Monta Ellis had become a running joke in the NBA. He was the definition of inefficiency—a high-volume shooter that settled for bad shots and had tunnel vision with sights set on the basket. The sample size is small, but he’s redefined his game with the Dallas Mavericks and has exceeded all expectations.
It wasn’t a surprise to see his new contract with the Mavericks met with cynicism and scorn. Ellis was somewhat of a consolation prize for Mark Cuban’s team after they missed out on Chris Paul, Dwight Howard and Andre Iguodala in free agency.
He may not have a bigger impact than any of those players, but at his three-year, $25 million price tag, he looks like one of the best value signings of the offseason.
Dallas was taking a chance on his considerable talent and betting that their structure and culture of winning would be able to make Ellis a better player.
The early results have been stunning.
Despite the presence of Jose Calderon—one of the best pure point guards in the league—Monta Ellis has been the primary shot-creator for the Mavs.
In the past, that sentence would not have been a good thing, but he’s blossoming under the tutelage of Dirk Nowitzki and head coach Rick Carlisle. He’s formed a deadly pick-and-roll combination with Nowitzki and has been the best pick-and-roll player of the young season according to SynergySports:
Quite frankly, Ellis has never been in such a good basketball situation, a point that Grantland’s Kirk Goldsberry discusses in detail. He’s made the most of his opportunity to do what he does best: attack.
Of his 119 field-goal attempts this year, 58 percent of them have come in the paint compared to just 44 percent last season. As a result of his attacking mentality, he’s also shooting fewer three-pointers, with only 14 percent of his shots coming from beyond the arc (compared to 23 percent last season).
His shooting percentages are the highest of his last six years in the league. That improvement isn’t the result of a hot streak that will soon end, but rather the result of the types of shots he’s taking. He’s attacking the rim and leads the league with 9.8 points per game coming off drives, according to NBA.com’s Jonathan Hartzell.
A byproduct of his aggressiveness is that he’s getting to the free-throw line instead of settling for contested jumpers.
|Monta Ellis' Free-Throw Attempts|
|Season||Free Throw Attempts/Game|
Even if Ellis hits a cold patch with his shooting, he’s putting pressure on defenses by continually getting into the paint, and he's creating shots for his teammates.
It’s still very early in the season, but he looks like a new Monta Ellis. A new and improved Monta Ellis is a scary thought for the rest of the NBA.