Could Monta Ellis Help a Knicks Renaissance?
Amar'e Stoudemire is all but signed, sealed and delivered, as the Knicks will apparently offer $100 million over the next five years for the big man's services. That's one piece, and the Knicks have the space to add one more. But what if instead of overpaying a free agent to come to New York the team could leverage its own popular free agent to acquire Stoudemire's next co-star by trade?
That's essentially the game with David Lee, who has suitors in Minnesota and Golden State. The Timberwolves would apparently like to lose power forward Al Jefferson in such a deal, but neither the Knicks nor Warriors are interested. The Warriors, according to Marcus Thompson III of the Contra Costa Times, would be willing to give up Monta Ellis in a sign-and-trade for Lee.
And it seems to me Ellis is just about the best option out there for the Knicks.
Under the assumption James and Wade aren't NY-bound, there simply aren't many perimeter players worth big salaries left on the free agent market. The Knicks let Chris Duhon, Nate Robinson, Toney Douglas and Sergio Rodriguez run the offense last season. That's just not going to get it done. Ellis soaks up possessions and scores in bunches; he's a credible threat to drop 50 every night.
You could replace Ellis' name with Stoudemire's in that sentence and get away with it. Ellis is, in several ways, Stoudemire's guard doppelganger. Neither has a reputation for defensive work ethic. Neither will win a "best teammate" award any time soon. Neither are perfect. But these are scoring wizards, effective in transition and aggressive as all get-out. And they'd be playing for Mike Freakin' D'Antoni. Even if they don't win half their games, they'd be refilling Madison Square Garden with much-needed bombast.
With Monta and Ama're, the Knicks would have a puncher's chance every night, and better odds than that against half the Eastern Conference. Adding the pair to Danilo Gallinari could thrust New York into the league's top 10 in offense, and it would certainly peg them to myriad SportsCenter highlight reels.
And that's where the real work needs to be done: in perception. Perception is everything. The Knicks have to change the perception of their franchise. Right now, the Knicks are a joke. Landing a titan like LeBron or Wade would have reversed that instantly. Without such a glorious victory, it will take a new product on the court to change the perception fans have of the Knicks. An Ellis/Stoudemire Knicks team won't knock over the Celtics or Magic, but it will be a vast improvement in both aesthetic and qualitative ways. That matters heading into the summer of 2011.
What else matters is that unlike the max players on the open market, who command $16 million or more a season, Ellis makes only $11 million a year. By trading for Ellis, the Knicks would retain major flexibility next summer, when major big names (including potentially Carmelo Anthony, Tony Parker, Yao Ming, Greg Oden and Al Horford) become available. With a new public image and more cap space, the Knicks could really begin building something special at MSG.
Until LeBron makes his announcement, it's a waiting game, and considering Ellis should be available so long as Lee remains on the market, there's no rush to zip into this line of thinking. But renouncing the "spend at all costs" mantra in favor of targeted acquisition via trade would seem to be the right move for a franchise as embattled as the Knicks. It's time to turn the narrative around and begin to be complimented by the world of NBA observers. Landing a player like Ellis instead of overspending for a free agent can help that attempt.