When the Golden State Warriors host the Dallas Mavericks tonight (10:30 ET, ESPN), Monta Ellis will nominally match up with former teammate Klay Thompson at shooting guard. In practice, they'll be playing very different roles.
Consider this: According to SportVU camera tracking data available on NBA.com, Thompson handles the ball for 1.5 minutes per game, the fewest of any player averaging at least 36 minutes. By contrast, in similar playing time, Ellis has possession of the ball three times as often (4.5 minutes per game), putting him behind only Victor Oladipo of the Orlando Magic (4.9 MPG) among players who are not primarily point guards.
Thompson is the purest of classic shooting guards, a catch-and-shoot specialist who always stands at the ready to make an open jumper. Ellis is part of the new breed of combo guards -- too focused on finding his own shot to play point guard full time, but too dangerous with the ball to spend his time spotting up. Their divergent skill sets suggest the Warriors' decision to trade Ellis to the Milwaukee Bucks at the 2012 deadline and replace him in the starting lineup with Thompson might have been best for both parties.