Monta Ellis has always been known to be a shoot-first, pass later shooting guard.
With his poor shot selection and excessive shooting, he has consistently challenged the mental stability of coaches during his previous stints in Golden State and Milwaukee. To make things worse, he couldn’t even defend a lightpost. Despite being a talented player, he had major deficiencies in decision making and on the defensive end. However, his time at Dallas has changed all that.
Ellis was one of the last few top-ranked shooting guards to be signed during the last free agency, with teams electing to pass on playing small-ball with Ellis at the 2. However, Dallas came calling and after offering him a 3-year, $25 million dollar deal that he has undoubtedly outplayed this season, he has been tremendous and proves to be the missing piece in the Mavs roster since their Championship run in 2011
This is in part due to the formation of a dynamic duo between Ellis and one of the greatest power forwards of this generation, Dirk Nowitzki.
Its uncanny that his stats look so similar to last year’s performances in Milwaukee. Last season, Monta averaged 19.2 points, 6 assists and 3.9 rebounds; whereas this season, Ellis is putting up slightly less in each category, going for 19 points, 5.8 assists and 3.6 rebounds.
So what’s the big difference?
I left $11 million on the table to come and sign here…For me it was more important to be in an environment of winning, and to be on a team with a great group of guys.” – Monta Ellis, How Dirk and Monta saved each other
Despite a slight drop in performance, it is evident that he is with a Championship calibre which needs him. And a team which he needs as well.
It’s the environment. It’s the culture in which he has immersed himself in. It’s the people who are surrounding him. No offense to his previous coaches, but just like DeMarcus Cousins has in Sacramento with Michael Malone, he’s found a coach to connect with, one that can build around his game, a coach that finally respects his basketball ability and is willing to work their offense around it.
This season alone Monta has already raised his field goal percentage from 41.6% to 45.2%. It seems light on the surface, but Ellis has slowly work his way up percentage wise, and how is this occurring? Through better shot selection.
Compared to the 2013/14 season, Ellis is taking two shots less per game but is still averaging a similar scoring output.In 2012/13 with the Milwaukee Bucks, Ellis was nothing more than a chucker.
Mainly due to the lack of interest from teams during free agency that season, he was resigned to playing basketball as he pleased. He shot 28.7% from three, and even with shooting that low a percentage, he continued to throw them up – Ellis took 328 sshots from downtown and only made 94. He continued to take shots from spots on the floor which he was poor at, instead of using his insane ability to slash to the rim and penetrate with his extreme quickness which would have resulted in either drawing the foul or getting a layup.
That season, Ellis would force shots that weren’t there for Milwaukee, lazily accepting defeat on offense.This season in Dallas, Monta’s improved efficiency on offense makes him, and the team, much better. He provides another option capable of a thirty-point game which eases the scoring burden on the big German, Dirk Nowitzki.
Not only that, the Mississippi Bullet as some would call him is working towards finding better shots. He’s taken 2 shots less per outing and the shot selection of Ellis is coming more from inside 15 feet. An area where Ellis uses his lateral speed and quickness to rise up over opponents to make the bucket.
Ellis has led the league in drives to the hoop this season with 817 attempts, shooting 49.7% when he does so. He’s made the most points while driving to the rim, with 588 drives (132 more than second place Damian Lillard) and is averaging 7.3 points per game through buckets coming off a drive to the rim. Monta has become a much more effective player by unleashing his athleticism on his slower opponents.
What is the best thing about Monta for the Mavericks? He’s made Dirk better.
Dirk hasn’t had another player in Dallas capable of being the second scoring option for the team since Jason Terry back when they defied odds, defeating the Miami Heat and winning the NBA Championship. The explosiveness of Ellis and Dirk’s seemingly ageing body have been an unlikely, but perfect match for each other.
The athleticism of Ellis and his ability to penetrate, dish-off and force turnovers on defense (yes, I mentioned defense in the same sentence as Ellis), has seen Dirk raise his points per game from 17.3 to 21.6 with his field goal percentage being upped by 2.5% as well.
Nowitzki has never received the privilege of playing with another guard of Ellis’ caliber. Ellis’ ability to read the game, push the basketball and dish off the pass has seen Dirk heap praise on the 8-year NBA veteran.
He’s been great. He’s obviously been great for me and my career for the next couple of years. He’s so explosive off the bounce. I don’t think I’ve ever played with a guy that’s that explosive going to the rim, constantly attacking, sucking in defenses. How many open shots he got me already this year has been great. He’s taken a lot of scoring load off me. He’s in the prime of his career. He’s been taking games over for us in the fourth quarter. He can score in bunches, like I’ve barely seen in my 16 years. Off the floor, he is non-stop man. He’s got energy. He’s hilarious. Always talking in the locker room. Always making fun of people. He’s been great on and off the floor and we’re very, very happy to have him” – Dirk Nowitzki, What makes Monta a great teammate
Monta Ellis have it all” – Monta Ellis
Ellis in Milwaukee famously likened his play to that of NBA superstar Dwayne Wade. The “have it all” claim led fans and analysts to believe that Ellis was a selfish, deluded and egotistical player – one that would definitely never live up to that comparison of D-Wade. Now while he hasn’t done that, and probably never will, his current play has closed in on the once-whopping gap between the two.
Now, while we know that Monta does not have it all, he’s made great steps in supporting his ludicrous claim.
He just brought home his first NBA Player of the Week award in Dallas, after averaging 25.7 points, 4.7 assists and 4 rebounds over the previous week. It included a 15/23 performance from the field in a vital game for playoff contention against the Phoenix Suns. This award not only proves that he’s put the past behind and is no longer the chucker of old, but a talented NBA player that any team would want on their roster.
Not only is he the most important piece for the Mavericks to succeed in the post-season, he’s now an important piece for the future of the Dallas franchise as well.
It really is amazing how much a change in culture can do for a player’s confidence.