She said look ma, no stats

Monta Ellis is a scoundrel and a mountebank. He just wastes possessions and chucks it from deep. But chicks dig the long ball. Monta is sexy. I totally get that. But ignore his tattooed arms and bad boy demeanor. He’s not right for you girl and he never will be. The tall, clumsy guy fumbling with the ball is way better for you and comes mother-approved (I am the Bucks mother in this metaphor).

Looking pretty spry in them colors

I’m talking about Ekpe Udoh, defensive extraordinaire and a man who deserves more attention in the Bucks recent trade. This is a plea to pay attention to what Udoh does that will make the Bucks better. The problem is that Udoh will mostly go unnoticed except for when he botches up another Bucks possession. He’s not a scorer, nor is he a brilliant passer. And don’t expect him to rebound much – he averages less than four rebounds in his 21 mpg this season.

Udoh doesn’t even shine in the advanced statistical categories like a lot of other “no stats” guys like Shane Battier or Nick Collison. His PER is 11.65 and he’s near the bottom in shooting percentage and TS%.

But then there’s his plus/minus and all the other team statistics that laugh wildly at everything else. The guys inhabiting the top 50 are exactly who you’d expect: Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki, etc. There are a few weirdoes inhabiting the list like Tony Allen’s craziness, but Allen is on a winning team. Everyone in the top 50 is on a reasonably good team, except for Udoh. It’s very odd for a basement dweller like the Warriors to cultivate a guy who has a plus-minus of 134. The next closest Warrior is Stephen Curry with a 57. Everyone else is either in the single digits or very much on the minus side.

The problem with the plus/minus stat is that it doesn’t take into account who is on the floor at the time. Good criticism, especially since Udoh is playing with the second team a lot of the time. Adjusted plus-minus makes strides to take care of that problem and in that stat Udoh is still posting a sterling 10.78 for the season. And how about this from John Schuhmann:

64% of Udoh’s minutes were played w/ Ellis. Ellis was a +114 in 528 min. w/ Udoh & a -169 in 837 min. w/o Udoh.

That’s not the whole story though. The Warriors two best offensive lineups start Udoh at center. Their two best defensive lineups also started Udoh at center. In fact, the Warriors score over nine more points and allow nine points less when Udoh is on the court.

There is something he does that is successful. I haven’t seen a lot of Udoh to have a feel for him, but I’d guess that he does the following:

  • Very loud on defense and often points out switches, cuts etc.
  • Prevents deep post catches by bumping every part of his man
  • Length and quickness exacerbated very active arms
  • Very confident at setting picks and showing hard on picks
  • Can catch the ball (GET OUT OF HERE LARRY)

If you believe in teamwork and chemistry and doing all the little things then you will watch Udoh. I do not, so I will be marveling at all the swag emanating from Ellis and Jennings.

Ian Segovia is a Bucksketball contributor. Follow him on Twitter for when he tweets “I TOLD YOU SO” after a sweet Udoh block.

Categories: Bucks Player Features



  1. Plus/minus doesn’t say anything about a player’s ability to play. Of course all the top plus/minus guys will come from all the winning teams. Even the scrubs on winning teams have good plus/minus status because they are given good status by association. PER and plus/minus and advanced stats don’t tell me who can play in the NBA and who can’t. Udoh, based on his hustle and skill set tells me he can be effective.

    •  @BUCKSfirst Has it occurred to you that if you can come to the same conclusion as a stat, then that stat might be useful

      • @Ian_Segovia Boozer’s plus/minus is top 10 but we all know he doesn’t hustle as much as the #’s say. Chalmers +/- is top 3 but we all know he’s not that good. Felton is top 50 but we all know he’s outta shape and isn’t that good. Plus/minus is more mountebank than Monta.

      • @Ian_Segovia Deron Williams plus/minus is apprx -151, but we all know he is an All-NBA type player.

        •  @BUCKSfirst  You’re arguing with me the flaws in plus-minus which I wholly acknowledge in the article. And you’re also saying that you think Udoh can be effective which is the basic point of the article. What is your point. This is ridiculous

        •  @Ian_Segovia “Has it occurred to you that if you can come to the same conclusion as a stat, then that stat might be useful”. This isn’t always true. That’s all I’m saying. But good article. Monta isn’t as bad as everyone thinks.

        •  @Ian_Segovia Even if you think adjusted +/- is a joke you would have to acknowledge that it is at least affected 20% by each player on the court over the course of a large sample.
          It obviously isn’t the greatest stat but then it is kind of the best and simplest stat. “The team does better when this guy plays”…

  2. Bottom line Udoh is potentially the defensive anchor for this new Bucks team and he’s still young enough to develop he’s Larry Sanders 2.0 (take that as it is)

    • Larry Sanders is trash. I liked Udoh from his days at Baylor. Sanders and mbah a moute have no offensive game and mbah a moute plays the 3/4 spot. At least this guy can play 5 so no big deal.

      •  @juice I wouldn’t call Sanders trash, just extremely raw and not becoming refined fast enough for us. It’s amazing how much of a difference he could make if he just had some hands to actually catch the ball, and if he could find a way to consistently stay out of foul trouble.
        However, I think all of you guys are missing the real miracle of this trade: there are now at least five PFs ahead of John Brockman on the depth chart, not counting Leuer as a PF. That alone is a plus to me.

  3. This is all a play to get Dwight Howard in the off-season. If Beno doesnt take the player option and we amnesty someone, Bucks will have a decent amount of cap room. Howard wanted to play with Ellis. Now he can play with Ellis AND Jennings!!! Maybe I am dreaming, but if Howard really wants to be a start and build nothing into a contender (Like Chris Paul is doing going to the Clippers), then maybe Dwight will see that coming to Milwaukee could make him a legend in Wisconsin!!!!!!! I’ll go to church every week if this happens!

    •  @juice Yeah I think the chance is better the Bucks Trade Jennings and Ellis for Von don and Ishmael. Howard in a bucks jersey just inspires the idea of laughter. 

  4. PattiRafalskiDavison

    Good read Ian.  I guess I would be of the Disney school of thought that believes in teamwork and chemistry and hoping for a little Udoh magic to come our way.  Swag emanating from both Ellis and Jennings…YES.  Bring it on!

  5. That’s an interesting read, and definitely provides perspective on this deal that I had not seen elsewhere. I’m gonna preface this by saying that I’m not a Bucks fan, but I’m also not trying to rain on your parade…From an outsider perspective it seemed pretty clear that the Bucks needed to make a move of some sort. However I think you may be overthinking the reasons for Udoh’s impressive plus/minus. Quite simply, he was playing behind Andres Biedrins, who is, at this point of his career, one of the worst players in the entire league.