Out of Bounds: The fall of Monta Ellis



I recently took my friend, who recently started following basketball like a madman, to a Warriors game.  

He’s a big Lakers fan but also started following the Warriors, which is like owning a house in Hawaii but having a vacation home in Somalia.  

One of the first things he said while watching the game was, “Man, watching Monta Ellis in person is totally different, he pisses me off.”  

Monta Ellis used to be my favorite Warrior; he hustled, did whatever the team asked of him and was electrifying on the court, even winning the Most Improved Player award for the 2006-07 season.  

But something changed with Monta.  

Maybe it was the leadership of Baron Davis because ever since Davis left, Ellis’ whole persona has changed.  

This year he is having his best statistical season, averaging over 25 points, five assists and four rebounds per game.  

But stats don’t tell the whole tale.  

The stats tell you he’s second in the league in steals with a little over two a game, but they don’t show how bad he actually is on defense.  

He routinely decides to guard the best player, which would be great except he never sticks with his man, and instead roams around looking for steals.  

No game illustrated this more than when he let Dallas rookie Rodrique Beaubois, who is averaging seven points per game, to continually get open and go off for 40 points.

What stats don’t tell is the way he openly resented rookie Stephen Curry to the point where he would avoid looking his way on offense.  

The stats don’t tell the way he monopolizes the ball on offense.  

Watching Monta play is like watching a high school game with two minutes left when all the scrubs are in.  

No chemistry, just whoever brings the ball up is shooting it, except it’s like that for 42 straight minutes, Monta bringing the ball up, Monta shooting.  

It’s not only that but he actually takes the team out of its rhythm.

If you watch the team move the ball around whenever it gets to Monta the ball stops.  

His patented move is catch the ball, wait, look at the defender, jab step, wait, then either spin move to the basket or pull up jumper.  

This takes around eight seconds, the problem is that it’s about seven seconds too long and allows the defense time to recover and for nobody to be open.  

You don’t know how frustrating it is to watch two of the top 10 three-point shooters in the NBA in Anthony Morrow and Stephen Curry being open in the corner, only to have Monta hold the ball and put up a crappy fade away that bricks off the rim.  

But the main thing the stats don’t show is his attitude.  

Once he got his contract extension and became one of the stars of the team, he’s a whole new person.  

You can see it on the court, in his first three years he received zero techincals. In his last 88 games? Eight technicals.  

Not a Rasheed Wallace rise in but a rise from zero to eight is still an example of a change of attitude.

When the team runs out of the tunnel for warm-ups at the beginning of the game, everyone runs our smiling and having fun, even the 10-year veteran Devean George.  

The only person who doesn’t come out? Monta Ellis.  

He comes out of the tunnel five minutes later by himself.  

But the most damning thing he does is when the Warriors go on a big run.  

Everyone else is waving towels, jumping up and down and meeting teammates at half court with chest bumps.  

Even players like Anthony Morrow, who has had his minutes screwed with so much you would have thought he stole Don
Nelson’s secret stash of alcohol, jump up and celebrate with his teammates.  

No matter what’s going on with the team, whoever is on the bench shows their support for their teammates.  

Except for Monta.  

If he’s not in the game he sulks on the bench like he should have been in the game.  No high fives, no chest bumps, no yells encouragement.  

So what do the stats tell us?

Monta is averaging almost four turnovers a game, most in the league.  

According to Basketball Prospectus, Monta’s Wins Above Replacement Player is a below average three and a half.  

That is to say if you replaced Monta with an average generic player and play them the same amount of time, that player would only generate only three less wins.  

Compare that to Stephen Curry whose WARP is a healthy six.

According to 82games.com the Warriors are actually better when Monta is off the floor. For every hundred possessions when Monta is on the court the Warriors score a net -12.1 points, so they score 12 points less when Monta is playing.

ESPN’s John Hollinger’s player rating for Monta Ellis is 16.74, which is better than the league average which is 15.  
This shows that Monta isn’t a horrible player, but he definitely isn’t the player he thinks he is.  

And until Monta realizes this, his stats and his play will continue to irritate me.  

Or until June when the Warriors get John Wall.  


Contact Curtis Uemura at [email protected]