Lincecum v. Ellis v. Willis: Who’ll be the king of the Bay?

The other night during my buddy Mac’s birthday part, my buddy Carp asked me this question (and I’m paraphrasing):

“Who’s the biggest guy in Bay Area sports, Monta or Lincecum?”

Carp meant long-term, not right now, and my answer came as quick as one of his fastballs: Tim Lincecum.

But given a little more time to think the question over, I came to two conclusions.

1. I might have underrated Monta.
2. You can’t ask who’s going to be the biggest athlete in the Bay Area over the next decade without including Patrick Willis.

Let’s see how they stack up:

Monta Ellis
Age: 22
Position: SG, Golden State Warriors
2007/08: 20.2 PPG., 5.0 REB., 3.9 AST.,  53% FG

Strengths: Monta’s probably the fastest player with the ball in the NBA, with all apologies to Leandro Barbosa. Partly due to knowing his own limitations on the floor, his shooting percentage is phenomenally high for a guard, including a blistering 60% in February. He’s also a good rebounder for his size, and has bought into the Warriors’ defensive philosophy of jumping into passing lanes and getting deflections. Won the Most Improved Player award in 2006/07, and improved even further a year later after a horrendous postseason and a freak head injury suffered in training camp.

Weaknesses: While it’s nice he knows not to shoot too many three’s (leading to his high FG%), at his size he eventually needs to learn how to shoot them. Gets torched by opposing shooting guards at times, and in some games shows little to no interest in defense at all.

Personality: Quiet, but very competitive. Extremely tough, with a high pain threshold. Sometimes smiles. Doesn’t seem like an alpha dog or a true team leader, but he is only 22 and plays with Baron Davis. Whenever Davis leaves, Monta’s personality may come out a little more.

Overall: An amazing scorer for his age, it’s not impossible to imagine Monta as a 30 PPG scorer within three years. While his size leads some to believe he’d better serve the Warriors as a point guard, he’s always looked more like Allen Iverson than Chris Paul.

Tim Lincecum
Age: 24
Position: SP, San Francisco Giants
2007: 146.1 IP, 7-5, 4.00 ERA, 150 K … 2008: 102.2 IP, 8-1, 2.54 ERA, 103 K

Strengths: High-90s fastball with movement that befuddles opposing hitters. Lincecum developed a changeup before this season that has rapidly become his second-best pitch. Also has a strong curveball, but uses it less than last year with the emergence of his changeup. Top pitcher in college, dominated in the Minor Leagues, and has already become a top-five pitcher in the Majors in his second season on a below-average team. Doesn’t seem to need standard pitching requirements like rest and ice.

Weaknesses: Timmy doesn’t seem to worry about his own safety, like yesterday when he got flipped up in the air by a sliding David DeJesus at home plate. He was fine after that tumble, but injury issues are a worry for Lincecum, as they are with all starting pitchers. Seems to get as much as one possibly could with his body (supposedly 5’11, 170 lbs.), threatening the laws of physics with each fastball.

Personality: A mixture of emo-kid and little-league All-Star with a touch of ADD. Makes some of the funniest facial expressions in the dugout since Will Clark. But Lincecum’s best quality is he’s definitely the cockiest player in on the Giants, who should breathe a sigh of relief that Barry Bonds isn’t around to tell Timmy to simmer down — especially when Tyra’s on.

Overall: He’s the Doc Gooden of San Francisco. He can either become a Hall-of-Famer or flame out within a few years (for injury reasons, not drug problems like Gooden).

Patrick Willis
Age: 23
Position: MLB, San Francisco 49ers
2007: 174 tackles (135 solo), 4 sacks

Strengths: Willis is a monster, already the best linebacker in 49er history as a rookie. Was named First-Team All Pro at linebacker as well as Defensive Rookie of the Year. Had 17 solo tackles in consecutive weeks against Arizona and Carolina. Started getting to the quarterback at the end of the year, notching three sacks in his last two games against Tampa Bay and Cleveland.

