Saturday, January 24, 2009

Welcome Back, Monta

I was fortunate enough to catch yesterday's Warriors-Cavaliers game, the return of Monta Ellis. The game itself was entertaining, but for this post I want to consider the case of Monta Ellis. Monta looked a lot better than I thought he would given the long layoff -- he isn't yet able to hit those 15-18 foot jumpers from the elbows that he shot so efficiently last year (I'm sure it will take a few games before that shot comes back to him), but he was still very creative and effective around the rim and in transition. It is definitely a promising beginning.

In the offseason, before the unfotunate moped nonsense, I wrote about Monta's expected increase in usage rate, and what that might mean for him and the team. At that time, I chose to ignore the effect of a proposed move to the point guard position, but it's probably time to return to that topic. 

Since Jamal Crawford was out with an injured hamstring for last night's game, it is hard to draw too many conclusions about what the lineup will look like when everyone is healthy, but it was interesting to see Monta play the entire game at the point guard position. As we've seen in the case of Randy Foye, who has continued to succeed at the 2-guard spot since the Minnesota coaching change, not every guard with a handle is equipped to make the move to the 1. In my offseason post I mentioned that Monta has not had much success as a point guard so far in his career (I was looking at pre-06-07 numbers), but I took another look at the numbers from last year, and noticed that he actually played solidly in the very few minutes he had at point guard. His effective field goal percentage wasn't affected, and he was able to get to the free throw line more, while turning the ball over a little bit more (his assists were up slightly). 

So on to last night's game. Monta played the point for 34 minutes, and the Warriors as a team posted a somewhat respectable 108.2 points per hundred possessions against the second best defense in the league. That offense was partly the doing of the second unit, who outplayed Cleveland's bench, but Monta played exceptionally well. He finished the game with only one turnover, and as a team the Warriors only turned it over 13 times in a high possession game. Further, the offense seemed to run smoothly while Monta was in the game, with the Warriors getting into their sets quickly and Monta making decisive passes. Also, Monta's quickness and ability to track down long rebounds led to a fast-break or two for the Warriors. Looking long-term, Monta's ability to rebound -- which is so-so for a 2 but decent for a 1 -- might be a boon to the Warriors (Monta is a better rebounder, for instance, than either C.J. Watson or Jamal Crawford). 

It was only one game. But I was impressed enough that I'd be interested to see more Monta at the point. 

Details about the game:
NBA Graph breakdown
Four factors: 

Offensive efficiency: Warriors - 108.2, Cavs - 109.3
eFG%: Warriors - 47.5%, Cavs - 48.2%
FT/FG: Warriors - 36.3, Cavs - 28.2
OReb%: Warriors - 20%, Cavs - 26.1%
TOrate: Warriors - 13.4%, Cavs - 10.3%

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