Finding one’s way in the NBA can be a difficult, frustrating task. Being able to find a team where everything just seems to fall in place and click doesn’t happen right away. In certain cases, it takes playing for two or three different teams in order for one to find their niche. For Monta Ellis, it seems as though he has found his place in Dallas and everything is clicking, due to his environment, teammates and coaching staff.
Being one of the last high school players drafted before the 2005 CBA, Ellis was selected in the second round by the Golden State Warriors. In his second season, Ellis was awarded the league’s Most Improved Player and quickly established himself as a high volume, dynamic scorer. Over the next several years, Ellis dealt with an unstable management and coaching situation. This led to Ellis also establishing himself as a low efficient scorer, sometimes incapable of playing on both ends of the court.
By drafting Stephen Curry in 2009, Golden State hoped that Curry and Ellis would be able to play with one another and form a deadly backcourt. Ellis creating off the dribble, setting up looks for Curry. As time went, on the Warriors continued to struggle to win and the small backcourt of Ellis and Curry was not going as planned. With frustration mounting and Golden State struggling to be in the playoff picture, they traded Ellis to Milwaukee for Andrew Bogut to beef up their post play and move on with Curry as the future of the franchise.
The move to Milwaukee set up the backcourt tandem with Brandon Jennings, but also with an organization in a state of flux. Initial reaction was that the move would be a disaster in the making, as it paired two high volume, low efficient scorers who had never heard of the word defense. In one and half seasons with the Bucks, they made the playoffs once, getting swept by the eventual NBA champion Miami Heat. That said, Ellis’ field goal and three point percentages dropped while in Milwaukee. His points per game took a decline also. All in all, the pairing with Jennings was anything but good.
Becoming a free agent this past summer, Ellis decided to sign with the Dallas Mavericks. With Ellis’ reputation, the signing left many pondering how well it would work playing with Dirk Nowitzki and under coach Rick Carlisle. Would he buy in?
Entering the new year with Dallas at 19-13 and sitting as the eighth seed in the Western Conference, it seems as though Ellis has bought in and finally found his niche. Ellis, having the help and support from owner Mark Cuban and coach Carlisle, is shedding his former reputation and is building quite the duo with Nowitzki.
So far this season, Ellis has seen his field goal percentage rise to 45%, his highest since the 2007-2008 season. Though never been known as a three point shooter, Ellis has seen a rise in his three point percentage, up to 32%, his highest since being with Golden State. Ellis, who is known for his high volume shooting, has also seen his shots per game decrease to a reasonable 16 per game, which is encouraging. On the season, Ellis is one of only eight other players averaging at least 20 points and 5 assists per game. Those other players you make ask? Damian Lillard, James Harden, John Wall, Kyrie Irving, Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, and LeBron James (via NBA.com). All pretty good players I believe. Heck, we’ve even seen an improved effort from Ellis on the defensive end. Ellis is currently 12th in the league in steals per game at 1.8.
The recent move to Dallas not only has Ellis thriving, it has franchise player Dirk Nowitzki playing some of his best basketball since winning the 2011 NBA Finals. Averaging just over 20 ppg this year, Nowitzki’s field goal percentage has increased 48.5%, his highest since 2010-2011. Ellis and Nowitzki have formed a dynamic duo, a lethal pick-and-roll tandem. Ellis is currently tied with Jose Calderon for the most assisted field goals made by Nowitzki at 44 a piece, far ahead of anyone else on the team. With Ellis and Nowitzki in the pick-and-roll it creates issues for the defense, on one hand having the greatest stretch four to ever play and on the other a guard who can get into the paint at will. It stretches the floor for the offense creating a plethora of space for Ellis and Nowitzki to work, causing problems for the defense. Ellis and Nowitzki have developed a chemistry that is flourishing, but also one that many thought would never be possible.
After years of building a reputation as a high volume, low efficient scorer incapable of playing defense, it seems as though Monta Ellis is shedding it in Dallas. With a healthy environment and stable organization Monta Ellis is thriving playing arguably the best basketball of his career. Granted, we still see the wild, low percentage shots from Ellis that we’ve all come to love from time to time. Though being surrounded by an excellent veteran cast in Nowitzki, Vince Carter, Jose Calderon and Shawn Marion, Ellis’ game has grown and matured before our eyes. It’s apparent that Monta is having it all in Dallas.