Tuesday, September 21st, 2010 at 1:00 pm  |  97 responses

Top 50: Monta Ellis, no. 40

The definitive ranking of the NBA’s best players.

by Bryan Crawford / @_BryanCrawford

The first time I saw Monta Ellis play basketball, he was a freshman at Lanier High School in Jackson, MS.

I moved to Jackson from Chicago during my senior year and spent my last five months of high school at Lanier. Needless to say, I’m “833″ all day, a Bulldog forMonta Ellis life, and over the years I’ve kept tabs on the goings on over there, especially when it comes to basketball.

During the time that I lived in Jackson, I saw a lot of good players come through the prep ranks, but Monta Ellis was better than all of them. He was GREAT. To this day I tell people he’s one of the two best high school scorers I’ve ever seen (the other was my teammate at Lanier who after graduation went to Georgetown and played with Allen Iverson). I’ve witnessed a lot of high school cats over the years who could fill it up, but none of them could do it quite like ‘Ta did it.

After putting up ridiculous numbers just a few games into his freshman year, the buzz that he had around town was so phenomenal that I had to check him out.

As I watched him play, it wasn’t the points that got my attention but the way he scored. His game was so smooth and so advanced that after about five minutes you could tell he was on another level entirely. He was using pro moves, stuff that you would see NBA players do, not 15-year-olds. Where most elite prep athletes use speed and athleticism to dominate, Monta had that, but he didn’t rely on it. He was technical with his; almost like he was practicing and preparing for something bigger.

I walked away from that game with the realization that Monta Ellis was a natural born scorer. He would continue to demonstrate that prowess for the remainder of his prep career and five years into his pro career, that’s exactly who he is today.

While a guy like myself can appreciate a player who can go off for 30+ on any given night, stat guys hate Monta. His game doesn’t fit into those neat little boxes they like to use to evaluate player performance. In fact, I read a scathing column by Noam Schiller recently that called Ellis “the epitome of inefficiency” among other things.

Look, I can’t in good conscious defend every game that Monta had because even though he averaged 25.5 ppg last season — taking 1,406 shots to go with a league-high 22 attempts per game — he had some pretty atrocious nights shooting the ball. But that’s basketball. It happens. Pure scorers are anything but efficient at times.

And for those who like to slap the “inefficient” or “shameless chucker” label on players like Ellis ad nauseam and say that he shoots a terrible percentage and his assist numbers are god-awful, I wonder if they’ve ever taken into consideration that Don Nelson’s offense is designed that way. His “green-light” system calls for whoever has the ball to fire away at any given moment.

It just so happens that playing out of position as the team’s PG, Ellis had the ball in his hands a vast majority of the time and it’s just wrong to expect a guy with a scorer’s mentality to all of sudden play like he forget what got him to the NBA in the first place. Besides, nobody has ever accused Monta of being someone who likes to get his teammates involved in the game. So if you thought a move to the point was somehow going to change that, then shame on you, not him.

Additionally, there wasn’t another team in the NBA so decimated by injuries that, at times, they had no other recourse but to start players just called up from the D-League. Given the talent that Golden State had, or better yet, the lack of talent that Golden State had last season, Monta Ellis was the Warriors offense and with that, you just have to take the good with the bad.

While he’s electrifying to watch and will make shots that’ll have you pressing rewind on your DVR, when he’s bad, he’s really bad, and some nights he’ll shoot you right out of a ballgame. That’s just keeping it real.

But even at that, I still wouldn’t go so far as to call him the epitome of inefficiency (he was once top 50 in John Hollinger’s PER rankings), if anything, the poor opinion that people have of his play just epitomizes the bad personnel decisions and the overall dysfunction that is the Golden State Warriors organization.

And before you try and knock Monta for his bad attitude when the Warriors drafted Steph Curry, I offer this: Even though he exhibited extremely poor judgment with the moped incident, if a team pays you $66 million to be “The Man” and then turns around and drafts a guy who plays the same position as you, wouldn’t you be pissed? I know I’d be.

Like him or not, with Monta Ellis, it’s very simple. If you’re depending on him to be your primary ball handler, distributor and scorer, in no time he’ll become your team’s worst nightmare. But if you put him with a “real” PG, move him off the ball, and give him room to just focus on what it is that he does best, then for 82 nights a year, he’ll be someone else’s.

The fact of the matter is, no matter what position you play him on the floor, Monta Ellis is going to get buckets. That’s just what he does.

Always has. Always will.

