Golden State Warriors: Monta Ellis or Stephen Curry?

K ShakranSenior Analyst IJanuary 13, 2011

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 03:  Stephen Curry #30 and Monta Ellis #8 of the Golden State Warriors look on near the end of the game against the Houston Rockets during an NBA game at Oracle Arena on December 3, 2009 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

It's a lingering question for the loyal fan base of the Golden State Warriors: Is it Monta Ellis' team or will it be Stephen Curry's team?

At the present time, there is no doubt that Ellis has been a major contributor, both on and off the court, to be labeled as the leader of this team and ultimately the face of the franchise.

But another question arises: Can Ellis and Curry coexist for several years as a successful backcourt?

This is where the fan base is split.

Some people, like 20-year-old UC Berkeley student Mike Curtis, say they prefer Ellis over Curry.

"I love Curry. I love Monta. But right now, Monta has made a bigger impact on the team and I would prefer him, right now, over Curry," Curtis said.

One the other side, long-time season ticket holder Raheem Ali sees Curry as the player who the franchise should build around.

Said Ali, "There are a lot of scorers. Stephen Curry is a pure point guard. Enough said."

Others, prefer Ellis and Curry to coexist as a backcourt.

Nevertheless, while Curry and Ellis have impressive statistical numbers for the season (Ellis: 25.6 PPG, 5.5 APG and Curry: 18.2 PPG, 6.0 APG), neither seem fully comfortable on the court together for several reasons:

1. Neither can contain their own man without gambling on defense.

Although Ellis is considered, at this point, more of a better defender than Curry, the 6'3'' shooting guard gambles more than anyone on the team. Sometimes, gambling defense, especially for guards as quick as Ellis seem to be successful at times, evident from averaging 2.3 steals per game in the 2010-2011 season campaign so far. However, it leaves the defense exposed at all times.

By going for a steal, or letting by letting his man get to the rim without moving his feet, Ellis puts his frontcourt players, David Lee and Andris Biedrins, in trouble.

Curry, on the other hand, plays a more fundamentally sound defensive game than Ellis, but has one a faulty habit that make coaches turn blue: reaching in. Although slight of build, Curry can move his feet extremely well but cannot help reaching in, in hopes of getting a steal for a fast break.

2. Ellis dominating the ball

At the present time, Ellis requires the ball to be in his hands to be effective on the offensive end. Playing 85 percent of the team's minutes (41.4 minutes per game) and taking around 20 field goals per game, the highest in the NBA, is a recipe for disaster on any squad. In effect, while Ellis is on the floor, the team has the most points allowed.

Dominating the ball does not only lower Ellis' player efficiency (and ultimately the team's record), but it also takes Curry out of his game. Curry, as a point guard, thrives having the ball in his hands and creating opportunities for his teammates—the primary role of a point guard.

Ellis also fails to move without the ball, and as a shooting guard that disrupts the overall offensive flow of any team. Curry has the ability to find open teammates, both in the open court and in half-court sets, if players move without the ball.

This could problem could also be attributed to head coach Keith Smart's poor offensive mentality, but it really has to do with how players move without the ball that makes them effective—especially shooting guards. And there are examples in the NBA, such as Ray Allen and Rip Hamilton.

Another problem that arises is turnovers. Curry has the most turnovers on the team with around 3.04 per game. Watching almost every game this season, one can attribute such a high rate of turnovers to another habit Curry has: one hand passes. Curry has a tendency to leave his feet without targeting a player to pass the ball to.

But looking closely at recent games, Curry does leave his feet without targeting players, which leads to turnovers, due to the fact that few players on the floor are moving without the ball. This goes for Ellis, Dorell Wright, Lee, Biedrins and occasionally Acie Law and Reggie Williams.

3. Physical attributes exposed on defense

Curry has a very slight build, and so does Ellis—both reported to be at 6'3'' and around 175 to 182 lbs. In the Western Conference, that is another recipe for disaster. Both have increasingly difficult times with guards that are stronger and taller.

A glaring example of that was on the January 9 game against the Los Angeles Clippers. Ellis was guarding Baron Davis, a strong-built point guard, and Ellis was stuck gambling for steals, or letting Davis post him on numerous occasions. The same exact thing happened with Curry, who let Gordon score 25 points with no-to-little defensive resistance.

On January 12 against the Lakers, Ellis guarded Kobe Bryant all night, but failed to find an answer for him in the last five minutes of the game. Again, looking closely at game tape, one can find that most of the clutch shots Bryant hit were over the top of Ellis, a clear indication that Bryant, being the smart player he is, recognized that he had a three-inch advantage over Ellis, and thus made those clutch shots by shooting over him.

The Answer?

Some time in the near future, the new owners in Joe Lacob and Peter Guber have to find a way by letting go of either Ellis or Curry. Ellis defers too much of his game while Curry is on the floor, and Curry defers too much of his own game while Ellis is on the floor.

Warriors General Manager Larry Riley, to make this team successful, perhaps has to either trade Ellis for a more stronger shooting guard or small forward that can defend the elite shooting guards of the league and has the ability to move without the ball, or trade Curry for a point guard that can defend the elite guards in the league with great efficiency on the offensive end of the court—avoiding turnovers, and possessing great vision.

And the question remains: Can Ellis and Curry coexist as the Warriors' long-term backcourt?

Only time will tell.