Top 50: Monta Ellis, no. 37

by Christian Mordi / @mordi_thecomeup

The year was 2003 and even though the games in the AAU tournament were played in the mean streets of Detroit, one player was cool as a cucumber: Monta Ellis. Coaches and players alike watched in amazement at how easy he made the game look, whether the ball was in his hands or coming off a screen, Monta was an unguardable force.

Not much has changed since then. Now an NBA player, the Mississippi native possesses one of the most lethal first steps in the League. Monta is the cause of many sleepless nights for opposing coaches, due to his affinity to push the tempo of the game and his elite finishing skills in transition.

Despite his small stature, Ellis has a great shot selection, shooting over 46 percent for his career. The combo guard also knows how to get to the line, averaging close to 5 attempts per game last year (more than All-Stars like Joe Johnson and Andre Iguodala, for example). Yet despite all the chunky stat lines he has distributed, seven years into his career, I still feel he is one of the NBA’s most under-appreciated players.

Many only know Monta for his comments about NBA darling Stephen Curry, when he said they might not mesh well together (which they didn’t). The were many down points, bad trades and draft picks by Golden State in the past 10 years, but Ellis wasn’t one of them. The Lanier HS native was a steal in the second round considering the production they got out of him, averaging close to 26 points per game a couple years back. Despite his production, they shipped him out to Milwaukee.

This will be a chance for a fresh start for Monta. True, Milwaukee’s backcourt will be small, but there are many reasons to think this experiment will be a success. The Bucks are still led by head coach Scott Skiles, who implements a very guard-friendly offense that will allow Ellis to create. An overlooked statistic of Ellis is his assist per game totals. Throughout the years Monta has become a more willing passer, distributing close to 6 per game in the past three seasons. I expect Monta and Brandon Jennings to find a way to feed off of each other, and with the speed that backcourt possesses, it could make them one of the most productive ones in the NBA.

Monta may be playing in a small market, but expect big numbers from the crafty shooting guard this year. Monta possesses a SportsCenter friendly game that will on full display for the masses. The food has been made; you guys can do the dishes.

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SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2012
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Greg Monroe Pistons C 8
49 Tyreke Evans Kings PG 14
48 Brandon Jennings Bucks PG 13
47 Stephen Curry Warriors PG 12
46 Ricky Rubio TWolves PG 11
45 Al Jefferson Jazz PF 14
44 Anthony Davis Hornets PF 13
43 Serge Ibaka Thunder PF 12
42 Al Horford Hawks C 7
41 Ty Lawson Nuggets PG 10
40 Danny Granger Pacers SF 6
39 Tim Duncan Spurs PF 11
38 John Wall Wizards PG 9
37 Monta Ellis Bucks SG 8

• Rankings are based solely on projected ’12-13 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jake Appleman, Maurice Bobb, Rodger Bohn, Brendan Bowers, Franklyn Calle, David Cassilo, Bryan Crawford, Adam Figman, Eldon Khorshidi, Eddie Maisonet III, Ryne Nelson, Ben Osborne, Allen Powell II, Sam Rubenstein, Jonathan Santiago, Abe Schwadron, Leo Sepkowitz, Dave Spahn, Ben Taylor, Tzvi Twersky, Peter Walsh, Tracy Weissenberg, Yaron Weitzman, DeMarco Williams and Dave Zirin.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.