Player Team Position 2010 2009 2010 2009
Ray Allen Celtics SG 50 36 11 10
Gilbert Arenas Wizards SG 49 34 10 9
Lamar Odom Lakers PF 48 33 14 10
John Wall Wizards PG 47 NR 13 NR
OJ Mayo Grizzlies SG 46 46 9 12
Al Horford Hawks C 45 NR 6 NR
Jason Kidd Mavs PG 44 45 12 10
Joakim Noah Bulls C 43 NR 5 NR
LaMarcus Aldridge Blazers PF 42 39 13 12
David West Hornets PF 41 31 12 8
Monta Ellis Warriors SG 40 NR 8 NR

• Rankings are based solely on projected ’10-11 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jeremy Bauman, Maurice Bobb, Erildas Budraitis, Sean Ceglinsky, Ben Collins, Bryan Crawford, Sandy Dover, Adam Figman, Manny Maduakolam, Eddie Maisonet, Ryne Nelson, Doobie Okon, Ben Osborne, Charles Peach, Branden Peters, Quinn Peterson, David Schnur, Todd Spehr, Kyle Stack, Adam Sweeney, Dennis Tarwood, Tracy Weissenberg, Lang Whitaker, Eric Woodyard, and Nima Zarrabi.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.

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  • http://itsahardwoodlife.blogspot.com omphalos

    If he does get traded I hope its to Portland; B-Roy is a playmaking 2 guard which leaves Ellis comfortably scoring without creating a size disadvantage in the backcourt on D.

  • JR

    I really like Monta’s game, so smooth.

  • unrel

    how did the conversations go in the Slam war room deciding who’s better.. steph or monta?

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ryne Nelson

    Love watching Monta…. though I now always wonder how much BETTER he’d be if not for the moped accident. (The Warriors probably won’t have drafted Steph, either.)

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ryne Nelson

    @unrel, that’s actually a good point to bring up. There were no battles of will in making this list. We compiled 25 top-50 lists. Everyone’s ballot was weighted equally… so there really was zero discussion once the results came in.

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ryne Nelson

    It’s also worth noting that Monta was in the Top 50 in 2008: http://www.slamonline.com/online/nba/2008/09/slamonline-top-50-monta-ellis-no-46/ Much fewer tats back then.

  • JTaylor21

    Very good player but does he do anything other than shoot a lot and gamble on defense. SCurry will pass him as the warriors best player by mid-season.

  • Scott

    Steph Curry already is the warriors best player.

  • Ronald

    I think this guy is amazingly talented, but the way he reacted towards Curry just shows how irritating it would be to play with him. Dude literally freezes out Curry during plays.

  • http://slamonline.com Kap

    @ Bryan Crawford…What a small world. I graduated from Callaway in ’06 and I saw Monta play all the time in high school.

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ryne Nelson

    The best, Scott?

  • http://www.slamonline.com J

    I like Curry. But Monta is still better than him.

  • http://slamonline.com Bryan Crawford

    Word, Kap? That’s dope! Callaway has had some proud moments on the basketball court too since Wayne Brent has been running things over there. I hated to see LaQuinton Ross transfer to Murrah, but you guys still won state so it worked out.

  • http://slamonline.com Bryan Crawford

    I wouldn’t say that Steph Curry is their best player. Certainly more likable, maybe even more marketable, but the best? I don’t know about that.

  • Filipe

    So I guess Slam thinks Warriors is playoff bound, if their 3rd best player is #40 in the league…

  • http://google c_cantrell

    wouldnt call curry the best player on the team yet tho my opinion may change by the all-star break.. curry has alot of potential

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    Well steph curry does more then score. Monta puts up 25 or whatever but steph gets 18-5-5 this season with 2 steals. On a higher % shooting, so IMO he is the better player.

  • T-Money

    Monta is a better player than he’s given credit for. He just has to stay in his lane: 2 years ago he shot an absurd 53% from the field on 15 (good) shots a game. Now he’s trying to create more and the results are 44% fg on 22 shots a game. He’s an efficient 20 ppg dude but he gives you diminishing returns when you start iso’ing him and “letting him go to work”.

  • http://slamonline.com GotHandles?

    woulda loved a trade to the Knicks. he woould shine in d’antoni’s system.

  • http://www.slamonline.com/ niQ

    Is it just me? I thought I would see Monta somewhere between 25-35.

  • http://thetroyblog.com Teddy-the-Bear

    Way too low.

