In the aftermath of the departure of Stephen Jackson to the Charlotte Bobcats, the Golden State Warriors’ Monta Ellis has seized the teams’ reins of leadership like a seasoned pro. The fifth year guard has shaken the squad’s foundation over the last three games with an average of 37.7 points and 6.7 assists.
His recent off—the—Richter—scale shooting is reminiscent of his third year in the league when he shot .531 for the season. In the last three games, he’s hit 89.3% (25/28) of his free—throws and 53.7% (44/82) of his field goals.
His three point percentage of .421 for the season is much improved from his career average of .295. The great thing about Ellis is that he adapts to his own strengths and weaknesses on the court. In the 2008—2009 season, he only attempted 26 threes for the entire year, shooting .308 from beyond the arc. Through 14 games so far this year, he has 19 attempts.
In a league where players are willing to shoot a lot of threes, regardless of their percentages (some former Golden State players come to mind), it’s refreshing to see a player who isn’t going to abuse his possessions, especially with other talented distance shooters on the team.
3—point % team leaders:
Ellis is not only scoring, but he’s distributing to his teammates as well. His thunderous first step to the basket often leaves the opposing defender in the dust, which attracts help defense and leads to drive and kick assists. Monta’s 5.5 assists per game ranks him 16th in the NBA and his 39.6 minutes per game are the fourth highest in the association.
Although it has been a refreshing sight to see the ball spread around to the younger players more since the departure of Stack Jack (and his 15 shots per game), the teams’ assists per game have declined from 22.4 per game in the first nine games to 20.4 in the last five.
This lower assist total could be due to improved defense and a slightly slower game tempo. Over the last five games, the team has given up 4.5 fewer points per game (112.1 down to 107.6).
Ellis has contributed to this defense with some great rebounding for his position as well as some stellar blocks and steals. He is second in the NBA in steals per game, barely behind Boston’s Rajon Rondo, with 2.50 per game (2.53 for Rondo). Ellis’ 0.97 steals per foul is seventh in the NBA, which means that his quick hands are also keenly precise.
Ellis is second to only former Warrior Baron Davis in blocks for PG’s with seven (Davis has 11).
He helped to shut down Portland's top scorer, Brandon Roy, holding him to 6—17 shooting in a nice win over the Blazers.
Monta has been rebounding tenaciously for his size. He jets towards the basket to secure the ball on the defensive end, when he could be leaking out for fast breaks and to receive outlet passes.
The 6—3 athletic leaper ranks seventh among point guards in rebounds per game with 4.4.
He may not need to rebound as much as the newly acquired Vladimir Radmonovic can consistently grab boards (as he did when he rebounded 12 against the Mavs) and Andris Biedrins returns to the court (who inevitably will help to clean up the glass).
Ellis’ high volume and accurate shooting makes him more of a combo guard than a pure point guard, as he leads the ones by a hefty margin in shots attempted.
Shots attempted for point guards:
His high volume shooting has been a nice and necessary positive, contributing to wins against Portland and Dallas, as well as a few tough losses to some premiere teams. There has been a need for Ellis to fill in a spacious scoring vacuum as the Warriors’ have been without three of their best players (Biedrins, Wright, and Azubuike).
Monta has one of the smoothest mid—range jumpers in the game and is almost automatic from around the free—throw line. His dribble penetration is cataclysmic to the Dubs’ adversaries and he can get to the rack at will. His points per game should escalate beyond its current 23.4 and Ellis’ heroic rise to stardom should continue to help heal the franchise from some early season tumultuousness.