When you think of the NBA’s most underrated players in the league, quite a few names can cross your mind. The list ranges from big men to sixth men, but there is no player in the league more under-appreciated than Golden State Warriors guard, Monta Ellis.
The combo guard has been under the radar ever since he was drafted in the second round back in the 2005 draft class. Being a guard and coming out of the same draft as players such as Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Raymond Felton can be tough when you’re already a lesser known prospect.
Starting off his career coming off the bench, Ellis was instantly a crowd favorite. Diving for loose balls, doing all the hustle plays just to get off the bench and show what he can do, Ellis had to play with a chip on his shoulder.
It’s not often that combo guard becomes a successful player in the league. Coaches have a tough time placing them in the lineup. Monta would constantly have to either play point guard or the 2-guard, having to adjust to many guards in different sizes, speeds and defensive abilities.
Ellis and coaches finally realized it was best for him to play shooting guard. At 6’3", Monta has always had to defend bigger guards. While many critics claim he’s a liability on defense, he has proved that he can hang with some of the best guards in the league in the past two seasons.
When Ellis is not gambling for steals, he can be a good perimeter defender. Holding players like Brandon Roy and Kobe Bryant to bad shooting percentages had earned him recognition from Bryant and arguably the greatest coach of all time, Phil Jackson.
Defense can be tough for Ellis because he plays a numerous amount of minutes. He has been among the league leaders in minutes for most of his career, and he’s doing it while running in the fast pace tempo of the Warriors offense. Many people do not see that when they claim Ellis can’t defend.
With Coach Mark Jackson running the Warriors now with his committed defensive scheme, Ellis has even more of a chance to showcase that he can play well on both sides of the court.
Everyone should already know Ellis’ offensive game is nasty. He is arguably the fastest and quickest player in the league, ball in his hands or not. There is a reason he was once nicknamed “the one man fast break.”
Not only can Monta score in transition, but he can now score in the low post. Yes, Ellis the undersized shooting guard has developed a post game. He has a few moves and an amazing turnaround jumper that catches defenders off guard. Coach Jackson has utilized Ellis to the best of his abilities and his offensive game is complete.
The playmaking abilities of Ellis are now vastly improved. With point guard Stephen Curry out with an ankle injury, Ellis has had to play a lot of point guard in the past couple of weeks. His vision has gotten much better as a result.
A surprising stat is that Ellis is one of the only three players in the league that averages 20 points and seven assists per game this season. The other two players? LeBron James and Derrick Rose. Not a bad category of players to be in, and you would think that would get Ellis’ name bigger.
While Ellis has not been an All-Star before in his career, the Western Conference guards have got to be one of the tougher spots when it comes to the selection process. Now with players like Deron Williams going to the East, Steve Nash getting older and Manu Ginobili being out with an injury, Ellis has got to be getting big-time consideration for an All-Star nod.
Some people say that Ellis is overrated because of the system he plays in, but the Warriors are not the same fast pace team they once were. Ellis now plays in more of a half-court offense. He is still one of the best scorers in the league and is now even making a case for being one of the best passers. His defense has also vastly improved.
It’s time for Monta to stop being underestimated, unrecognized and underrated by the national media. Ellis is a top three shooting guard in the league behind Bryant and Dwyane Wade. It’s time he stops being under the radar and seen as one of the better players in the NBA.
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