Monta Ellis is amongst the NBA’s top five scorers this season and yet isn’t even on pace to top his own personal best. If ever a sentence summarized the most underrated player in the NBA, it was that one.
Or this one: Monta Ellis is averaging just as many points per game as Kobe Bryant this year, while shooting a higher percentage and recording more assists.
Statistics may lie, but numbers technically don’t. So why your mother can hold a respectable conversation about one of the California-based shooting guards but not the other is beyond me.
Although players like Bryant and Dwyane Wade are undoubtedly more valuable to their teams, how come Ellis’ ability to put basketballs in basketball nets doesn’t help his team out more than it does?
It’s a basic question – it’s one you might even take offense to – but think about it.
The Golden State Warriors aren’t a dominant NBA team, they haven’t been in recent years and aren’t likely to be in the next little while. They run and they shoot and score and stuff but they’ve never been able to stop their opponents from doing all of the above back to them, even better.
In a world of sabermetrics and advanced mathematical formulas derived to accurately quantify player production, it’s no secret that we haven’t found a way to measure which players thrive on defense and which ones don’t.
It’s easy, however, to see when one of their teams allows 105.9 points per game and loses more often than not. Kobe Bryant’s team, for comparison’s sake, allows just 96.9. As far as Ellis is concerned, the Warriors aren’t about to contend for a championship anytime soon, but it’s hard to assume that he alone is responsible for those nine additional points his team surrenders every game.
If the Warriors could suddenly match the Lakers defensively and win games as regularly, would Ellis get similar recognition to Bryant? Maybe not amongst casual fans, but what about the diehards?
It’s hard to believe, given Golden State’s penchant for run and gun basketball, that we’ll ever find out.
Ellis plays 40.9 minutes per game, or roughly 17% of the 240 minutes available to Golden State Warriors during a typical regulation game. Until a fair way of measuring defensive incompetence is discovered, isn’t the responsible way of distributing blame to simply just give him 17% of the fault?
Never mind the fact that, theoretically, Ellis’ contributions on defense may not be part of the problem at all, or that with his size and speed he’s better served gambling in the passing lanes than trying to serve as a fundamental lockdown defender in the mold of Shane Battier or Ron Artest anyway, Ellis isn’t costing his team anything they’re not already costing themselves.
At 25 years old and one of the final players ever drafted to the league straight out of high school, Ellis is a scorer through and through, and he has been for a while. After averaging 25.5 points per game in 2009-10, he’s back at it once again. With a career field goal percentage of .474 and a 2010-11 assist total that currently ranks in the league’s top 25, it’s hard to find a fault in his ability to generate points.
He may not have the experience and success of a Kobe Bryant or the charisma of even a post-Shaq/pre-LeBron Dwyane Wade, but he is their equal when it comes to satisfying the sole objective of basketball; scoring points.
You’d think that would be enough for people outside of the Bay Area to start including his name in their suppertime conversation.