Wait, what year is this?
Ellis's first regular-season game as a Dallas Maverick went better than even the most optimistic Mavs fans could have hoped for: 32 points, 11-of-17 shooting. Of course, Ellis could have been a threat to toss up 30 points on any given night, even during his career nadir in Milwaukee. More important than the points is the shooting percentage—nearly 65 percent—which falls more in line with his efficiency heyday back in Golden State.
Perhaps the only person not surprised by Ellis' 30-point opener is Ellis himself. Just last week, he told ESPN Dallas writer Tim MacMahon that he had needed to start looking for his own shot.
It was a bold move coming from a player with Ellis' reputation as a selfish chucker, particularly when coming to a new team with a surefire Hall of Famer like Dirk Nowitzki. But the early results are encouraging.
Crucially, the Mavericks have demonstrated in their first game that there are enough shots to go around. Dallas has three big-time scorers in Ellis, Nowitzki and sixth man Vince Carter, and the shots tonight were distributed beautifully:
The Mavericks can certainly succeed in this manner going forward, for a number of reasons.
- Dirk—wise old veteran and pragmatic man that he is—understands he needs Ellis to assume a large share of the scoring load this season. In that same Tim MacMahon story, Dirk mentioned that Ellis needs to be aggressive and score, thereby giving the guard his tacit approval.
- In Jose Calderon, the Mavs have a pass-first point guard who can allow Ellis to focus on scoring. Ellis' most efficient scoring seasons came when he played with Baron Davis in Golden State. More recently, Ellis was forced into an ill-fitting role as a distributor. Even in tonight's game, he showed some of his bad old faux-PG tendencies, with his eight assists offset by seven turnovers. With Calderon manning the point, Ellis will learn to put aside to point guard duties and focus on scoring.
- The Mavs have surrounded Ellis, Nowitzki and Carter with a group of low-usage role players. In the starting lineup, Jose Calderon will focus on distributing the ball while Samuel Dalembert and Shawn Marion will focus mostly on defense and rebounding. Only Marion is any kind of a threat to take away shots away from Ellis.
While Ellis isn't exactly a one-dimensional player, he has a very narrow skill set, and few teams in the NBA are set up to win consistently with this kind of player leading the way in field-goal attempts. The good news for Dallas fans is that the Mavericks might just have the roster to fully exploit Ellis' skills.