Monta Ellis has an $11 million player option for the 2013-14 season, but all signs during the final few months of the Milwaukee Bucks season pointed to Ellis opting out of that deal and joining the free-agent market this offseason.
Friday afternoon's report from Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel all but confirmed that the Bucks and Ellis have reached an impasse regarding his return.
Ellis reportedly turned down a two-year contract extension with the Bucks that would have turned the one year left on his six-year, $66 million contract into a three-year, $36 million deal. Gardner has more on Ellis' choice to leave the money on the table:
As part of the discussions the Bucks offered the 27-year-old guard a two-year extension through the 2015-’16 season, resulting in a total package of nearly $36 million over three years, according to a source. Ellis would have been required to opt in to get the additional two years on the deal.
Ellis would have received some protection against injury with a three-year deal while also having the chance to be a free agent at the age of 30. But he may be interested in testing the market now.
A decision to turn down what would be a $12 million annual salary might come as a shock to some, including Journal Times' Gery Woelfel, who reported back in April that several league general managers considered Ellis' current annual salary of $11 million laughable.
But, then again, maybe Ellis just wants to get out of Milwaukee.
Where will Ellis be playing when the 2013-14 season opens?
With Ellis, Brandon Jennings, J.J. Redick and Mike Dunleavy all expected to be involved in free agent discussions in some capacity this offseason, the Bucks face the reality that four of their top five scorers last season could be playing elsewhere when next season tips off.
In his first full season with the club, Ellis led the Bucks in scoring at 19.2 points per game, while chipping in averages of 6.0 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 2.1 steals. While those numbers are impressive, questions arose about his ability to play in tandem with Jennings, much like they did with up-and-coming point guard Stephen Curry in Golden State.
The Ellis-Jennings relationship is one that carries some of the most intrigue heading into the offseason, because the growing sense around basketball is that the Bucks would rather have one of those two stars long-term and let the other walk in free agency.
According to ESPN's Marc Stein, the team has been leaning toward Ellis during its evaluation of the roster to stay relevant in the Eastern Conference:
And a free-agent rumble: There's a rising belief in exec circles that Bucks prefer to re-sign Monta Ellis over Brandon Jennings this summer— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) May 29, 2013
The backcourt dynamic has also been discussed elsewhere, including this SLAM magazine piece by Brandon Jefferson imploring the Bucks to choose between Ellis and Jennings rather than suffer through another disappointing defensive season.
Speculation about landing spots for the 27-year-old guard include Sacramento, where Mike Malone (a former Golden State assistant when Ellis was with the team) was just hired as the head coach. Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports perpetuated that rumor with a piece on mutual interest on May 31.
The Dallas Mavericks (per Dallas Morning News' Eddie Sefko) are another team that might be interested in Ellis' services as a scorer next season, as well as teams with needs at shooting guard like Minnesota, Chicago and Atlanta.
Per Gardner's report, Ellis has until June 20 to officially opt out of the final year of his contract.