Weaknesses: Ummm … He can’t play offense?

Personality: Very quiet like Monta, mostly deferring to Assistant Head Coach Mike Singletary, who he met when the Niners’ coaching staff coached Willis’ team at the Senior Bowl. However, Willis did show a little personality and improve his vision at the same time, doing radio spots with a Lasic surgeon who’s done a ton of commercials featuring most of the 49ers roster. The two highlights of the commercial were when he starts the ad by saying, “Hey, it’s Patrick … you know,” as well as a story where his contact lens fell out, leading him to put it in his mouth and still make the play.

Overall: Surest bet of these three to have an outstanding career; only lack of team success can hold him back from being known as the best linebacker in the NFL, which he may be already.

Predictions for the next decade:

Best chance for a title: Monta Ellis
Biggest celebrity: Tim Lincecum
Highest ceiling: Tim Lincecum
Best shot at a HOF induction five years after the next decade is over: Patrick Willis

So there you have it — Lincecum looks to be the most famous athlete of this group, due to his personality and the flare with which he plays the game. Monta is in the best position to win, while Willis is probably the most dominant at his position. Predicting what will happen to each of these athletes is impossible, but with the best three talents in the area all under 25, the future of Bay Area sports is undoubtedly brighter than the present.

Weekend Notes

-Here’s what I learned during last week’s heat wave around these parts: At least 80% of all women in San Francisco have a tattoo on their left shoulder.

-I am tempted to say the best thing about Adam Jones dropping the “Pacman” was when he said you could now call him Adam or “Mr. Jones” (which immediately made me think of Adam Duritz and his fake dreads).

-Nope, it’s the fact his mom won’t ever stop calling him Pacman, because it was the name she gave him when he was a baby. Either she was a big arcade gamer back in the day, or Mama Jones had to switch young Pacman to a bottle earlier than the average infant because he treated her like a power pellet.

-How terrible is the umpiring right now? Major League Baseball has to install replay mid-season due to numerous botched home run calls, and guys are getting thrown out all the time lately (like Alex Hinshaw and Mark Ellis getting tossed within an hour of each other in separate games). No, I don’t have a solution, besides maybe requiring each umpire to get Lasic surgery from Patrick Willis’ doctor.

-It’s rumored that Ron Artest may be a target of the Lakers, who are looking to strengthen their perimeter defense (But why, when they stifled Paul Pierce the way they did? Oh, wait.). Forget whom the Lakers would have to part with to get one year of the crazy Artest. Phil Jackson dealt with Dennis Rodman; he can handle the Tru Warrior. But can Artest handle not being allowed to shoot every other possession? I watched him play with the Kings against the Warriors this past season, and Artest has absolutely no conscience, especially when it comes to heaving threes.

-That’s why Artest would fit in so well with the Warriors.

-All the talk this afternoon has been about Shaq’s “freestyle” rap with the ridiculous “Kobe, tell me how my ass tastes” hook. A few things:

1. That was not freestyle. Shaq had that “I got a vasectomy, now I can’t breed ’em” line ready to go, probably from over a month ago while watching Kobe in the playoffs.
2. Overall, Shaq’s flow has improved quite a bit since his earlier rapping days. I’d say that was his best performance since he broke onto the scene with Fu Schnickens on Arsenio.
3. That said, Shaq’s rap was hardly befitting a future law enforcement officer. No more volunteer Sheriff fun in Scottsdale for you, Shaquille!
4. I loved that Shaq also got a shot in on Kareem Abdul-Jabaar. Sounds like free throw envy to me.
5. We now have proof that Kobe’s mention of Shaq paying off mistresses to Colorado police was what broke up Shaq’s marriage (according to Shaq, anyway). You know Shaq also had to be mad at KB24 since he couldn’t buy his ex a $5 million diamond ring to patch things up.
6. But the best thing about hearing Shaq’s rap on KNBR wasn’t anything about the song. It was hearing Ralph Barbieri say, “I don’t purport to be a member of the hip hop community.”

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