  • http://slamonline.com Bryan Crawford

    @Filipe: Playoffs? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. And 3rd best player? Wow…

  • shu

    Holy crap there will be NO DETROIT PISTONS on the Top 50 this year… 2005/6 we had 5 dudes I think. Dark days for this piston fan…

  • http://www.leaguelineup.com/ocpridehoops Coach Moore

    Monta is a very good young player! As most good players, they become great players when they win!

  • Mo

    Steph Curry is a “real” Point Guard…why u taking shots

  • unrel

    @Ryne.. i’m interested to hear the 25 people on how they view the rankings between the 2.. on a side note.. what if the lakers drafted monta.. instead of von wafer.. that would have been nuts..

  • Robert Womack

    I like Monta’s Game, dude can ball. I agree with this spot because with the warriors being his team he hasn’t made them into winners yet. But overall he has mad skill, Monta worked his way from the D-league up to the big show,and earned the most improved player award. Anyone that wins that award(most improve player) 9 times out of 10 transforms their fame and always becomes one of the best in the NBA. So again Monta, Congrats.

  • http://slamonline.com Bryan Crawford

    @Robert Womack: I could be misremembering, but to my knowledge, Monta never played in the D-League.

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ryne Nelson

    @unrel: It’s tough to do the ‘what ifs,’ like I said. The Lakers probably didn’t want to take the chance on a high school kid, even though it was the second round at that point.

  • http://slamonline.com Kap

    They drafted Bynum outta high school in that draft. They didn’t draft Ellis because if issues with his knees.

  • http://slamonline.com Bryan Crawford

    @Mo: Steph Curry is not a “real” PG. He’s shooting guard. GSW is playing him out of position too.

  • Red

    My 2nd fav. player after D-Rose. This dude is a beast. Should be higher to me.

  • a_whiteman

    Nbk monta puts up 25 5 and 5 with 2 steals, fine he shoots an average sg% of 44 but again like bryan said nellieball is shoot whenever u like so that will affect efficiency. Curry has great potential but right now the only clear advantage he has on monta is his extreme wetness.

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    It really is a small world. Me and Ryne Nelson used to be at some of the same HS basketball events when we were both in high school, him covering Naperville Central as their paper’s sports editor and me covering Dundee-Crown as my paper’s sports editor…and he goes on to do big things with Slam and here I am in freakin’ Anchorage, Alaska in an office/dungeon feeling like Milton Waddams in Office Space. Life’s not fair…

  • b

    This guy is a beast… I actually got to see him play in the state tourney and a few other games…

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    my bad i didn’t realize his output was that well rounded. Monta = 25 5 4 on 9-22 shooting. Steph = 17 – 5.9 – 4.5 on 6 of 14. Monta also led the league in minutes. So i Cosign you A_Whiteman and apologize for understating Monta’s production.

  • http://thephotoriot.com davidR

    remember when stephen jackson was asked to be the primary ball handler, distributor, and scorer? his assists and turnovers skyrocketed. same thing happened to monta when we traded jackson away for nothing. if curry starts asserting himself to be a little more ball dominant, watch out league. he’ll be solely focused to score, and if you’re on the opposing squad you don’t wanna see monta revert back to that unstoppable shooting guard.

  • http://thephotoriot.com davidR

    *he referring to monta. long day so far.

  • http://thephotoriot.com davidR

    also, don’t sleep on monta’s man to man d. he might be undersized, but he doesn’t get punked by bigger wing players. last season, when matched up against kobe and durant, he nearly shut them down.
    and ryne, kind of depressing to think of how good monta might’ve (could’ve?) been had he not injured himself from the moped incident

  • http://thephotoriot.com davidR

    and gotdamn, the new warrior jersey’s look whack as hell

  • http://slamonline.com Bryan Crawford

    I dodn’t think that ankle is even an issue anymore. And if it is, he’s a BAD man to average 25 PPG on a bad wheel.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    Well Steph did finish the last 2 month’s or so of the season as their primary ball handler. And was the most productive rookie in the league for the last few weeks. There was apparently a little tiff between the two that resulted in Monta going on spurts (often scoring outbursts that were very very entertaining) where all he did was shoot or take the ball to the rack. Which i guess caused small problems in the warriors locker room.

  • slick ric

    slam is tripping… monta should at least be top 30. He was killing it last year even though he put up Ivo like shot attemps.

  • http://Slamonline.com Caboose

    This is gonna be odd though because the Warriors will have 3 players on the list whereas a for sure playoff bound team like the Magic will have…1?

  • http://thephotoriot.com davidR

    a team might have more talented players than another, but that doesn’t automatically make them better. see the isiah thomas knicks for example

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    The Magic should have 2 (Jameer Nelson/Dwight Howard). And the warriors are not likely to have 3 unless stephen curry is the next name on the list.

