Why the Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis Pairing Is Working Out After All

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistNovember 20, 2013

Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki have been surprisingly compatible for the Mavericks.
Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki have been surprisingly compatible for the Mavericks.Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Dirk Nowitzki has been the key player in the Dallas Mavericks' offensive unit for 15 years, and the offseason signing of unabashed shooter Monta Ellis induced skepticism around the NBA.

Could the pairing work together and propel a franchise that missed the playoffs for the first time in 13 seasons back to where it wants to be?

Although Dallas is not expected to vie for the top spot in the Western Conference, due to its collective offensive talent, the team is absolutely a real threat against any given opponent.

And if the early part of the 2013-14 season is any indication, Ellis and Nowitzki are prepared to keep the Mavs in contention for the postseason.


Monta Ellis Is Becoming a More Efficient Offensive Player

Instead of forcing the issue as he has done throughout his career, Ellis is recognizing how working with a star like Dirk Nowitzki opens up better shots for both he and his counterpart.

Against the Atlanta Hawks, Ellis and Nowitzki put on a show. The duo was constantly running a two-man pick-and-roll offense, setting each other up for open shots.

Late in the gameclutch timeis when Ellis and Nowitzki shined.

Dallas held a nine-point lead with just over two minutes remaining, and the Mavs' two biggest offensive weapons complemented each other, knocking down a few crucial baskets.

Nowitzki set a pick for Ellis, the shooting guard made Dirk's defender cut off the lane, Ellis dished it back to a wide-open Nowitzki. Of course, the 7-footer drilled the three-pointer, and they did the same thing on the very next possession.

In a matter of 25 seconds, Dallas increased its lead to 13 points, and Ellis then sealed the game with another trifecta. Instead of either player ceding—or selfishly demanding—control of the offense, Ellis and Nowitzki worked together to wrap up a Mavericks' win.

Essentially, repeating performances like this will lead Dallas to many more victories.

While it is essential not to judge a given player based on a single game, Ellis has been a smarter shooter so far this season.

Throughout 2012-13 (and the majority of his career, for that matter), he kept trying to be something he is not—a long-distance shooter. Ellis' shooting percentage suffered, attempting 22.8 percent of his 1,436 shots from behind the arc.

During 2013-14, however, Ellis has only launched 15.2 percent of his total shots from long distance. By doing this, Ellis' shooting percentage has improved from .416 to .473, and his more aggressive offensive style is providing him 2.0 more free throw attempts per game.

Ellis' renewed desire to attack the rim has been a key factor in the Mavericks' early-season successes.
Ellis' renewed desire to attack the rim has been a key factor in the Mavericks' early-season successes.Fernando Medina/Getty Images

Additionally, the shifty shooting guard dished 10 assists when Dallas took on the Philadelphia 76ers, nine dimes against the Los Angeles Lakers and eight assists vs. both the Orlando Magic and Atlanta Hawks.

Bigger picture? The Mavericks won each of those games.

Ellis is driving the lane, taking higher-percentage shots and finding open teammates. And as Richie Whitt of NBCDFW.com says concerning Ellis' tenure in Dallas, "so far, so great."


Dirk Nowitzki's Production Is Not Suffering

Nowitzki has embraced Ellis' offensive prowess, not demanding his long-time role as the Mavericks' No. 1 scoring option. Most importantly, though, he isn't suffering from Ellis attempting 16.7 shots per game—a fractional step up from his career 16.4 attempts per contest.

In fact, Nowitzki has been ridiculously consistent from the 2012-13 season to the current campaign.

Dirk Nowitzki Season Comparison

Shouldn't players want to see noticeable improvement from one year to the next?

Sure. But considering Dirk was practically Dallas' only offensive star last season, Ellis is helping lift the Mavericks to another level.

Nowitzki is still producing at above-average level, and Ellis is matching Dirk's production, whereas last season O.J. Mayo was simply not a threatening complement to the Mavs' star.

Comparatively, Mayo scored 20-plus points only six times alongside Nowitzki for 53 games during 2012-13. Through Dallas' first 11 games of the 2013-14 campaign, Ellis never scored fewer than 18 points in a single contest, eclipsing the 20-point mark seven times and 30-point level twice.

O.J. Mayo vs. Monta Ellis
Mayo '12-1335.55.612.5.4491.74.3.40715.34.4
Ellis '13-1437.57.916.7.4730.82.5.32122.15.5

Nowitzki's right-hand man has produced on a greater level this year, and the Mavericks are doing something they could not find a way to consistently do last season.



Dallas Has Been Winning Games

How much more evidence is necessary when the results are positive?

The Mavericks have beaten less-talented teams and hung around the NBA's top-tier franchises.

Dallas dropped contested games to the Houston Rockets by eight points, the Oklahoma City Thunder by 14 and Miami Heat by six. Each of those contests were on the road, though, so Dallas has an upcoming opportunity to take down the aforementioned teams at the American Airlines Center.

Victories make for more enjoyable postgame celebrations, and Dallas has earned more wins than losses suffered so far.
Victories make for more enjoyable postgame celebrations, and Dallas has earned more wins than losses suffered so far.Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

As of Nov. 19, the Mavericks have not lost a home game, including victories over the Memphis Grizzlies and upstart I-guess-they're-not-tanking 76ers.

Dallas' slate certainly becomes more difficult, considering Western Conference contenders like Houston, the Denver Nuggets and Golden State Warriors lie ahead for the Mavs.

However, led by Ellis and Nowitzki, Dallas has one of the NBA's best offensive attacks, averaging more than 105 points per outing and capable of sticking with the league's top teams.

And as the Mavericks continue to win, it's a safe bet that the Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki pairing is finding the bottom of the net.

Note: Stats are accurate as of Tuesday, Nov. 19.

Follow Bleacher Report NBA Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR


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