Monta Ellis: Elite Warriors Guard with No Help

Chris FinocchioCorrespondent IDecember 8, 2009

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 03:  Monta Ellis #8 of the Golden State Warriors drives against Trevor Ariza #1 of 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

Tonight against the Thunder, Monta Ellis scored 31 points on approximately 31 possessions and had nine turnovers. Not the most efficient night imaginable, but it is important to note that Monta used 40 percent of the team’s possessions that game. Not 40 percent of the possessions when he was on the floor, but 40 percent total. That distinction is useless in this case as Ellis played 48 for what seems like the 10th game in a row.

Monta’s season usage rate was 28.8 percent before tonight, 12th highest in the league. The league leader is Dwayne Wade at 34.6 percent for comparison. After the departure of Stephen Jackson, and the injuries to Azubuike, Biedrins, Wright, Turiaf, Bell and others, Monta has been forced to raise his usage significantly.

Usage rate does not tell the whole story, though. Tonight, it was very clear that no one else on the floor was able to create besides Monta. Percentage of Field Goals Unassisted was the best raw stat I saw available to evaluate creation. Monta’s Percentage of FG’s Unassisted is 67, a very high number. LBJ is also at 67. Wade, who like Ellis is a high scoring guard lacking a great supporting cast, has a percentage of 70.

Still, Percentage of Field Goals Unassisted is not the best measure of how helpless Monta is. Instead I calculated Percentage of Team’s Total Unassisted Field Goals and Percentage of Team’s Assists. Ellis’s numbers were 34.9 percent for the former and 24.0 percent for the latter. Wade’s numbers are 39 percent and 33.2 percent. Message me if you want to see the calculations. The fact that Monta’s scoring figure is in the ballpark of Wade’s and he has been scoring much more than average lately is what’s striking. And Wades’s True Shooting Percentage (.533) is barely higher than Ellis’ (.526).

I wish I could calculate the Percentages of Team’s Total Unassisted FG’s for the last nine games in which Ellis has averaged 31 points. His percentage of Team Assists has increased slightly to 26.3 percent.  I have never seen anyone make so many difficult plays as Ellis has recently. Plays like this have become routine.

We can knock on Ellis for not being an efficient scorer, and point to Morrow or CJ or Biedrins having higher True Shooting Percentages. But, I believe that the marginal TS percent for all those players declines very quickly because they initiate so little of their own points. I think the only real way to estimate this is by having data on how each player scores in each five man lineup, and their usage in that lineup, and I don’t have that. This is not to say Ellis shouldn’t look for open shooters like Morrow more as Curry does. He should.

I am just saying that what Ellis is doing is quite remarkable and not incomparable to Wade. I understand that we cannot infer too much from assist rates. There is a lot of value in how well players can move off-ball to get assisted shots. Morrow finding the corners on breaks is much better than Maggette standing around when he doesn’t have the ball.

Monta’s ability to drive and finish has always been great, but he seems to have reached another level. He has not been using the pull-up game as much as he might, but maybe its because he’s been so crowded. I hope he remembers February of 2008, when he shot over 60 percent and did not seem to miss any pull up jumpers.

Right now who else can the Warriors look to create on a roster with roughly 8 healthy players? Maggettes’s usage and efficiency are significantly down this year, as he has become lazier/scared to drive and get to the line. Randolph should be able to blow by any four in the league, but hasn’t put it together yet.

Watson can hit jumpers when given space but probably can’t do a lot more. Curry isn’t shooting well and can’t get to the line. By the way, James Harden had 10 free throws in his first 10 minutes tonight.

It looks look we will see a lot of Monta working very hard to score in the coming months. I’ve just talked about scoring, but I am amazed by Monta’s ability (and inclination) to guard much bigger players- Granger at 6'9" 230 lbs., Vince Carter at 6'6" 220 lbs., and Durant at 6'10".

Can someone tell me if he is really defending that well? Will it continue? Does this mean Ellis and Curry can work? Also, how much are teams offering for him now? Though, I can’t imagine the Warriors doing something intelligent like selling high. It would be a shame if his career ends up like that of Allen Iverson.


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