The flying Ellis close

As the Warriors end their improper fondling of relevance…

The Monta vs. Stephen debate is inexorable in a slump’s wake. And I can’t fight suck’s zeitgeist–it’s like watching your house flood as you wait in a puddle. This is a Curry endorsement.

Monta Ellis is talented, exciting and armed with compelling individual statistics. He’s leading Stephen Curry in PER, Wins Shares, Wins Produced, Tattoo Overlap, etc. The mid-range jumper evokes prime Rip Hamilton, the drives slash closeouts like early Iverson. I’m happy to absorb the show, every Oracle visit.

But Monta is last in team plus-minus, continuing a trend from last year. The oft-maligned stat isn’t alchemy–there is meaning in a nagging minus. A star just shouldn’t ride caboose in this category. Ever.

The year is adding minuses

Curry isn’t exactly killing plus-minus, but that’s part of the problem: Steph’s a lot better with backcourt free reign. Saw it last year, but didn’t want to confess: He’s a different player with a team to run.

23.1 points, 8.3 assists

Those are Curry’s basic numbers from the 17 games Ellis missed in 09-10 (compare it to Curry’s 17 points and 5.9 assists overall). This production isn’t pace-adjusted and the Warriors didn’t exactly excel in those contests (6-11). Obviously, Monta missed more games later in the year–after Steph had found his weapons…and I’m sick of the caveats. They obscure a simple truth: Stephen Curry is more productive when Monta Ellis wears a suit.

I’ve heard “defense” cited as a reason for why Ellis bests Curry. Steph isn’t Rajon Rondo, but his failings in that facet have been greatly overstated. Many fans prefer Monta’s brand of D because it’s very active, visibly so, memorably so. Activity deceives. Though we’ve been conditioned to believe that defense is about effort, it’s buyoed by technique, awareness, and patience. Old teams tend excel on the defensive end, because it’s cerebral as brain surgery performed by flying brains. Ellis is often too inclined to gamble, too prone to be distracted by the rock.

Shown in these two frames, Monta gets over-zealous after an early steal on Rip Hamilton.

Monta rushes at a posting Hamilton, attempting to steal

Monta steals air, Rip spins by

Ellis is so committed to creating turnovers that he often loses responsibilities. See below frames:

Monta watches Rose dribble as Bogans moves

Deng picks Monta as Bogans runs

Monta's still watching Rose as Bogans scoots past

Monta's frozen as Bogans runs around the corner

Bogans gets the ball, Monta's across the court

There are many examples of Stephen Curry’s defensive struggles, but I show this splice to convey an oft-spotted Ellis pattern, and he might be dragging in +/- due to this. Look, I love Monta Ellis, and I would never impugn his talent or competitive spirit. I’m just tired of this dilemma and how it envelopes Warriors chatter. Also, if the Dubs are this bad on account of a David Lee injury, the current backcourt tandem might not be as dangerous as we thought. And I would bet on a future Stephen Curry to contribute more wins than a future Monta Ellis.

Twitter: @SherwoodStrauss

Email: [email protected]

11 Responses

  1. Basketball Goals

    Nice little break down. I just don’t know the value you could get out of trading one of these guys. But I am in the Steph Curry camp if it goes down.

  2. Chappy81

    I don’t think I agree about the whole plus minus thing. Since the Warriors get outscored more often than not, and Monta is on the court 47 minutes a game he’s obviously going to have a minus next to his name…

  3. Padraig

    I don’t know what it is but this article seems like Kawakami Jr. The blog version and not the published one. It irks as it reads like an undergraduate paper: big on conviction and light in evidence/facts. I guess that is why fans of the team shouldn’t be writing as they cannot be wholly objective. More of this and might as go to Bleacher Report or Golden State of Mind.

  4. garrett

    trading monta or steph is absurd. Who out there can you get an immediate return for ; tyreke evans doesn’t pass oj mayo lost his starting spot the list of less than spectular replacments goes on. We r an ideal guard short but that’s going to come further down the line and when that does come well want them on the team with monta n steph not replacing them. Melo doesn’t want come the bay anyways and to rent him for a season in exchange for one our best players is stephs absence lin has stepped it up so its kind of blessing in disguise. Our gaurds tend to do much and overhelp on d which is one of the reasons why their getting outclassed. We should trade b wright, vlad and bell to the raptors for peja and or julian wright. I like the bigs we have lou dan jeff and ekpe give us energy. Rebounds and defensive tenacity off the bench when they’re all healthy there’s no frontcourt we can’t handle. A trade isn’t likely to happen soon anyways

  5. Eric

    First of all, let’s not get all gloom and doom on the backcourt (or one member thereof) when our only healthy 4 is an undrafted rookie. I don’t think the backcourt is anywhere near the biggest issue right now. I say this mostly in counter to your “maxed out at .500” comment. Of course they are not going to win games when they have shitty bigs in a sport where, when it comes down to it, big guys are the ultimate commodity.

