Golden State Warriors Advanced Stats Breakdown: Isolation Offense

No man is an island…with the possible exception of Monta Ellis.

In 37 games for the Warriors last year (before he was shipped to Milwaukee for Andrew Bogut), Ellis had the basketball in isolation situations often—far too often, actually.

In the case of isolation plays, which NBA teams have utilized on 12 percent of their offensive possessions since Synergy Sports began keeping track in 2004, Ellis was grossly over-used. Keeping that 12 percent figure in mind, note that Ellis attacked on offense from isolation sets a on a whopping 22.6 percent of his possessions—nearly twice the league average.

Sure, those isolation plays are more likely to yield a highlight than most. Ellis was known for the spectacular play as a Warrior, and most of them came from one-on-one situations. Here’s the thing, though: isolation plays are the worst way a team can use an offensive possession.

A team running an isolation play can expect, on average, .78 points per possession. No other possession type yields a worse result.

So last year, the Warriors used Ellis almost a quarter of the time in those situations. That’s an illogical strategy. But what’s even worse is the fact that Ellis was actually less efficient than the league average in isolation situations. Remember, the NBA as a whole averages .78 points per possession in isolation sets. Ellis averaged .73 points per possession on 34 percent shooting. Incredible, right?

Take into consideration the following related fact: the Warriors, as a team, were very near the league average in isolation sets—both in terms of usage frequency and effectiveness. That means that despite Ellis’ unique inefficiency, the rest of the Warriors were far enough above average in isolation situations that the team was halfway decent in isolation plays overall.

The final upshot: Monta Ellis was used twice as often in isolation plays as the rest of the league and he was a below-average player in those situations.

Where’s the sense in that?

Fortunately, the Warriors came to their senses and rid themselves of Ellis last year. By simply subtracting his inefficient offensive game from the team, the Warriors improved their overall offensive efficiency. When you also consider that Ellis was a lazy defensive player who rarely showed any commitment or effort, the Warriors’ decision to jettison him to Milwaukee looks even smarter.

Going forward, the Warriors’ offense should look vastly different. Andrew Bogut and David Lee are excellent passers out of the post, which should yield an even larger number of open spot-up jumpers from the Warriors’ stable of young gunners. That will be an undeniably positive change, because the Warriors were the league’s most efficient spot-up shooting offense last year.

Monta Ellis may be an island unto himself, but the numbers clearly show that the Warriors were wise to vote him off of theirs.

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