Going into this offseason, the Dallas Mavericks had enough cap room to go superstar shopping. So they started with Chris Paul, but they missed out. They lost the Dwight Howard sweepstakes. They couldn't even get Andrew Bynum or Greg Oden.
So who did the Mavs end up with after all that?
They signed Monta Ellis, one of the most polarizing players in the league. He has the talent to be great, but his play doesn't always reflect his potential.
So with a player like that, it seems his tenure can go one of two ways: Either he can play up to his talent, or he can continue on his downhill slide.
We'll examine what the best and worst case scenarios are for Monta Ellis in Dallas, and what the most likely outcome of his time with the Mavs will be.
He's a guy who could swing to extremes, so either end of the spectrum is a real possibility—which is a bit of a scary thought. But anyways, let's get to it.
Best Case Scenario
Keep in mind that Ellis is 27 years old. By no means is he physically washed up.
As such, he can still flat out burn. He's one of the fastest players in the NBA according to Mark Cuban and Rick Carlisle, and he's still lightning quick.
And despite concerns over his shooting percentage, he still averaged 19.2 points per game. In six of the last seven years he has averaged 19 points or more.
Monta Ellis can score—that's just what he does. And though the knock against him is he's not a very efficient shooter, there may be a reason for that.
Ellis's shooting percentages have dropped significantly in the last two years, or since he's been in Milwaukee. He has shot 43.2 percent and 41.6 percent playing for the Bucks, but his lowest shooting percentage in a full season for the Warriors was 44.9 percent.
So it's plausible that playing in Milwaukee and alongside a shoot-first point guard in Brandon Jennings hurt Monta Ellis' game.
Ellis and Jennings are very similar players, and it makes sense that two guards, who are natural scorers and take similar shots, would hurt each other.
And it makes even more sense that playing in that kind of a situation would make Ellis unhappy, further hurting his game.
So this means that there's a chance Ellis goes back to his Golden State days, especially with Jose Calderon running the point. For his career Calderon averages nine assists and 10.1 shots per 36 minutes.
In other words a perfect offensive complement to Ellis.
If Ellis can get his shooting percentage up and if the Mavs can build some plays for him, Ellis can be an absolutely lethal scorer.
He did score 25.5 points per game once, good for sixth in the league.
Basically, he can be a souped-up Jason Terry. Not the same type of shooter, but he's a better all-around scorer and a surprisingly effective passer. He can provide an outside scoring punch to help relieve some of Dirk's load.
And though he has never been a great on-ball defender, he has always had a penchant for steals, averaging 1.7 per game for his career. If he plays the passing lanes well, he can wreak some havoc on that end as well.
If it all comes together, Monta can be a scorer again and a fantastic second option on offense for Dallas. That kind of contribution would far outweigh his $8.36 million salary.
Worst Case Scenario
This is where it doesn't look so pretty.
Instead of seeing the last two years in Milwaukee as an outlier, we look at those years as a downhill trend.
Ellis may be only 27, but this will be his ninth year. It's awfully hard to shed bad habits when a player is almost a 10-year veteran.
So those shooting percentages of 43.2 percent and 41.6 might continue, which means the Mavericks would end up paying over $8 million this year to a guy who averages 18 points on 16 shots.
Also, Ellis's teams have never been winners. With Ellis at the helm, his teams have made the playoffs once and won exactly zero playoff games.
And that defensive problem? It's bad.
When he's off the court, the Bucks defense was two points better per 100 possessions. So yes, he gets steals, but that's not all defense is about.
This all means in the worst case scenario he will be a horribly-inefficient scorer, a passive defender and a player the Mavs will owe close to $25 million for three years.
Is that bad? It ain't good.
For a team with an aging Dirk and a lack of young talent, the best the Mavericks can do this year is make the playoffs.
But if Ellis is their second best player and plays at his worst, that will be a tall order.
Most Likely Scenario
I'd love to be optimistic about Monta, but it's hard.
For better or worse, Ellis is a scorer. He's exciting, there's no doubt about that. But outside of putting the ball in the hoop, Ellis's other skills are lacking a bit.
He can pass pretty well, averaging six assists last year. But considering he takes so many shots at such a poor clip, that skill is kind of drowned out.
So more than likely, Ellis will be a good bench scorer. That's a fair expectation.
He can come off the bench as a sixth man and change the pace of a game. He can blitz a team's second unit and provide a change of pace with the starters in the game.
He seems destined to fill the Jason Terry/J.J. Barea role on the Mavs.
And as such he can have some value. But he won't be the big catch Dallas was looking for this offseason.
Maybe if he plays like a good sixth man he can be trade bait and bring something of more use to the Mavericks. It's hard to hope for much more with a nine-year veteran who seems to be in the middle of a downhill trend.
We can hold out hope that the old Monta will be back, but it seems that ship has sailed.
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