College, NBA / Dec 10, 2009 / 11:06 am

Who’s Better: Gilbert Arenas or Monta Ellis?

Gilbert Arenas, Dime #29

Gilbert Arenas, Dime #29

We argue. You decide.

GILBERT ARENAS (by Austin Burton)
I wonder if Gilbert Arenas watches Warriors games — because Gilbert actually does spend his free time following the rest of the League — and sees traces of himself in the form of Monta Ellis. It makes sense. Both are quick and vicious scoring guards who play the point mainly out of necessity. Both are occasionally misunderstood, often criticized, and always overachieving; two second-round picks who weren’t supposed to cash eight figures a year as the face of anybody’s franchise.

But while Gilbert eventually left Golden State and learned how to win in Washington, Monta is still in that growing-pains phase: He’s mastered the art of fine bucketry, but with just one playoff appearance as Baron Davis‘ sidekick, doesn’t match Gilbert’s level of experience as the leader of a winning team.

When Arenas returned this season from two years of knee rehab, no one knew what to expect. Moreover, no one knew how much attention Arenas should get. When Agent Zero was at his peak, his popularity seemed to stem less from his game but more from the “extra” that came with it: the blogs, the one-liners, the stories of his quirky on-court and off-court antics. Arenas was the NBA’s Chad Ochocinco, his personality constantly overshadowing his performance. Since coming back, Gil has mostly dropped the sideshow, and it turns out that when he’s just a ballplayer, he’s prone to fade into the background.

So if you haven’t noticed, Arenas (20.4 ppg, 6.5 apg) is playing at a high level — albeit not up to his old standards. He ripped Dallas for 29 points and nine assists in a road win, had 32 points apiece against New Jersey and Miami, and last week dropped 34 on Toronto, hitting clutch buckets in the fourth quarter and overtime of an eventual loss.

Just by watching Arenas you can tell his legs aren’t all the way back — whether that’s conditioning or psychological effects of the injuries, I can’t tell — and it’s been reflected in his subpar shooting, rebounding and steals numbers. He’s not as fast or explosive as he used to be, and the biggest story in D.C. this season has been Earl Boykins taking some of Arenas’ shine as the undisputed go-to guy in crunch time.

Still, I would take this version of Arenas over Monta Ellis because he has those intangible advantages of big-game experience and maturity while not losing too much of his athletic ability. Monta is scoring more (24.4 ppg), but he’s also shooting more: 20.8 field goal and 6.0 free throw attempts per game next to Arenas’ 17.8 field goals and 6.1 freebies a night. Monta is leading the League in turnovers, a crown Arenas once fought for annually. Despite a bevy of scorers surrounding him on the Warriors, just like Gilbert has on the Wizards, Monta is still in attack-attack-attack mode, while Arenas has learned to be more of a patient playmaker who picks his spots when it’s time to take over.

Monta Ellis, Dime #44

Monta Ellis, Dime #44

MONTA ELLIS (by Jack Jensen)
While most of the NBA Draft’s second rounds are filled with your typical Goran Sutons and Hassan Adamses, there are the occasional guys that find long-term success in the League. All Sutoning aside, both Monta Ellis and Gilbert Arenas have worked their way up from the second go-around to become two of the more elite scoring point guards in the NBA today.

Ellis is the young blood who never seems to tire — he’s second in the L in minutes per game at 40.4 — while Arenas is coming off of knee problems that have sidelined him for the last two years. With Hibachi back in action this season, he is averaging just over 20 points and a career-high 6.5 dimes a game. On the flip, Ellis is dropping in 24.4 buckets a game, over 5 assists and a League-leading 2.4 steals. So, who’s better right now?

Three years ago, I would have taken Arenas and his plus-28 points per game over our modern-day Ellis (and 95 percent of the League). This season, it’s hard to deny that Ellis isn’t playing the best basketball of his career and playing much better than Arenas.

The 6-3 Ellis — who, at 24, is three years younger than Arenas — has really been the only driving force at keeping the Warriors from becoming the John Wall front-runners of the NBA. Both the Warriors and Wizards stand at seven wins apiece and already look out of contention for any postseason, as they are both last-place in their respective divisions. Ellis still has maturity and leadership issues to work out (so does Agent Zero), but he goes to battle on the court every single night. The kid scraps and fights to win more than anyone on his team and “The City” will rip the Golden State organization apart if it trades Ellis this season. His best games of the year have come in stretches: he had a string of games between November 20-30 where he dropped 34, 37, 42, 18 and 45 points, as the Warriors went 3-2.

