Two of the fastest little men in the game, Monta Ellis and Ty Lawson at once seem so different and yet so similar. Lawson is credited with being one of the NBA’s most underrated point guards while Ellis has become the whipping boy for bloggers everywhere, and yet they probably both hold the keys to their Dallas and Denver’s collective playoff chances.
We asked earlier today which injured point guard would have the best season between Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo and Russell Westbrook. Now we’re asking which player is better right now: Ellis or Lawson? We argue. You decide.
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Ty Lawson is one of the NBA’s up and coming guards while Monta Ellis is a seasoned veteran highly regarded for his scoring ability. Neither player has made an All-Star appearance or been able to get their team out of the second round of the playoffs to date.
So who is the better player?
Most would chose the more efficient shooting Lawson but Ellis has the edge with a better overall skill-set that can be useful to his team on both offense and defense.
Ellis has been a premier scorer in the NBA for the better part of his eight years in the league with a career average of 19.4 points per game. But he is still far from a household name. He is often ridiculed and given the dreaded “volume shooter” tag and is accused of not being a leader.
“You can’t win with Monta” and “He doesn’t do enough to make his teammates better” are just some of the phrases thrown around from some of his detractors. It gets a little old and doesn’t seem to take into account the rosters Ellis has been asked to lead.
The guy is a workhorse who regularly appears among the NBA leaders in minutes played — finishing third last season. The knocks on his playmaking ability are unwarranted as he handed out six assists per game last year and has a career average of 4.7. Lawson bested Ellis in assists last year at 6.9 per game but it’s important to note two things about that: Lawson is a true point guard and his team, the Denver Nuggets, had the fifth-highest offensive rating at 107.6. Ellis is a combo-guard who spent the majority of his time playing shooting guard over the last two seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks… not to mention he was playing alongside another ball-dominant player in Brandon Jennings.
Both Ellis and Lawson use speed as their greatest asset but Ellis, at 6-3, has four inches on Lawson. The height of Ellis makes him a slightly more favorable option in comparison, especially for defensive purposes. Yes, I said defense in a conversation about Lawson and Ellis.
Opponents are less likely to lick their chops against Ellis, looking for opportunities to post him up than they are against Lawson. According to Synergy Sports, Lawson’s opponents shot 47.7 percent against him in the post compared to the 40 percent Ellis allowed in the same situations. Furthermore, according to Basketball-Reference.com, Lawson’s defensive rating was 109 compared to Ellis’ rating of 105.
Lawson (1.5 steals per game) is good in the passing lanes, hiding in the shadows of bigger defenders before springing to life to make steals. Still, Ellis is one of the best thieves in the game at 2.1 steals last year, which was good for fourth in the league.
Where the argument swings pretty favorably towards Lawson is when it comes to efficiency in shooting. Lawson boasts a pretty lofty 54.9 percent true shooting percentage compared to the 49.3 percentage that Ellis shoots. But Ellis is the guy who scores in a better variety of ways overall. You will never catch Lawson on the post and he doesn’t do much coming off of screens outside of pick-and-roll plays. Ellis is a better shooter coming off screens at 39.6 percent compared to just 25 percent for Lawson and Ellis is just a hair better at taking contact in the lane to finish plays because of a stronger physical frame.
Neither player is a franchise changer and both are best served as very good number two complementary options to bigger names. But the hate on Ellis has to stop, especially if Lawson is being used as any type of barometer.