A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Analyzing the talent of Monta Ellis and Andris Biedrins

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This blog’s specialty over the last half year has been my signature talent grading system. While I believe most players play to their talent level, some end up perform at statistical levels above or below their talent, depending on the context of their teams. Two plays who grade out surprisingly low are former Warriors Monta Ellis and Andris Biedrins.

Ellis has had an advanced stats target on his back for years, as an inefficient volume scorer, who hogs the ball away from better teammates and refuses to play defense. However most do not doubt his talent, only his commitment to maximizing his talent in the context of a team. I have doubts about his talent.

What Monta Ellis at his best did great at, was physically impacting the game. As one of the fastest players in the league he could slash into the paint at will. While short and skinny for a SG, he had the wiry strength and relentlessness to finish at the rim – making him a poor man’s version of Allen Iverson. Ellis was a well above average slasher for a SG.

But that’s where strengths for his position stop. Ellis has a relatively poor feel for the game. He often plays fast and out of control and without the ability to recognize his teammates spatially. He has little ability to adjust or find teammates while driving to the rim. He does not have a high innate basketball IQ.

His perimeter skill is inconsistent at best for a SG. With a career 3P% of .315 he’s never been a consistently dangerous outside threat, while he’s an average midrange shooter, despite how many he takes of them. He’s not a known skilled passer.

Andris’ Biedrins profile is similar. His strength is that he’s one of the most athletic centers in the league, with explosiveness around the rim and speed running up the floor. Although he is somewhat skinny for a C.

But in spite of his above average physical tools for a C, he’s flawed otherwise. He’s one of the least skilled centers in the league, with brutal hands and touch, no range and incredibly bad FT shooting. His feel for the game is also fairly poor. Instead of having a smooth and natural feel for the court, his movements are rough and robotic. He has never been a good defender because of his lack of great awareness and feel for rotating properly.

Grading their talent level, both are above average in their tools to physically impact the game. Biedrins has a horrible skill level and Monta is somewhere between average and poor. Both have subpar feel for the game. My grades with 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 and 11 as possible scores, would be a 7 in physical impact talent for Monta Ellis, a 5 in skill impact talent and a 3 in feel for the game for a total score of 15. For Andris Biedrins it would be a 7 in physical impact talent, a 1 in skill impact talent and a 3 in feel for the game for a total score of 11. Monta’s indicates a relevant player, more than a surefire bench player, but less than a surefire starter. Biedrins’ score is flat out bad and barely NBA talent caliber.

So what happened in their careers, if Monta has average talent and Biedrins’ is poor? At their statistical best, both were playing on some of the fastest paced, offensively orientated teams in the league. This helped them play to their athletic strengths and away from their lack of skills and instincts. Ultimately Biedrins’ career fell apart once the team’s lineup and his role changed a little, showing his talent couldn’t make that adjustment. Monta went onto to post 24-25ppg seasons in Golden State, but in Milwaukee he’s fallen off, with his PER dropping to 15.2 this season with weak statistics like 18.3ppg on .474 TS%. The Monta we’ve seen in Milwaukee looks suited for a 6th man role at best. It’s possible that if drafted into a less favorable stylistic situation than those Warriors, Monta may have always been a sparkplug off the bench instead of a big name and well paid player. The knock on Biedrins is that he mentally broke down from fear of shooting FT%s and physically broke down from injuries, but his fall-off from 10 million a year center to the unplayable big man he is now, is simply too far a drop. I’m more inclined to believe this is the real version of Biedrins and that he managed to outperform his abilities for a few years during his good seasons.

Written by jr.

February 7, 2013 at 6:17 pm

Posted in Basketball

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