The term franchise player gets used fairly often but not always accurately in the National Basketball Association. Indeed, we have been conditioned to think that the best player on a given team is technically its franchise player, which is not always accurate. For instance, Danny Granger is the best player on the Indiana Pacers, but is he their franchise player? I say no. Your franchise guy gets your team to the playoffs (I wrote a whole series about franchise players that you can find here). But is he the face of the franchise? Absolutely. When you think of the Pacers these days, he is the first name and face that comes to mind.
So although it is somewhat of a subjective exercise, how do we determine if a player is worthy of the title Face Of The Franchise? I asked our very own Ethan Sherwood Strauss his thoughts on this and his answer was (he wanted me to mention he was working off of two hours of sleep at the time I questioned him): “Well, we don’t have to be consumed with whether someone is the ‘face’ of a franchise, but we can determine the best player for our own nerdy arguments. I’d take stats into account, look at PER, WS, WP, see how stable a player’s production is. In the case of OKC, it’s become a difficult question, more art than science. Smart fans should realize that big men tend to be underrated and perimeter scorers get overrated so sometimes that causes a gulf between who the face of the franchise is and who he should be”. All fair points, but we are still going to figure this out.
After giving it some thought, I figured out a way to determine whether a player is truly worthy of the claim of face of the franchise. Mind you, the criteria will differ for a team that’s a perennial playoff contender and team that struggles to reach a .500 winning percentage. Have a look at the criteria that players must fulfill in order to be eligible (for a team struggling to stay afloat with their win loss record).
- The Baron Davis Theory: This one should hit home with Warriors fans. As long as a player is fairly young (under 30 years old) and productive, it’s easy to have hope and project great things from this said player.
- The KG Standard: The player has to bring it every night and consistently produce to the point that we can pencil him in for his usual great numbers.
- The LeBron Wade Stub: A combination of the names of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Basically the player involved has to make you feel as though you need to see him play at least once in your lifetime to fully enjoy just how great he is. And I’m not talking about free tickets either; the player has to make you want to pay to see him play.
- The Larry Bird Certificate: Bird was so good and yet so consistent during his playing days that he developed an insane amount of confidence. He could trash talk with the best of them and even made certain players fear the prospect of what might happen if they ever replied to his banter. Essentially, you want your guy to routinely raise his game against the best competition.
- The Tracy McGrady Card: During his stint with the Orlando Magic, Tracy McGrady did something that few had done before: he singlehandedly gave the Magic fans hope that the team would one day be great as long as he was there.
- The Penny Hardaway Provision: The player that is going to be the face of your team has to be able to suit up and play. If he can’t go, it’s hard for the franchise to set up their advertisements around him, entertain fans and sell out games. Penny failed this test in his last few years in Orlando. Face of the franchise has to suit for 85% of his team’s games.
Now that I have prepped you all, I think now is about the time for us to see how our featured player of the day stacks up. Enter Monta Ellis….
Ellis was drafted in the second round (40th overall) of the 2005 NBA draft out of Lanier High School in Jackson, Mississippi. When the Warriors drafted him, they saw a player that they could groom into becoming a point guard while some basketball experts had determined that he would probably be the next Dajuan Wagner (have a look at his Draft Express profile here). Don Nelson saw the potential in him and asked him instead to be a scorer which helped the team make the playoffs by his second season, where they upset the #1 seeded Dallas Mavericks in the first round.
The team eventually traded away the core players that led them to the playoffs and built the team around Ellis. He now leads the team in scoring, steals, field goal attempts, free throw attempts, minutes and is second on the team in assists. For all intents and purposes, Monta is the team’s primary option. But is he the face of the Warriors franchise, or should we be looking at Stephen Curry instead? Let’s find out.
The Baron Davis Theory
Monta Ellis is currently in his fifth NBA season and is performing quite well this year. Although the team has struggled these past two seasons as evidenced by the cumulative 39-77 record, the fans still stand behind Ellis because of his gifts but also because he is relatively young by NBA standards at the age of 25.
