Monta's Mavs Fit & Future: 3 'Curious' Points
Monta Ellis said all the right things in last week's Dallas Mavericks introductory press conference ... so "right'' that I find myself eagerly wanting to believe the positives.
And as DB.com has pointed out repeatedly and optimistically ... there are positives.
From Fish: Maybe it shouldn't be this difficult to find someone to play "Robin'' to Dirk's "Batman,'' but even through 11X50, two NBA Finals appearances and one NBA title, the Mavs have struggled to find a true second scorer. Finley was that for a time, and Jet was certainly that although he came off the bench to do so, and Mayo had his moments last season ...
But maybe Monta can do it in a more traditional way: A scorer who is also a wing creator for himself due to his handles (not a strength of Finley, Jet or Mayo). A scorer who is also a point-guard-quality passer (Monta has a reputation as a gunner but last year complemented his 19 points per game with six assists per, too).
Ellis has not been paired with an offensive weapon the caliber of Dirk, has not worked with the space Dirk's presence should provide. (And hasn't worked with a coach like Carlisle, either.)
From Chuck Perry: Consider two players:
Player A is 6'2", 176 lbs, was 27 when he played his first game for the Mavericks and was thought of as a high-volume, low-efficiency scorer with speed on a bad Eastern Conference team.
Player B is 6'3", 175 lbs, will be 27 when he plays his first game for the Mavericks and is thought of as a high-volume, low-efficiency scorer with speed on a bad Eastern Conference team.
Player A is Jason Terry. Player B is Monta Ellis.
From Michael Dugat: Monta got to the rim for 5.2 field-goal-attempts per game last season, and has never averaged below 4.5. By comparison, Shawn Marion led the Mavs a year ago with 4.0 attempts at the rim per game (the most for a Dallas player since Marion averaged 4.1 in the 2010-11 season). No Dallas player has matched those 5.2 attempts at the rim per game going back to the 2006-07 season (per Hoopdata.com), and only twice in that span has a Dallas player exceeded Ellis's career-low of 4.5: Marion with 5.1 in 2009-10 and Devin Harris with 4.6 in 2007-08.
All those things range from somewhere between "true'' to "I hope it is true.'' I think the money argument in favor of Ellis is easily supported; he can be a value here for numerous reasons. I also think Monta as "intriguing'' is inarguable; he's always been that.
But there are undeniable uncertainties here -- three of them, in fact -- that add to the "intrigue'' and provide me with both curiosity and some wariness about what we might see from Ellis long-term in Dallas….
First, when was the last time Ellis played well as BOTH a ballhawking defender AND a get-to-the-rim scorer? He absolutely CAN do both of those things (in regard to defense, at least as a guy who puts up steals numbers). But to me, his scoring numbers seem to bloat his reputation. The steals come at the expense of truly solid team defense, I think, and in total, I consider him a poor defender.
Coach Rick Carlisle touts Monta as "the fastest guy to ever put on a Mavs uniform,'' and I buy that. That speed is what allows him to get those steals, how he can create a one-man break, and how he gets to the rim.
But in my mind's eye, the recent-vintage Monta isn't as much of a rim-attacker as he is a shot-jacker. "Volume shooter'' seems to be a term almost created for the recent-vintage Ellis.
Can Dallas' "culture'' (as touted by Mark Cuban) and "coaching'' (a very real thing that surely helped OJ Mayo last year) benefit Ellis? I hope so. The opportunity for him in Dallas is that he won't be asked to carry the scoring load -- to "do 60-percent of everything'' as he said he did in Golden State. Here, he can be a selective shooter, a pick-and-roll creator for others, and most of all, a respectful Dirk lieutenant.
"With a team like this, the players that we have like Dirk, the way that Coach wants to run the pick-and-roll, it's going to open it up for me, Dirk and the other guys,'' Ellis said. "So it's a great opportunity. A new beginning, and I'm looking forward to it."
That is the right thing to say, and will be the right thing to do. An inefficient chucker taking shots away from Dirk must never be the way a guard with Monta's talents (even a "shooting guard'') should play here.
It's worth noting that we're told Dirk was very supportive of the Ellis signing. That's good. So does Monta get to the rim, get to his man on defense and get the ball to Dirk? I'm very curious to find out.
