as the team’s point guard. The second is that in Lee and Ellis, the Knicks and Warriors would be swapping two players who played in uptempo systems with very different results.

If given the keys to Mike D’Antoni’s offense, Monta Ellis could easily average 25+ points per game again next season. However, the problem with Ellis has rarely been the volume of his production, but rather its cost. Monta has been anything but efficient in his last two seasons with the Warriors, and while the team’s pace and the sheer number of scoring opportunities have still produced an impressive stat line overall, it’s a bit misleading.

If you look past Ellis’ per game numbers, his statistical resume starts to all apart. His PER last season was 16.7, which puts him somewhere between an average NBA player and a lower-tier star. He took 22 attempts per game to get to 25.5 points, which is fine but unspectacular. He turned the ball over quite a bit (which would be expected of a point guard, except that he didn’t generate all that many assists to balance them), didn’t get to the free throw line as much as he should have, and didn’t contribute much at all defensively. Ellis is good — and since his rookie season, that’s never been in doubt — but why isn’t he good enough to take advantage of an offensive system like that of the Warriors?

David Lee provides a very different case study in the effects of pace. Though is usage was high (though notably not as high as Ellis’) and the offense was fast, Lee actually remained a remarkably efficient player. His PER was an All-Star worthy 22.2, and Lee trumps Ellis in just about every significant per-possession metric. Some of those are inherent to their positional differences; obviously Lee is going to be the superior rebounder and shoot at a higher percentage, it’s just the a perk of being 6’9” rather than 6’3”.

Yet David also kept pace in the areas that were supposed to be weaknesses. His assist rate (per Basketball-Reference, “an estimate of the percentage of teammate field goals a player assisted while he was on the floor,”) is actually pretty competitive with Ellis’, and his effective field goal percentage, a measure which is created to benefit outside shooters, blows Monta’s out of the water. Lee may not be a perfect player (his defense leaves plenty to be desired), but he’s shown himself to be a far more efficient offensive machine than Ellis.

Maybe it’s simply a Golden State parasite that’s made Ellis into a shot-eating machine, but there’s only one way to know for sure. Ellis and Lee need to swap places to eliminate as much noise as possible in their statical profiles. I can’t say the trade would radically change either the Knicks or the Warriors outlook for the better, but if neither franchise is going to make a serious playoff run in the near future, wouldn’t it be prudent to use them as a giant Petri dish?

  1. Knicks4Lyfe - Jul 5, 2010 at 2:49 PM

    Monta Ellis not effecient??? His efficient rating is +20.02. This is higher than any guy that could be had right now including Tony Parker(15), Raymond Felton (11), Ridnour (7), Baron Davis (17) and Stephen Curry (19). The man scored 30+ points 24 times last year and has 40+ 3 times in that same year. He is 2nd in the league in steal per game behind Rajan Rondo and averages 5 assists per game in the 2 guard role with Golden State. Two more assist per game would put in him the top 10 of the league.
    I think your need to bash the Knicks has your judgement clouded. Building a champion takes time and the first step is attaining respectability while maintaining cap flexibility. Lets just start with that!

  2. goldenstateofmind - Jul 5, 2010 at 9:53 PM

    In 7/4/10 I did a web search on the Warriors and found that Riley wasn’t looking for D.Lee in trade? He’s dealing M.Ellis in a three way with NY.Knicks Minn Timberwolves. We would get Darco Milicic and Al Jefferson,the Timberwolves would get D.Lee and Ny knicks would get M.Ellis. It has been listed as all but a done deal. D.Lee was or is going to Minn! Look I know that the Warriors are mad at Ellis,but this is a trade we schouldn’t make! We can use Randolph and Wright as small forwards and trade Biedrins and Gadzuric to NY for D.Lee! They (Riley)talked about getting someing in return for players? Gadzuric makes just under 7 million for the next two years and all he could do is 2.9 ppg and 1.8 rpg come on? does this now sound like a Riley fire sale and sticking up with a bill of goods?
    I say if your going to trade M.Ellis and I would never do this!!! Trade him and D.Gadzuric to the Minn Timberwolves for the rights to L.Babbitt and Al.Jefferson!!!!! Then trade Biedrins and Radmanovic and Bell to Ny Knicks for D.Lee,L.Fields,E.House and wave House afterwards. Then move Ekpe to the #5 and with the cap room and mid level look for a #5 as a F/A. Remember we had mid levels and 10ml as trade options in the yrs before and let them go doing nothing with it. IM ASKING PLEASE DONT LET THEM SELL OF YOUR TEAM,ITS BEEN GUYS LIKE THIS THAT HAVE KEPT UP DOWN FOR TOO MANY YRS!!!!!!!!

  3. tess - Jul 5, 2010 at 10:14 PM

    Ellis for a bag of bananas is a good trade for the Warriors. The man is selfish, boorish and has a low basketball IQ. To get David Lee would be amazing. Lee is what is right about the NBA. He gets things done w/o the showing off so many of todays players need. One of only 5 20-10 players, Lee is underPPRECIATED DUE TO THE IGNORANCE OF NUANCE BY TODAYS FAN. WITH CURRY LEE BECOMES A 25-15 POWER FORWARD. tHE DEAL MAKES TO MUCH SENSE FOR THE DOLTS WHO RUN THE WARRIORS TO COMPLETE

  4. Alex - Jul 6, 2010 at 3:42 AM

    I wouldn’t and don’t like the idea of trading Ellis. Lee will never be the player that Ellis is and he’s going to improve. The Warriors have enough bigs today to fire sale for the next two years. Injuries did the Warriors in last year. With James, Wade and Bosch trying to stack the deck, it going to take more than Lee to beat them down. I like the idea of having the two best guards in the NBA. Now put some people around them. As much as I like all of the Warriors big men. I can live with the lose of a couple of them for an impact BIG. I live here, and I’d rather go to games and see the up tempo play their hearts out, them watch them drag a butch of big bodys up and down the court and still lose.
    I tired of the Warriors trading a way their talent; just see it come back and kick the mess out of them. The Warriors don’t need to painc; they need to be patient; and I pay to see them play. No more bad trades, other team can get player from the draft why can’t the Warriors? STOP THE TRADES….

  5. evan - Jul 7, 2010 at 12:02 AM

    its a well known fact that golden state wants to get rid of elis since seeing as a better option curry since pre allstar break.
    this trade makes sense for both teams and i see the knicks throwing in a 2nd round draft pick, tony duglas, bill walker who would be a steal and fit the offense prefectly or a trade exception with it, with the warriors giving radmanavic or anther big to the knicks also. the only thing that would stop this from happening is lee’s willingness to accept 12-15 million a year (i dont see any other team willing to pay more he only went to the wolve to make golden state offer more), so golden state’s cap doesn’t go up. The knicks most likely proposed this scenario to james
    think about it
    monte elis, wilson chandeler, James, galinari, and Stoudemire. honestly this is even a better line up then the bulls can offer. Rose is another monte ellis, stoudemire a better option then deng and noah, galinari can spread floor, with chandler slashing, james running most of offense.
    i really hope the knicks trade chandeler and keep bill walker that guy is gonna break out next year you heard it first from me.
    and the knicks would still have the ability to sign a max next year maybe if the king stays the cavs, maybe carmelo

  6. Jimbo - Jul 7, 2010 at 1:12 AM

    Riley said that he is not going to go through with this deal because he does not feel comfortable with al jefferson because of his surgery, does not think he is at full health

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