A Player Comparison: Lou Williams vs. Monta Ellis

Asking most NBA fans the question "Who's better, Monta Ellis or Lou Williams?" usually prompts a combination of three responses:

  1. Who's Lou Williams?
  2. Monta Ellis dropped 26 points per game last year, you dummy.
  3. HAHAHAHAHA! 
The real answer might not be as definitive as you think. Follow the jump.

Tale of the Tape

Lou Williams

Height: 6'2''
Weight: 175
Age: 23
Draft Class: 2005
10-11 Salary: $5 million

Monta Ellis

Height: 6'3''
Weight: 175
Age: 24
Draft Class: 2005
10-11 Salary: $11 million

Career comparison

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Lou and Monta's career numbers in the advanced statistical categories are virtually identical. The only three significant difference are: Lou has a much higher WS/48 (0.102) than Ellis (0.071), Lou's AST% is over four points higher (22.5) than Ellis' (18.1), and Ellis' eFG% (.494) is higher than Lou's (.469).

In the more conventional statistics Ellis holds a slight advantage. Here are each players' career stat lines per 36 minutes:

Lou: 17.5 points, 3.4 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.5 steals, 2.4 turnovers and .429/.323/.785 shooting percentages.
Monta: 19 points, 4 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.7 steals, 2.7 turnovers and .476/.309/.764 shooting percentages.

The field goal percentage is the biggest difference between the two, and a big hit to Lou's career stat line.

Career-year comparison

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Much like their careers, both Ellis and Williams' career-years (Ellis in 07-08 and Lou in 09-10) are statistically similar. Ellis' career year was minimally better in each advanced statistical category except for DRB%, AST%, STL% and BLK% (same), but I emphasize, minimally better.

Once again, Ellis' career year also has the advantage in the conventional statistics. 

Per 36
Lou: 16.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, 5 assists, 1.5 steals, 2 turnovers and .470/.340/.824 shooting percentages.
Monta: 19 points, 4 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.5 steals, 2 turnovers and .531/.231/.767 shooting percentages.

09-10 comparison

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Last season -- Williams' career-year -- Lou blew Monta out of the water in nearly every advanced statistical category. The WS/48 stat tells you all you need to know. Lou's WS/48 was a respectable and career-high 0.130 (ranked 24th among guards who played at least 40 games). Monta's was an abysmal 0.023, ranking 127 among guards who played at least 40 games.

Last year Lou also had a significant advantage in the conventional statistics.

Per 36
Lou: 16.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, 5 assists, 1.5 steals, 2 turnovers and .470/.340/.824 shooting percentages.
Monta: 22.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.9 steals, 3.3 turnovers and .449/.338/.753 shooting percentages.

*Bonus 
For last year we also have access to the Basketball Prospectus-only numbers (my favorite).

Lou: 4.9 WARP, 10.5 WP3K, 1.015 dMULT and 106.1 DRtg 
Monta: 3.5 WARP, 10.0 WP3K, 1.005 dMULT and 105.8 DRtg 

Conclusion

Lou and Monta have a lot of similarities. They're the same size. They're a year apart in age. They were both second round steals in the 2005 draft. They both came straight out of high school. They're both shoot-first, undersized, penetrating scorers. And through the full, in-depth comparison I just set before you, you can see that their production on the court is fairly similar, whether you're comparing their careers as a whole, their career-years, or last season. There is one major difference, however: their contracts.

Lou is owed 10.1 million over the next two seasons with an ETO in year three. Monta is owed 33 million over the next three seasons with an ETO in year three. Call me crazy, but if given the choice I'd take Lou Williams over Monta Ellis, for less than half the price. 

*Bonus comparison

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This is a comparison of Lou's career year (last season) to the past three combo-guards to win the NBA's sixth man of the year award. It's an interesting comparison. Lou's career year holds its own statistically. 

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