  • http://thetroyblog.com Teddy-the-Bear

    Please tell me Hedo Turkoglu does not make this list.

  • http://slamonline.com/ Tzvi Twersky

    Great image, Ryne!

  • http://gregoden.com roybot

    Wheres BOUROUSIS? I really thought he was gonna be all over this because they put a “volume” scorer on the top 50. Good placing for Monta, but he should have been ranked last year as well. Im guessing Curry has to be next or pretty soon, right?

  • jer

    mo williams better not be on the 50..

  • JTaylor21

    BOUROUSIS is probably getting “trained” by the entire greek and geek squad.

  • TrailBlazing&SportingLisbon

    Id take Curry over Monta an day of the week

  • http://Slamonline.com Caboose

    I know david, I just find that funny. The Warriors really could make a playoff push if they kicked out Don Nelson and any mention of his stupid offense.

  • http://www.need4sheed.com Tarzan Cooper

    Monta is quite likely the best midrange player in the l, if not melo

  • Scott

    Yes, Curry is better then David Lee.

  • http://thephotoriot.com davidR

    caboose, i disagree with kicking nelson out. if anything, he’s done a remarkable job keeping the team competitive especially considering all the changes and injuries that happened. if anything, aren’t you excited at the offensive possibilities nellie is going to have to use with the current roster?

  • http://www.kb24.com The Seed

    Monta Ellis is just a scorer and that is it. The thing with Monta Ellis is he thinks he is in High School and tries to score at will, but it doesn’t work like that in the NBA. Yes he will get streaky, but I have watched too many Warrior games to see him shoot the team out of games. Slam can put him at 40, but he is not on my list. Just because he can score 25ppg doesn’t mean he is top 50 to me, especially when he doesn’t do anything else to help the team win. He just shoots alot to score 25 points a game, even it means to not get Curry or other players involved in a team dynamic. If Monta 40, OJ Mayo should have been, 39, because you put OJ on that Warriors offense and he averages the same thing. Monta is overrated, thats why no team is trying to kick down the Warriors door to have him. BOOK IT!!

  • http://thephotoriot.com davidR

    seen too many warrior games? seems like you’ve only seen a few with that analysis of monta

  • http://Slamonline.com Caboose

    David, I’m a big magic fan and I’d say jameer has done an exceptional job keeping the magic afloat and should definitely be on this list. unfortunately, he tends to be overlooked way too often. I hope slam does the right thing and puts him on but I wouldn’t bet on it. and as far as Nellie goes, he is great at beefing up numbers, but unfortunately defense today is what translates directly to success. though I suppose with the warriors where every player is pretty much offensive oriented, Nellie ball will work the best.

  • steele

    yeah, i’d be sooo pissed if a team gave me 66 million dollars. who do they think they are?

  • steele

    and you shouldn’t use his pre-injury stats to predict his future efficiency. no idea (it seems unlikely) if he’ll ever get back there again. he’s not nearly as quick/athletic as he was…he used to be a joy to watch.

  • tekno

    “And before you try and knock Monta for his bad attitude when the Warriors drafted Steph Curry, I offer this: Even though he exhibited extremely poor judgment with the moped incident, if a team pays you $66 million to be “The Man” and then turns around and drafts a guy who plays the same position as you, wouldn’t you be pissed? I know I’d be.”

    Uh…how can you be pissed when someone has just guaranteed you 66 million!

  • http://thephotoriot.com davidR

    caboose, with 11 more PG’s to go, i’m pretty sure jameer will be listed.
    as for nellie defense, he tries to focus more on disrupting — blocking passing lanes and lots of steals. very risky, but had the we believe warriors been a better rebounding team, they most likely would’ve gone to the WCF. sure they gave up a lot of points, but they had waaay more possessions than the opposing team because they (i think?) were the #1 team in forcing turnovers that year

  • http://Slamonline.com Bryan Crawford

    Tekno doesn’t get it…

  • http://Slamonline.com Caboose

    I sure hope so David. and the we believe warriors were good because, yes, they did force turnovers, but also because baron kept the tram running (fairly) efficiently. monta can’t run the warriors the way a point guard can.


    Monta likes mopeds, tats, and money.

  • miller126

    Does he really need to wear a knee brace, during a photo shoot? Were they making him run drills an shit ahahaa.

