Looming Large: Monta Ellis

On Saturday night, Orlando will host the dangerous Golden State Warriors who will likely turn the game into an offensive fury with their run-and-gun strategy. Usually when teams face the Warriors, they concentrate on point guard Baron Davis, who has had a phenomenal season. However, it isn't Davis whom Orlando should fear most; it's 22-year-old phenom, Monta Ellis.

The last time the two teams played, Ellis proved to be a do it all guard, as he scored 22 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, dished out 7 assists and also had 5 steals and a block for good measure. At 6'3', 177 lbs, Ellis isn't the most physically imposing player, but he has found his niche in Golden State's offense.

In his third season, Ellis is averaging nearly 20 ppg., 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and a steal. His numbers don't jump out at you like Davis', but Ellis is just as important to his team.

Ellis was a second-round draft pick for the Warriors and has came on to be a front office success story. Ellis dropped so far in the draft for two reasons; he was coming out straight from high school, and he was a bit of a ‘tweener. Ellis was a phenomenal player in high school and was named High School Player of the Year with Greg Oden by Parade Magazine. Despite his success, teams passed on him, but Ellis showed a certain amount of success right from the beginning, averaging just under 7 ppg. his rookie year.

There are a few knocks on Ellis, mostly his size. He doesn't have the body of an NBA shooting guard, but that's the only position that he fits. Despite Ellis' lack of size, he has successfully fit in with Davis, who is also a combo guard of sorts. Ellis has also been criticized for his defense, which has been lacking in his NBA career, as he doesn't seem to show much interest in it, like many of his Warriors teammates (they rank dead last in points per game allowed at 107.8).

Where Ellis makes his mark is on offense, and he does a good enough job to make up for his matador style of D. He thrives around the basket, which is rare for someone of his stature, but Ellis is regarded as one of the best finishers in the NBA. Ellis isn't known to rock the rim, but he succeeds at laying the ball up. A testament to this is Ellis' field-goal percentage, which as at an outstanding 53%.

Ellis is also a poor three-point shooter, averaging 29% from behind the arc on the season, but he makes up with it by consistently taking opponents off the dribble and whipping past them with his extremely quick first step.

He might not be the best player on Golden State's roster, but Ellis is a difficult matchup for any team and he proved that against Orlando earlier this season. Maurice Evans or Jameer Nelson will guard Ellis, and he can cause problems with either one. He is too big for Nelson to stop consistently and might be too fast for the bigger but slower Evans to handle. Ellis doesn't get his just due because he is on the West Coast, but he is quickly coming on as one of the best shooting guards in the NBA.