One question looming large for the Milwaukee Bucks this summer is whether or not Monta Ellis will be back with the team next season. With an early-termination option on his contract, Ellis could become available on July 1 when the free-agency period begins.
If he does, what is his true value on the market?
One cannot deny the success that Ellis has had as a scorer since arriving in the league. In fact, for his career he's averaging 19.4 points per game. On the surface, that number doesn't appear to be too impressive, but it's good enough to rank 61st all-time and is 14th among active players.
With excellent quickness and an array of acrobatic moves around the rim, Ellis certainly can put the ball in the hoop.
But he's never really done so with great efficiency.
He's shooting a decent 45.6 percent from the field for his career, but that number has continued to decline over the course of the past several seasons.
Part of the reason for that decline is Ellis' infatuation with the jump shot—an aspect of his game that is subpar at best.
Ellis shot just 41.6 percent from the field during the 2012-13 season, as depicted in the shot chart from NBA.com/Stats above.
Take a moment to look at the distribution of the 1,436 shots he took over the course of the year.
Does anything stand out?
For someone who's so good at getting to the hoop and making tough shots, Ellis took just 568 shots around the rim. When you do the math, the equates to 39.5 percent of the shots he took.
That number is too low, especially when you consider that he almost negated it by taking 328 three-point field goals—the second-most of his career—and connected on just 28.7 percent of them.
And it's those threes and forced mid-range shots that prevented Ellis from having a great season.
In December, Ellis compared himself to Dwyane Wade but he'll never reach that status unless he elevates his basketball IQ and becomes a smarter player.
But what separates the two players is basketball smarts.
Wade knows he isn't a great three-point shooter, so he doesn't take very many. In fact, he's taken more than 100 threes just three times in his career.
Ellis should take note of his 2007-08 season. That year, he scored the most total points he's ever scored and also shot 53.1 percent from the field.
How many threes did he attempt? A total of 52.
He is, without question, a vastly improved player when he's attacking the basket and not relying on his mid-range or long-range jump shot.
And while his inefficiency doesn't help his cause in free agency, it doesn't mar his image as much as a report following Milwaukee's first-round series against the Miami Heat.
According to Ken Berger of CBSSports.com, Ellis and Larry Sanders almost physically fought after the conclusion of Game 3 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center:
After the Bucks lost 104-91 to the Heat in Milwaukee on April 25, Sanders vented in the locker room and said in a fiery speech, “We need to start playing together as a team and stop worrying about next year,” according to one of the people briefed on the confrontation. “We need to stop being selfish and start worrying about right now.”
Ellis “took umbrage,” according to another person with knowledge of the situation. Correctly assuming that Sanders' comments were directed primarily at him and backcourt mate Brandon Jennings, who both are prospective free agents, Ellis approached Sanders and squared off with him, sources said. A teammate got between the two players and separated them before the conflict became physical.
While tensions were surely running high after suffering another loss to the defending champions, it doesn't excuse the behavior of Ellis.
No one has ever accused him of being a terrible teammate, but the high volume of shots he takes and a noticeable tendency to give up on plays if he makes a mistake don't exactly bolster an argument for him being a great one either.
In the end, Ellis and his agent will have to determine what the best option is.
He can exercise his early-termination option and leave $11 million on the table to seek greener pastures outside of Milwaukee. But his inefficient play and the immaturity he displayed in the aforementioned scuffle with Sanders don't exactly help his cause.
It comes down to what he values most between money and winning games.
If he wants play on a winning team, he's almost certainly going to have to take a pay cut. It would be shocking if a contending team paid him more than what he would make with the Bucks if he returned next season.
Ultimately, he may find that his value on the market isn't nearly what he thinks it is, and that could prove to be detrimental to the growth of the Bucks next season.