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Scott Howard-Cooper

The Warriors maintain that guard Monta Ellis won't be going anywhere in 2011-12.
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Warriors not worried about suddenly packed backcourt

Posted Jun 29 2011 9:27AM

Of course they express confidence this will work. The rookie dutifully says he has to earn minutes in the first place. The coach is in mantra mode, saying variations of "It will play itself out." The owner admits there have been "interesting discussions" on the Monta Ellis trade front, but that chances are "high" Ellis is a Warrior on opening night.

This is what people say in June, with the regular season far off, as the new lottery pick is introduced at the practice facility. Klay Thompson will fit fine as a scoring guard on a roster that already has two scoring guards. Incoming coach Mark Jackson will develop Thompson without lessening the impact of Ellis or Stephen Curry. The Thompson selection is not a flashing neon sign to Ellis to be packed. On an upbeat, welcoming day in early summer, this is what people say.

What other people believe is a different matter. The Warriors went 36-46 and missed the playoffs by 10 games, yet Jackson has said they will make the 2012 playoffs in a campaign promise he has no basis to make. Plus, they just spent the No. 11 pick on the last part of the lineup that needs addressing.

Depth is important and Golden State has little, so that part is understandable. But lottery regulars spending top picks for backup to the two best players, who, by the way, are all of 25 (Ellis) and 23 (Curry) years old, does not improve the defense or rebounding.

Is there room enough for all three -- scorers, young, needing minutes and the ball to be most effective -- in the backcourt? That's an interesting enough question. It is far from the most-pressing topic, though.

This is about Ellis and his Golden State future at the very moment he is at an apex, with back-to-back seasons of 25.5 and 24.1 points per game joined by glowing praise of a personal growth. Within the team, he has gone from being dismissive of the small-ball pairing with Curry, both listed at 6-feet-3 and 185 pounds, both Southerners, to embracing and succeeding within the union. But the Warriors, 21st in the league in shooting defense last season and 28th in rebound percentage in continuations of a well-earned reputation, need a big man who can deliver bruising results. Ellis is the best trade chip.

While the debate to keep Curry or Ellis is common among Warriors fans, the inescapable fact is that Ellis brings better talent in return because he is on the books for $11 million in 2011-12 compared to just $3.117 million for Curry, who is still in his rookie deal. Golden State always has the option of packaging Curry with a bigger contract, but an Ellis swap allows any interested team to acquire a high-scoring guard without taking on a bad contract.

"We love Monta Ellis," majority owner Joe Lacob said, just after putting chances at "high" that Ellis will still be a Warrior next season. "Absolutely love him. He's one of my favorite players, he's one of everyone on this team's favorite players. He should be one of everyone's favorite players. He's an incredible talent.

"We really, really, really value Monta Ellis and we want him on this team. Mark Jackson wants him on this team. And it's our view that he will be on this team. Now, like any other player on this team -- whether it be Monta or anybody else -- if we get an offer (and we have received offers on Monta and other players) that would improve the team, we'd have to consider it. And we did receive offers on Monta. We did not offer. We did not necessarily make a specific offer to go trade him.

"The addition of Klay Thompson does nothing but give us great depth and gives us a bigger guard. Monta and Steph are not small, but they are not big."

How close have the Warriors come to trading Ellis?

"There have been interesting discussions," Lacob replied. "But we have said no."

Lacob is pressed. Has he been at the point of nearly pulling the trigger?

"We've gotten offered some pretty good players," he said. "But we've said no."

It sounded like the Warriors have been tempted.

"I didn't say that," Lacob countered. "I said we have been offered some good players and we have said no. They're not good enough."

So, then, this will be the crowded backcourt until further notice: Ellis and Curry as projected starters and Thompson off the bench but needing minutes, and perhaps getting some of those at small forward. Jackson has envisioned that very alignment. Thompson, aware he had been linked to the Warriors for a couple weeks before the draft, has envisioned being able to play with both veteran guards.

"That's going to play itself out," Jackson said. "But I think those guys can hold their own on the floor together, and certainly to be able to score the basketball. But that's something that camp and games will speak volumes as far as who's on the floor and in what situations."

There is plenty of time to sort through the possibilities, in other words. It is, after all, only June. Of course this will all work out.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

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