Secondly, even as we know Ellis will finish games on the floor with Dirk, I'm curious about the Mavs' thoughts and possible use of Monta as a sixth man for the Mavs. Heck, for all we know now, they haven't even started considering that possibility. But I'm sure it's inevitable.
Look at all the other pieces in that backcourt.
Calderon is the starting PG, and he'll stay on the floor in key moments, too, I would think, ala Kidd. Having a smallish non-defender starting alongside Jose -- himself a poor defender – seems like a lousy idea. Ellington (much bigger, a strong defensive player and good perimeter shooter) is available there. (Aside: does that description for Ellington remind anyone else of the description for D Stevenson in Dallas, who filled the wear-them-down starter role complementing JET at SG?) When Devin is healthy, he might be a candidate, too, just because of the effort he gives in guarding waterbugs.
So Monta as the sixth man?
He did it for a time under Don Nelson with the Warriors. At 27, does he think himself above it now? If he views himself as "Dirk's sidekick,'' does that mean he must be given his "props'' as the club's second-best player? Will pride get in the way of what's best?
Forgive me for speculating. But these are the sorts of things that go smoothly when talked about in August press conferences ... and get a little rough after three straight losses in December.
Monta and Dirk can carry the offense, but maybe they can do so in "shifts,'' with Carlisle making Ellis this team's sixth man, giving him the very same role that Jet played for so many years.
It's a viable sell, I think. In my estimation Monta's best GS days were in that role. Jet's championship Dallas days were, too. The Mavs can promote a guy who plays that spot, as they've done over the years with Jamison, Stackhouse, Jet, and (for a second there) Odom.
I advocate the move, most of all, because coming off the bench theoretically lowers Ellis' total number of shots while elevating their importance. He can lead Dallas' second wave as a No. 1 threat -- and be better than the opponents' second waves. I'm reminded that JET's scorer-first mentality made perfect sense when he was used to come off the bench and provide a burst of scoring, and think that Ellis shoot-first mentality would make perfect sense in such a setting.
Finally, in regards to how Ellis makes me curious and intrigued, I find myself wondering if Ellis' greatest value to the Mavs might include him NOT being in Dallas beyond the middle of next February.
This contemplation isn't based on a concern that Ellis won't play well -- quite the contrary. I have this on my list of Monta "intrigues'' because of Dallas' overwhelming depth at both guard positions and because of Dallas' other present-time and long-term needs.
If the Mavs didn't have Ellis, they would be lacking in the "Robin'' department, no doubt. But they are overflowing with other attractive possibilities to provide quality minutes in the backcourt. At the 2 they have both Ellington and Harris, with Vince Carter able to swing back there as well, and Ledo being developed in the wings, while at PG they have Calderon, Devin, Larkin and Mekel all available to contribute.
None of that means Ellis isn't "needed.'' But might we label him as "expendable,'' especially depending on how the others perform, where the Mavs are record-wise and what players are being made available around the league for a package that includes Ellis as a key component?
This also ties into a crucial item regarding Ellis: his contract. While he was signed to be a key piece, his deal with the Mavs was a relative bargain (as first reported by DB.com, it's a three-year contract that starts at $8, then $8.360 mil, then a player's option at $8.720 mil). But it is only a commitment for two years.
That means Dallas has two years to find the best way to get value from Ellis, and while one way is to turn the two years into a half-dozen or more very productive years as a key performer in Dallas, another is to have him available for a high-value. In such a deal, Ellis on that contract comes at a sizable discount for anybody who might've liked him a year ago when he was at $11 million for the year, as well as for anyone who becomes attracted to his play alongside Dirk.
Oh, and one other key point: an $8 mil salary is a perfect trade match for several somebodies who could be a "new Robin'' at a more key spot, center. That money fits Asik and Gortat, for starters, as well as Varejao and perhaps others. Or, if a high-dollar high-value player is made available by some team, Ellis at $8 mil would certainly be a nice chip to be able to offer.
Will he be here long-term, or will he be a key component in a trade-to-come? That intrigues me.
In total, it looks to me like "Ellis-in-Dallas" can go any number of ways, from a variety of outcomes on his possible success, some differing possibilities on his projected role, and the ultimate question of how long he'll be a Mav and what his availability could add to the Mavs' trade options.
But in any event, Monta Ellis saying all the right things is a step in a positive direction. Monta Ellis doing all the right things is next up.
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