  • http://slamonline BossTerry

    I could be wrong, but I have Warriors ranked 3rd…. (among Calif. teams)

  • evanz

    Ellis was terribly inefficient last season. You can’t explain it away by “Nellie’s system”. Maggs, Morrow, Curry, and Watson were on the floor with Ellis, and they were more efficient. In the case of Maggs and Morrow, much more efficient. You can’t ignore this stuff and expect to have people take your list seriously.

  • http://slamonline.com Bryan Crawford

    @Evanz: See, I’m not really one who feels that algebra has a place in basketball. Therefore, advanced stats mean nothing to me. Efficency numbers mean even less. As I stated, I can’t totally defend Monta, but if you’re looking for a guy who’s going to use equations as supporting evidence of how bad he sucks, look elsewhere. I’m not that guy. Monta averaged 25 PPG for crying out loud. From an individual standpoint, it’s hard to complain about that. But but probably think Melo sucks too because he isn’t — by stat nerd logic — efficeint either. We’ll get there soon enouh though. Let’s see if you chime in then.

  • http://thephotoriot.com davidR

    what’s inefficient about averaging 25 PPG on 45% FG shooting? seriously.

  • http://thephotoriot.com davidR

    so, morrow is more efficient than monta. cool. what your efficiency stats don’t tell you is that morrow plays way less minutes than ellis, barely has any responsibility handling and distributing the ball compared to ellis, isn’t in charge of defending the other team’s best perimeter player like ellis is, and is more of a spot up shooter with the occassional dribble drive who only gets the ball when open cause his handles are suspect. see how dumb it is to only look at the numbers?

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    To clarify what evanz was attempting to get at. Ellis is only inefficient in his output vs the player he is matched up against. Offensively, with his FT attempts I’m pretty sure he is one of the top 10 most efficient guards in the league..

  • JTaylor21

    Of course a kobefanatic asks what’s inefficient about shout 45 FG%. Dude 45 FG% is very much inefficient.

  • http://thetroyblog.com Teddy-the-Bear

    Co-sign davidR. JTaylor, actually the difference between 45% and 48% can sometimes be as small as 1 shot attempt more per game… Seriously.

  • JTaylor21

    @Teddy but when you equate that into guys that take close to 20 shots a game it becomes a BIG difference.

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  • http://thephotoriot.com davidR

    what makes you think im a kobefanatic? and 1 more shot per game doesn’t make much a difference whether it’s 2 shots per game or 20. it’s still 1 more shot per game.

  • http://thephotoriot.com davidR

    and nbk, those efficiency numbers still don’t take into consideration that monta is always matched up against the other team’s best wing player. let’s see what happens to any of the efficiency numbers of the other warriors mentioned when they have to take on monta’s defensive duties.
    there’s a reason those guys are more efficient when playing WITH monta.

  • fruizm

    this guy and jr smith are the same…..i love their game….but they are missing something.

  • ryder

    Monta’s FG% is fine…the reason he was less efficient overall than other scorers (e.g. Durant, Wade) is that he doesn’t take as many 3-pointers nor does he get to the line very often.

    But I expect he’ll take more 3s this season (he’s gradually been incorporating them into his game) and hopefully someone will explain to him that he can get to the line at will with his athletic abilities and he doesn’t need to take so many bad midrange shots (which are very inefficient shots).

    In the past, Monta would go to the rim if he can see a way to snake around guys, but he’d just take a midrange shot if that wasn’t there. He needs to learn to just draw contact and go to the line–that’s what Wade and Kobe do.

    2 years ago, Monta made an absurd % of those midrangers, but that may have been a bit of a fluke + he had Baron to draw most of the defense’s attention.

    This past season, Monta felt he had to do it all (when Maggette wasn’t playing pinball) and it didn’t help that Nellie let him get away with it.

    Monta will have more help this season and he seems to have realized that and that he needs to be a better teammate and leader.

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  • Domenico

    Outstanding player, he guarantees points and talent.

  • Rainman

    ummm…did u just say Ellis played out of position this past season playing PG? he spent most of it playing Sg… Remember a little someone named Steph Curry? lol

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  • Avery

    lol monta ellis far better than many others who classified before him…i think actually in the top 20

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  • http://twitter.com/MikeBreezyLHDC mikeb0389

    wow SLAM, this is wayyyyyy to high. FORGET JOE JOHNSON, MONTAE ELLIS IS THE MOST UNDERRATED PLAYER IN THE LEAGUE. just watch him play, and consider his size and how he plays the game. he has the craziest layups in the nba since AI left.

  • Chicken

    Uhhhhhh, he is so under rated. He is in the top 25. He is a 6’3 guy that dunks it from the free throw line