The KG Standard
Whether it’s opening night of the NBA season or simply the 70th game of the year, Warriors fans have come to expect their starting shooting guard to lace up his sneakers every night and perform like one of the best players the league has to offer. Have a quick look at his career numbers:
Some very respectable numbers by Ellis. Now let’s have a look at his past two seasons:
Now that’s what we’re talking about. The Warriors guard brings it every night and gives his best with the hope of leading his team to a win. He is out there putting up numbers that few have been able to put up throughout the history of the NBA (more on this later).
The LeBron Wade Stub
Wanting to pay to see a player is obviously quite subjective; however it does come down to how you position things. For instance, I am not saying that Ellis is on the same level as Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade; however if I told you that he was playing just as well they are so far this season, you would probably call me out on that right? Here’s the catch though, even with my worst Maverick poker face (character played by Mel Gibson in the movie Maverick), you would have trouble telling if I were lying. And lo and behold, turns out it’s the truth. Look at the top six shooting guards listed by player efficiency rankings:
Most fans already know how exciting Monta is on the basketball court, but when presented with information as such, doesn’t it give you just that extra boost to watch him play? For the record, I would love to get a chance to watch all six of these guys.
The Larry Bird Certificate
For lack of a better term, you cannot just talk about it, you have to be about it. The best players in the NBA raise their game to another level when playing against the elite. In this instance, most would think that it would be prudent to judge Monta Ellis’ performances in nationally televised games or simply against some great scoring guards, but instead let us focus on how he has faired when matched up against the best perimeter defenders in the league. Here’s a quick list of defenders that Ellis has faced: Shane Battier (HOU), Nicolas Batum (POR), Thabo Sefolosha (OKC), LeBron James (MIA), Ron Artest (LAL) & Kobe Bryant (LAL), Grant Hill (PHO) and Stephen Jackson (CHA). Have a quick look at Ellis’s output against these players:
His averages against them? Look below:
31.8 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 5.0 APG, 2.0 SPG, 55.4% FG%
Monta Ellis might walk into the arena with all the confidence in the world, but he also exits it the exact same way.
The Tracy McGrady Card
The Golden State Warriors might not be a winning team right now, but the presence of Monta Ellis is enough to make fans believe that the ship will be righted at some point. Indeed, with the way that he has performed last season as well as this one, fans believe that management will be able to surround him at the some point with enough talent for the team to be truly competitive.
Also, previously I mentioned that Monta Ellis’ performance this year might have some historical significance. Can you guess how many times a player has averaged at least 25.0 points, 5.0 assists, 2.0 steals all the while shooting 45% from the field or more for an entire season? Tick tock tick tock. It’s happened a mere 17 times in NBA history and here we have Ellis on schedule to do it for an 18th time if he manages to maintain his current production until the end of the season. I bet you’re curious to see what names made the list.
*Player in the Hall of Fame
After seeing the names on the list, how was that as far as selling hope? In case it has not yet jumped out, most of the players on the list above were either part of the Dream Team or Redeem Team that both brought the gold back to the United States at the conclusion of their respective Olympics.
The Penny Hardaway Provision
For his career, Monta Ellis has participated in 340 out of a potential 454 games, thus resulting in a participation rate of 74.9%, which would make him no better than Penny Hardaway. However, given the fact that Baron Davis was the star on the team before, Ellis has only been asked to carry the weight of the franchise in the past two campaigns Hence, it would make more sense to look at his career games played for the past two seasons in order to get a more clear idea of how he has fared as the team’s star player. Since the start of last season, Monta Ellis has appeared in 108 out of a potential 126 NBA games, which translates to a 85.7% participation rate.
In conclusion, Monta Ellis is a phenomenal basketball talent and a player that the Golden State Warriors as well as their fans want to see carry the weight given all of his gifts. In him, they see a player that makes the squad entertaining and lays the foundation for the team to eventually be a good one….that sounds like someone who is the Face of the Franchise.