That’s not to say Ellis doesn’t have his flaws. Ellis turns the ball over at a higher rate than any other player in the NBA (4.57 TPG) and through 21 games, has only logged one contest with over eight assists; 12 in a win over Memphis. He also tends to get tunnel vision with the ball and forgets his teammates exist on the offensive side of the court. In Arenas’ case, he still lacks the confidence and agility that used to be his calling card.

The Wizards are stacked with talent — albeit injury-prone talent — and still do not come ready to compete on game day. Not saying that the Warriors have good chemistry — they might have the worst — but Ellis gets more done with less talent surrounding him than Arenas does. For not playing in two years, Gilbert has surprised me with his play thus far. Because of the severity of his injuries, I think he has unfortunately left his explosive former self behind and will become more of a jump shooter. Ellis, on the other hand, is quickly becoming my favorite player to watch (besides Wall). He can score on anyone and is fearless on the court. Ellis will never be the type of franchise player to lead you to the promised land alone, but he plays with the sort of All-Star mentality that will make him very successful.

NBA Live 08: Arenas

Right now: Ellis

Who do you think is better?

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“Who’s better?” archives
12.8 — Jason Terry vs. Manu Ginobili
12.2 — Gerald Wallace vs. Josh Smith
11.30 — Brandon Jennings vs. Derrick Rose
9.25 — Tim Hardaway vs. Kevin Johnson
9.22 — Hedo Turkoglu vs. Rashard Lewis
9.15 — Reggie Miller vs. Clyde Drexler
9.2 — Chris Paul vs. Tony Parker
8.27 — Grant Hill vs. Trevor Ariza
8.25 — Baron Davis vs. Mike Bibby
8.21 — Shaquille O’Neal vs. Pau Gasol
8.19 — Andre Iguodala vs. Rudy Gay
8.14 — Ray Allen vs. Michael Redd
8.12 — Steve Nash vs. Jason Kidd
3.3 — David West vs. LaMarcus Aldridge
2.26 — Kevin Durant vs. Danny Granger
2.19 — Paul Millsap vs. David Lee
2.17 — Caron Butler vs. Tayshaun Prince
12.24.08 — Marcus Camby vs. Andrew Bynum
12.19.08 — Deron Williams vs. Chauncey Billups
12.17.08 — Manu Ginobili vs. Tracy McGrady
12.12.08 — Amare Stoudemire vs. Al Jefferson
12.10.08 — Dirk Nowitzki vs. Chris Bosh
12.9.08 — Derrick Rose vs. O.J. Mayo
12.8.08 — Rasheed Wallace vs. Elton Brand
12.5.08 — Kevin Martin vs. Vince Carter
12.4.08 — Brandon Roy vs. Joe Johnson
12.3.08 — Dwight Howard vs. Yao Ming
12.2.08 — Paul Pierce vs. Carmelo Anthony

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  • ctkennedy

    monta ellis career highs is gilbert arenas career lows at his peak…arenas still better after two years off

  • D A

    Say sorry for even asking this question. Gil for president


    Prior to his max contract and injury, I say Agent Zero.
    After the contract and injury, I say Ellis.

    I mean Ellis had the little moped accident but Ellis returned to form. I can’t say the same for Arenas, his days of dunking are over!

  • Abe504

    Yea 1st post says it all in a nutshell. Agent Zero is still the much better player. Still neither of them play a lick of defense

  • dantzlem

    wow Monta doesnt play a lick of defense? obviously Abe, you cant read because as stated in the article the man leads the league in steals

  • chris

    ellis shoots better, taking 6 more shots a game, is fast enough to get to the rim, and jumps enough to score when he gets there…arenas has lost a step and 6 inches off his jump. neither plays d, but ellis still has the tools to be good on d if he ever wants to try.

  • Brown

    I’d take Monta simply because Gilbert has lost a step. If Arenas’ shot is off, he doesn’t bring much else to the table. Monta will always be a threat to take it to the hole. Pairing him with a big guard who can handle the ball would be ideal.

  • That’s what’s up


  • jeremy


  • Ekstor

    I understand that steals can be misleading… but it seems like a slight exaggeration (at least) to say Ellis doesn’t play a lick of defense when he actually leads the league in steals.

  • http://dime eyes

    To say that the off court stuff outweighed his on court. Means either you’re a hater,blind, or just don’t know or ever played basketball. The year he had post fly all over the place Gerald Wallace. I’m still secretly mad at Wallace for ruining one of the best talents to play the game. Believe me he did Kobe,Wade & Lebron a favor. He had a vendetta. The Wiz were the Wizards and wathcing him was must see TV. Kobe 60 and Nash 55 both at the top of their games & W’s. Game winners. TOE TO TOE WITH KING JAMES(THE BEST PLAYER IN THE WORLD,FUTURE,BLAH BLAH) Barring injuries TMac,Gilbert,Grant,Penny there would be a lot of debate. He still is a top player in the league.

