The Warriors are dealing, and it would be prudent for Monta Ellis not to sign any long-term leases in Oakland. He may be the next to leave.
The big deal was the trade for All-Star power forward David Lee, which sent Anthony Randolph, Ronny Turiaf and Kelenna Azubuike to the New York Knicks. Warriors GM Larry Riley followed up by signing free agent forward Dorell Wright.
There are several conclusions that can be drawn from this. One is that Riley is trying to build a team that can win now. Randolph may become a big star, but Lee is already there. Wright isn’t yet but, at 24, he’s on the rise.
Another is that these moves change the type of team the Warriors are. They will no longer be the quirky, undersized team of great firepower and little defense. Lee is an excellent rebounder and defensive player, along with being a 20-point-a-game scorer who should work well with point guard Stephen Curry. Wright is a good defender at small forward.
Ellis is not a good fit on this kind of team. He’s a good defender against smaller guards, but gets overpowered by the bigger shooting guards. He needs a trade to a team that can either play him at the point or pair him with a bigger point guard who can defend shooting guards.
Still another conclusion is that we misjudged Riley. He was seen as a Don Nelson surrogate when he replaced Chris Mullin because he had been close to Nelson as an assistant coach. But he pointedly noted in a pre-draft meeting that Nelson was not heavily involved in draft discussion, and it doesn’t seem that he had much input into these moves, either.
Does that mean Nelson is gone? Not yet. He doesn’t want to leave yet, and I doubt the new owners will make an immediate change. But after the season ... goodbye, Nellie.
Riley’s position is more problematical. He’s admitted he obviously can’t predict what the new ownership will do, but I think he’s earned the right to stick around, which he would like to do.
He made a bold and unexpected move to draft Curry last year and, though that created a temporary log jam in the back court, Curry is now the player the Warriors are building around, both a gifted shooter and an excellent passer who sees the whole court. He’s going to have a long and productive career.
This year’s pick, Ekpe Udoh, was criticized by some of the Internet “experts,” but that’s probably because they didn’t predict it. I’ll withhold my judgment on Udoh until I see him as a pro, but I don’t need to wait on Lee, who’s a proven commodity.
Though this kind of team will not give Nelson so many opportunities to show his wizardry with game planning, he’s often spoken of his days with the Boston Celtics when Bill Russell was a shot blocker and rebounder who made the famed Celtic fast break possible. He may enjoy having a similar lineup.
Certainly, Warriors fans will welcome a return to a conventional style if it produces a winning team, as these changes should.