In the last five games, amidst the most All-Star reserve talk ever, Monta Ellis shot exactly 33% while averaging a paltry 18 points per game. For most shooting guards, 18 points a game is a fair clip. But when you’ve been anointed the face of the franchise by you’re team owner and putting up shots at a rate that only Andray Blatche would duplicate, you’re struggling.
In the midst of this four-game losing streak, which can’t be solely be attributed to Monta Ellis’ poor play, the other guard, Stephen Curry has been playing like we all expected him to. In the complete opposite fashion, Curry is shooting better than 50% and scoring 24 points a game. In fact, one could go so far as to say that yesterday’s game against the Utah Jazz allowed us to see how ball movement could possibly improve with Curry at the helm. Five Warriors were in double figures last night and you hadn’t seen this many Warriors touch AND shoot the ball since possibly late last season when Curry officially went bananas on the NBA scene.
Perhaps it's too early to read much into this given how their meltdown versus the Bobcats was a collective issue. But Coach Keith Smart thinks Monta Ellis’ stinker last night (2 points on 1 of 9 shooting) was a sign of maturation:
“That’s the growth of him,” Smart said. “Not trying to force the issue, to make it happen. He allowed himself to be a decoy because he’s still a threat.”
But was it really a wily veteran in Raja Bell that caused Monta’s frustrations? As the ESPN broadcast reported, Monta’s scoreless first half hasn’t happened since 2006.
Is Monta’s deferral reflective of more signs to come or perhaps a happy compromise? Tim Kawakami discusses what he says is the issue is with a “duplicative” scoring backcourt:
Ellis played more than 31 minutes, took 9 shots, missed 8 of them, but did have 5 assists and 4 rebounds and looked to be playing so pretty solid defense.
But my general point stands: You only usually need ONE guard to score heavy points, and if that guy doesn’t play much defense, you very much need the other guard to play D and do the support stuff.
When you have TWO offensive-minded guards, it’s a little duplicative–you’re probably going to get a lot of those points anyway, as long as you have one premier perimeter scorer.
It’s difficult to read what’s happening with Monta, but body language suggests he’s unhappy about something. Not normally a talkative guy on the court anyway, Monta’s attitude has changed recently, showing him smiling after hitting game-winners. Slapping fives with teammates after good plays. Pumping a fist Kobe Bryant-style when Curry nails an open three. But last night we saw Monta playing tough defense, doing what he had to do, and not looking very happy about it. For huge stretches, Monta didn’t touch the ball but the Warriors were scoring. He seemed to force the issue a bit on a few drives and was not in the congratulatory mood with his teammates. He just didn’t seem connected, to say the least.
Whether it is something to worry about, it’s still unclear. And maybe Monta Ellis will sacrifice shots to be THAT dude that plays defense on a defenseless starting five. But with the trade deadline looming and Lacob wanting to score himself a superstar, perhaps some moves will eventually settle this 1.5 year debate of who is the future of this franchise going forward.