A report from Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle indicates the Orlando Magic are among the many teams who've discussed a Monta Ellis trade with the Golden State Warriors. Simmons doesn't go into specifics about any of the potential trade suitors, so it's unclear exactly what Orlando might be willing to offer in such a deal.
Indeed, the Warriors seem determined to trade the star shooting guard, who ranked eighth in scoring and third in steals last season, in order to improve their defense and cede more control of the offense to 23-year-old point guard Stephen Curry. Comments new team adviser Jerry West made last week only fueled speculation of an Ellis trade.
How viable is an Ellis trade for Orlando? Let us review what we know.
An Ellis trade seemed laughable as recently as last season
Before the Magic shook up their roster with a pair of trades last December, a rumor linking the Magic to the Warriors and Ellis began circulating the internet. I checked with a source to learn more.
The source quashed the rumor with a guffaw, literally laughing it off. That's how preposterous it was.
But last season was an eternity ago, and Orlando's needs have changed
The Magic's overhauled roster flamed out in the postseason as the Atlanta Hawks exposed their lack of perimeter shot-creation. Coach Stan Van Gundy lamented not "[having] the Jamal Crawford or a Joe Johnson, guys who can break you down off the dribble." J.J. Redick is the only shooting guard under contract for Orlando next season, as starter Jason Richardson is due to enter unrestricted free agency. There's room for another guard.
Creating shots is not a problem for Monta Ellis
Over the last two seasons, only three players have averaged more shot attempts, per minute, than Ellis. Their names are Kobe, Carmelo, and Dwyane. Perhaps you've heard of them.
Making shots is a problem for Monta Ellis
Over the same span, only six players have averaged more than one shot attempt every two minutes. Ellis ranks last among them in efficiency, with a True Shooting mark of 52.7. Last season, the average NBAer had a True Shooting mark of 54.3.
In short, Ellis takes a lot of shots at below-average efficiency.
Still, Ellis can score a ton...
You don't rank among the league's top-10 scorers for two straight seasons on accident. In 144 games since 2009/10, Ellis has scored 30-plus points 45 times. That's roughly three times every ten games.
As a team, the Magic have 25 such games in the same span. Wing players account for only four of them.
... but some factors artificially inflate Ellis' stats
Ellis has led the league in minutes per game since 2009/10, which gives him extra opportunities to boost his per-game scoring
Further, the Warriors play at a frenetic pace, leading the league with a whopping 100.4 possessions per game in 2009/10 before dialing it down to 94.8 last season. That was still the fifth-highest figure in the league. He plays a ton of minutes on a ludicrously fast team, giving him hundreds more possessions to use over the course of a full season than a player on a slower team would. And the Magic are not a fast team.
For all his athleticism and speed, Ellis takes a lot of jumpers
Ellis is a highlight-reel talent who seems to make at least five you've-got-to-be-kidding-me-what-is-this-I-don't-even layups each season, so one might think he's a tremendously aggressive driver who scores with ease near the rim.
That's simply not the case. According to Synergy Sports Technology, 66.3 percent of Ellis' shot attempts in a halfcourt offense--and Orlando's offense is heavily halfcourt-based--are jumpers. Though an athletic dynamo, Ellis draws a shooting foul on just 7.6 percent of his possessions, which ranks lower than the Magic's team average of 8 percent last season. In fairness, that's still better than any Orlando wing managed. I've argued before that the Magic need to do a better job at drawing fouls. Ellis helps, if slightly, in that regard. But don't think of him as a slasher.
Golden State consistently plays better with Ellis off the floor
It's hard to ignore how well the Warriors play with Ellis, dynamic though he is, on the bench. Last season, their offense improved 0.51 points per 100 possessions with him resting, which isn't much. But defensively? A staggering 6.88-points-per-100-possessions improvement.
The splits from 2009/10 are even more dramatic, with the Warriors playing 11.52 points per 100 possessions worse overall with Ellis on the court.
I'd mention Ellis' poor individual defense, but he's yet to work with a coach who demands accountability on that end of the floor. Similarly, he's never played with a defender of Dwight Howard's caliber behind him. For those reasons, I don't think it'd be fair to assess him at that end. There's a track record of poor defensive players suddenly thriving when they move to organizations that stress defense. Think Ray Allen with the Boston Celtics or Rashard Lewis with the Magic.
As I wrote last month, I still struggle with where I stand on the issue of shot-creation versus efficiency. It's hard to dispute Charles Barkley when he says every team needs "that dude" to whom a coach "can say, 'hey, here's the ball, I need a basket," and count on to deliver.
The Magic, for better or worse, do not have "that dude," instead relying on the perimeter-oriented committee of Jameer Nelson, Richardson, and Hedo Turkoglu to generate offense in late-game situations. Their best, most efficient player, Howard, is relegated to screening and rebounding duties.
There's no question Ellis can get a shot almost anytime he likes. There are numerous questions about whether that skill benefits his team. At the risk of being obvious, every shot he takes is one that a teammate can't. Among Warriors regulars, he ranked sixth in True Shooting. Sixth on his own team!
It's true that the attention defenses pay to Howard might take pressure off Ellis, and vice-versa. It's true that this dynamic could, theoretically, improve Ellis' efficiency. It's true that Ellis would be the Magic's most dynamic perimeter player since Tracy McGrady's prime years nearly a decade ago.
And it's true that when it comes to Monta Ellis and the Orlando Magic, questions abound. Orlando may need "that dude," but I don't think Ellis is gifted enough to be it. The problem is that nobody else on the team is either.