Whether Monta Ellis makes it to the All-Star Game will come down to a matter of numbers.
Numbers such as 25.5, which is Ellis' points per game average, which ranks sixth in the NBA.
And 41.3, Ellis' minutes per game average, which is tops in the league. Another number is 72, the second-most steals accumulated by a player this season.
But .290 may be the most important number of all. That's the Warriors' win percentage, and it may be the difference between Ellis being Golden State's first All-Star since Latrell Sprewell in 1997 or the latest snub. There's evidence that Ellis may already be getting overlooked.
"He's still underrated," Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant said of Ellis. "I know how good he is and all his peers know how good he is ... he doesn't get the credit he deserves."
The All-Star reserves, as voted by the coaches of the respective conferences, will be announced on Jan. 28. Will Ellis' stellar play be hindered by the Warriors 9-22 record? Will the spoils go to players on winning teams, like Portland guard Brandon Roy, who matches up against Ellis tonight?
In the last 10 years, only two players in the Western Conference made it to the All-Star Game from losing teams: guard Ray Allen with the Seattle SuperSonics (2006, 2007) and Dallas Mavericks guard Michael Finley (2000). But a long list of All-Star snubs exist in the West.
Former Warriors point guard Baron Davis didn't get in despite having elite numbers — and his Warriors had a better record than Ellis' squad. Davis seemed deserving but was left off in 2007 and 2008. Warriors guard Jason Richardson did not get the invite despite putting up career numbers in 2006.
But Ellis' play to this point may be so much superior to his competition that he finds his way to Dallas for the game anyway. Other Western Conference guards, such as San Antonio's Tony Parker and Denver's Chauncey Billups, haven't been as dominant as usual, and injuries have claimed the first half of the season for Houston's Tracy McGrady and Sacramento's Kevin Martin. And Allen Iverson's return to the Eastern Conference doesn't hurt.
Meanwhile, Ellis is blowing the minds of all who come across him.
"He's just tough," said Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "He's a helluva scorer, athletic as heck. He's a bona fide scorer. He's more powerful in some ways than Iverson was. I don't know if he's a scorer like Iverson yet, but he's working on it. He's still so young. People forget about how young he is."
If Ellis has a shot, it requires Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash to be voted into the starting lineup. The NBA released the third returns from All-Star balloting this week. McGrady, who isn't even playing and is being shopped by Houston, was the second-highest vote-getter among West guards, behind Bryant.
The Western Conference coaches must select at least two reserve guards. They have two wild-card sports with which they can select guards. But considering the wealth of forwards in the West, it is unlikely both wild-card spots will be used on guards. That means three guards will likely be selected as reserves. If Nash — who was about a thousand votes behind McGrady — is not a starter, he's a lock to be a reserve, leaving one less spot for Ellis.
Each of the players in the running for one of the West's reserve spots play for teams with a better record than the Warriors. But few are having the year Ellis is having. And coaches, who will determine his fate, seem to notice.
Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson compared Ellis favorably to Nash, a two-time MVP who is arguably having the best season of his career.
"Nash comes off screen rolls, carries the ball, discontinues his dribble while he looks around and finds someone he can dish it to," Jackson said. "Meanwhile, Monta Ellis comes off like a bullet. He's right by you and in front of the hoop. His explosion is remarkable off the same screen-roll. He's playing at a very elevated level right now. This is a guy that missed most of last year with a leg injury and has recovered and has been playing as well as anybody. He's someone to be reckoned with for sure."
The Western Conference coaches must vote at least two guards in as reserves. They also get two wild-card spots on which could be used to select guards. That's four possible spots for guards to be named as All-Star reserves. Assuming Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and Phoenix guard Steve Nash are voted in as starters, here is how Monta Ellis stacks up against the competition for one of the reserve spots:
Pos. Player Team Pts. Ast. Rebs. Steals Avg.*
PG Chris Paul New Orleans 20.1 10.6 4.6 2.1 37.4
SG MONTA ELLIS WARRIORS 25.5 5.2 4.3 2.3 37.3
PG Deron Williams Utah 19.7 9.8 4.0 1.0 34.5
SG Brandon Roy Portland 22.9 5.0 4.7 0.9 33.5
SG Tyreke Evans Sacramento 20.3 4.9 5.1 1.5 31.9
PG Baron Davis L.A. Clippers 16.2 7.8 3.5 1.7 29.2
PG Russ Westbrook Okla. City 15.9 7.1 4.9 1.0 28.9
PG Chauncey Billups Denver 17.1 5.7 2.6 1.2 26.6
PG Aaron Brooks Houston 18.0 5.1 2.3 0.7 26.1
SG O.J. Mayo Memphis 17.7 3.1 3.8 1.1 25.7
PG Tony Parker San Antonio 16.4 5.8 2.6 0.5 25.3
* Combined per-game averages in points, assists, rebounds, steals.
player's PERFORMANCE better than team RECORD?
Warriors guard Monta Ellis is playing like an All-Star, but his team is 9-22 at the start of 2010. Does that hurt his chances? Actually, since 2000, several All-Stars have been selected as reserves despite playing on losing teams. Here is a list of All-Stars whose teams had losing records heading into the New Year.
Year Player Team December
2009 SF Danny Granger Indiana 10-21
PF Chris Bosh Toronto 12-20
PG Devin Harris New Jersey 15-17
2007 SG Joe Johnson Atlanta 9-20
SG Ray Allen Seattle 13-19
SG Vince Carter New Jersey 13-18
PG Jason Kidd New Jersey 13-18
2006 PF Chris Bosh Toronto 8-22
SF Paul Pierce Boston 12-17
SG Ray Allen Seattle 13-16
2004 SF Paul Pierce Boston 16-17
SG Michael Redd Milwaukee 15-16
2003 C Zydrunas Ilgauskas Cleveland 6-27
SG Michael Jordan Washington 14-17
2002 C Alonzo Mourning Miami 6-23
PF Shareef Abdur-Rahim Atlanta 11-19
PG Baron Davis Charlotte 13-17
2001 C Dikembe Mutombo Atlanta 10-20
PG Stephon Marbury New Jersey 9-21
SG Jerry Stackhouse Detroit 13-18
2000 C Dikembe Mutombo Atlanta 11-18
SG Michael Finley Dallas 9-21