The new Monta

by Andrew Kennedy

Monta Ellis was part of one of the more amazing statistics two years ago. On a 26-56 Golden State Warriors team and in a season where Ellis averaged 25.5 points per game, Ellis’ teammates outscored their opponents when their star was on the bench. This basically confirmed that Ellis was a ball hog and took bad shots that hurt his team no matter how much he scored.

Ellis is now entering his seventh season in the NBA this year and is 26 years old. He also now has a new coach in former point guard great, Mark Jackson, who planned to change the Warriors into a more defensive oriented team more suited for making the playoffs than the run-and-gun teams of the past.

Ellis seems to be changing somewhat too. He’s always had an elite talent with his quickness and ability to get into the paint and score. While he still has that, he’s beginning to use it to make himself more of a playmaker than ever before.

So far this season in five games (I know, a really small sample size but I’ve obviously been really excited that the NBA is back) Ellis is averaging 23.8 points per game and a career-high 8.2 assists per game (his previous high in assists was 5.6 per game last year, so a big jump).

It’s not as if the Warriors suddenly have some great low-post scorer that they added in the offseason, they have the same core as last year. Sure, starting point guard Stephen Curry has been hobbled with an ankle injury but he’s still played 31 minutes per in five games this season and averaging 5.6 assists himself.

If ever there were something that a player like Ellis needed, it would have been a great point guard to mentor him. He has that now and his play has changed.

Ellis is also averaging more assists this season while the Warriors have indeed implemented a slower style of play. The Warriors were fifth in the NBA last season with a pace rating of 94.8. This year they’re down to 19th with a 91.4 ranking. The Warriors have also improved their defense as a team allowing just 97.3 points per game this season compared to 105.7 last year but they are still just 2-4 on the year so it’s not all good.

Of the 2.6 more assists per game Ellis is dishing out, 2.0 of them are coming at the rim (the best assist in basketball commonly made by the league’s best passers). Ellis is averaging 4.0 assists per game at the rim (obviously still taking advantage of his ability to get to the rim and create) which is 6th in the league behind Andre Miller, Jose Calderon, Steve Nash, Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul.

Ellis has overall upped his game this season, now with a 22.46 PER compared to 19.97 last season. He has improved his passing and maintained his elite status as an isolation scorer, currently sixth best in the league with a 0.89 PPP on isolation situations.

He still struggles in settling for too many long twos. He’s attempting 6.6 per game and making just 33 percent of them. This is a common issue with high-volume scorers but something Ellis shouldn’t feel he has to keep doing especially while playing beside Curry, who shoots 52 percent on long twos.

The Warriors may not have become leaps and bounds better this season but they have changed their play and it is having an impact on their best player. He understands the game better and, in the long run, that has to be a good thing.

With a deep draft coming up, the Warriors may have the chance to snag a solid big man to help round out their team and make themselves a playoff contender in the near future. Or they should just trade Curry for Russell Westbrook.