    I love Monta Ellis as well. Their both natural scoring guards they’ll always look to score 1,2,3. They cant become gifter passers ever. Not in their DNA. You cant learn to become a great scorer. Every player in the N.B.A has their unique greatness.

    Gilbert scoring,range,bravado,work ethic is second to none. One of the politically incorrect players. Blacballed from the Olympics. Not David Stern worthy esque. The Great Hibachi. Made people take notice and gave back by just coming out for the summer leagues. NBA where caring happens. To play in summer league at the peak of your game shows love & respect. He’s a player that’s damn’d if he does and vice versa.

    Moped accident and three surgeries don’t compare.

  • Da_Griff

    Ekstor, steals does not = defense. It’s number padding.

    All he does is lurk in the passing lanes and gamble for steals. I’ll bet you for every steal he gets, he’s backdoored another 4 times.

  • Notorious

    They are both selfish and unmotivated on the defensive end, I wouldnt want either one on my team. Let them play for bad teams the rest of their careers.

  • Spliff 2 My Lou

    As far as skills? Gilbert was better than Monta before his injury but I’d say in a one-on-one game Monta is too fast for Gil.

    As far as making his team better? Toss up. Niether are really showing that they improve the players around them.

    As far as who’s producing more for the money they’re being paid? No question Monta is better for his expensive but not outrageous price tag.

    As much as I dislike both these players(I seriously wouldn’t want either one), but if I had to chose one for my team I’d take Monta right now.

  • http://dime eyes

    When comparing players it’s not a one on one situation. It’s the game that counts. What have you done for me lately doesn’t amount to complete body of work. At each players peak who’s better. Not even close. How quick we forget. It’s funny about the Kobe Lebron comparison. Even Chris Paul is just okay this season. Day & Night. LOL.

  • Spliff 2 My Lou

    Gilbert 4 president? WTF? Yeah he should run in 2012 against Palin. At least that way we’re assured that a bitch will be president.

  • http://dime eyes

    Also some players are fortunate & lucky to land in some great & good situations. Others just have to deal with the cards their dealt. Namely a player like Shareef Abdur Rahim. People forget who he was & all his accomplishments. He wansn’t a loser as Chris Duhon isn’t a winner. I always take jabs at one of the worse guards I’ve ever witnessed his whole career. He should be the spokesman for hanpicked for the league. Might not be a more politically correct player around. Thanks Coach K for your career. Bobby Hurley & Wojo would kill him now. Greg Paulus is better than him. LMAO. Who changes sport as a senior. Reachhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

  • Spliff 2 My Lou


    I understand you’re argument for not basing answers to this question off of a one on one game but we also can’t base it on who is or was better at their peak. The question is who is better. Not who was better or who has the greater body of work or who has had the better career at this point. One could argue that Gil’s peak was three seasons ago and Monta has still not hit his.

    As it stands, we have to look at who is better this season without taking past achievements or past stats into consideration.

  • Promoman

    I’d go with Gilbert. It’s still possible for him to get past the slowness. Monta’s overrated defensively. He plays Allen Iverson/Chris Paul defense. Outside of trying to pick off passes, he won’t/can’t do shit on D.

  • the cynic

    Monta is a much better defender then Arenas, which isn’t saying much. Arenas has the superior nicknames without a doubt

  • http://dime eyes

    At this juncture I still dont think Monta Ellis is better than Gilbert Arenas. He’s playing bad and look at his #’s. 1st year back from a major injury and learning a new system. He’s trying to adapt & it’s hurting his game. As witnessed this doesn’t make the Wiz a better team. It’s time to shake this team up definitely.

  • Urban

    I’m from Oakland and have probly seen more Monta than all the people comenting on what they see in the highlight real. I agree, he has a host of problems, but I think these stem from not having a worthy team leader, cause we all know S-Jack wasn’t that. He has never operated with a true point, and has to feed off his own raw talent for wins. He also has a coach that could give a flying you know what about defense. He’s a kid and will only do what he’s told (of course with a small amount of rebelling). Dispite all this the guy is a physical freak and is doing his all to win games, and putting up better numbers than Gil. Plus even though he dosn’t D up, he can. Although who can blame him when the hectick offense runs through him 40 minutes a game. Not even Kobe can lead on both halves of the floor. Gil has the teamates and does less with it. Ellis all the way.