If this list was designed to rank pure athletic talent, Monta Ellis would have coasted to the No. 1 spot. But since we care a little more about a player’s ability to do winning things on a basketball court—and not just stuff that looks cool—Monta can’t be ranked any higher than he is here.
Ellis joined the Warriors as a second-round pick in 2005, a high school phenom out of Jackson, Miss. The version of Monta Ellis that arrived as a rookie probably shot a little more than he should have, but was a tenacious defender and an absolute blur on the basketball court. Once Ellis came into his own as a scorer in his second and third year, though, he essentially stopped playing both ends of the court and became driven by a desire for his own numbers.
Athletically, Ellis had practically no NBA peers in his Warriors tenure. He was arguably the league’s fastest player from end to end, and managed to average 19.5 points per game over parts of seven seasons in Golden State on the strength of his otherworldly speed and quickness.
When used as a third or fourth option, like he was in 2006-07 and 2007-08, Ellis was a wrecking ball on offense. He scored with terrific efficiency. But when cast as a primary scorer, Ellis’ volume numbers stayed high while his percentages suffered.
Overall, Ellis was an undeniably talented athlete, but he simply never grasped the basics of good team basketball. He dominated the ball, took difficult shots and feigned effort on defense. No teammate played better with Ellis than without him.
It’s hard to really know whether Ellis was a selfish player or not. But the best thing we can say about him is that he managed to score a lot of points for a bad team while never helping make his teammates better. He did a lot of that scoring in a spectacular fashion, but ultimately, the points were empty.
Now paired with a similarly sized, similarly minded Brandon Jennings in Milwaukee, it seems inevitable that a whole new set of fans will be treated to the frustrating conundrum that is Monta Ellis. He’ll score and score and score, but when the buzzer sounds, his team will lose more often than not.