    As far as my specific critique of your analysis, I don’t like using total +/- as a barometer of a player’s success for 2 reasons:

    1. If we are losing games in general (like, say, theoretically Pau Gasol is having a 10-10 game against Adrien and Gasol), the player who is on the floor most is penalized. In terms of points scored per point allowed, Curry *is* still looking better with .97 points scored per point allowed to Monta’s .95, but Monta is hardly last on the team by this metric. Gadz is by far the worst with .83 (.83!!! That’s terrible), Carney and Vlad Rad next with .88 and .89 respectively (no surprises here), with Reggie WIlliams coming in at .91. Monta is leading all of these guys by a healthy margin when you look at it on a per-point basis.
    2. Monta is playing the toughest competition and is used more in competitive scenarios. There is a reason that he didn’t come back in after the hip bruise to clean up against Ebanks in that Laker blowout. Steph still sees some garbage time against the opponents’ bench because (presumably) he is a young guy and can benefit from the court time.

    I’m as big a fan of stats as the next guy, but they can be deceptive if we don’t contextualize properly.

    Happy Thanksgiving Sherwood, hope all is well with you and yours 🙂

    • Eric

      should have read “against Adriend and Vlad Rad” – not sure how that happened… no way I should ever confuse Gasol for Vlad Rad!

  6. Matt

    Without Monta the dubs will not have a sense of energy that they need to be successful in any way. Monta is in a slump that will happen to all players, and with him sitting out practically whole quarters at some points, I don’t see stephen Curry leading them to victories. Besides to be dangerous you need more then two wings players you need a guy like david Lee or just a good big man in order to good. Just look at the Miami Heat. Bron and Wade are about just as successful as Monta and Curry

  7. Jai

    I like the Stephen Curry who almost won the ROY award last year with a top 5 PG performance from Jan-April. I don’t like the Stephen Curry that showed up this year, starting with his Team USA performance. On Team USA I noticed a couple of red flags, shooting pct and TO’s.
    He had the highest TO rate on the team and he was missing too many wide open shots. The main reason Curry was drafted was for his pure shooting. He is actually a streak shooter. All of these issues have carried over into the beginning of the season. Actually things have gotten worse. On Team USA it looked like Curry had improved his on the ball Defense, even though he was getting beat more than any of the other PG’s on the team. However, at the beginning of this season, Curry can’t guard a door. I feel that if he continues to play at this level and be a liability on Defense w/poor shooting pct, they should try and move him in a deal for Melo. Problem is, his stock will start to go down. I’m sure the NBA scouting reports are echoing what I’m saying right now. I know this will cause a bunch of people with a Curry man crush to disagree, but if you can see the Forrest for the trees you’ll see what I’m sayin. If not now, keep watching. Like I said, this red flag has been blowin in the wind since Team USA.

    Happy Turkey day

  8. Ron

    I completely agree that Monta has all the flash and dash, but even as just a recreational bball player, I see his gambling style, lack of effort on the defensive end, and, just as importantly, the fact that he does not make the other four warriors on the court better. He is just another version of a Corey Maggette… great per minute scoring stats, no wins. Except when he wins at the roulette table and gets 4+ steals and happens to make some of the 1-3 spin jumpers while his teammates watch. And it goes without saying that this type of player lacks in leadership ability, and that’s where the Warriors are lacking the most. With this style, they are maxed out at .500.

    • norcalraptor

      Monta is the best defender on the team. He guards the best player on the other team and most of the time they are bigger and taller. For Monta to have a chance against bigger 2 guards, he gambles and tries to steal the ball. If not, he ends up being posted up like like Kobe did him the last game. When other team pays the Warriors, they don’t plan to stop Curry or Lee. They plan on stoping Monta, they clog up the lane, have 3 defenders waiting on Monta so he can pass out. But when Monta passes out the ball, Curr, Lee or Williams has to make the open shot. So far, Curry cant make an open shot during the flow of the game.

      You want to trade Monta? Look who is out there and see what can you get for him. I see an over paid Andris and Lee. Lee is not a defender and plays facing the basket. We need a big man that has a post move and can get easy basket. Lee has nice stats from the Nicks just because the style of offense they run. Your number will be blown up with a run and gun offense. We plays s similar game like the Nicks and Less is struggling to hit open shots and so is Curry.

      With all of that, We still need to trade Monta because he is the best player in our team. Curry needs to play with a bigger 2 guard because he just cant defend. Curry is a liability in defense. We get more value trading Monta. We are pretty much stuck with CURRY LEE and ANDRIS.