Dallas Mavericks: Does Monta Ellis Really Have It All?

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After missing out on the Dwight Howard sweepstakes, the Dallas Mavericks have continued on their quest to return to the playoffs.

One move that they have made this offseason is to sign Monta Ellis to a three-year, $25.08 million deal, a far cry from the four-year, $40 million contract that he had initially been hoping for.

After finishing last season 41-41 and missing the playoffs for the first time since the 1999-2000 season, the Mavericks are hopeful that the addition of Ellis will not only fill the gap O.J. Mayo left, but also lead them back to the postseason.

Since the Mavs will be looking to Ellis to replace the production lost with O.J. Mayo gone, a side-by-side comparison of the two should give us some insight into how the Mavericks can fare next season.

Let’s take a look.

Offense

In 2012-13, the Dallas Mavericks averaged 101.1 points per game, good for eighth in the league, shot 46.2 percent from the field and boasted an effective field-goal percentage of 50.6. All in all, the Mavericks offense was far from the worst in the league, but left room for improvement next season.

As the Mavericks starting shooting guard, O.J. Mayo scored 15.3 points per game, while Monta Ellis scored 19.2 points per game for the Bucks.

Replacing Mayo with a player who scored four more points per game should be good news for the Mavericks offense, right?

Maybe not.

One area on the floor that the Mavs scored at an excellent rate from was the mid-range (10 to 19 feet), where they shot 42.3 percent, nearly four points higher than the league average of 38.4 percent. (http://courtvisionanalytics.com/the-year-in-shooting-a-visual-review/) While a vast amount of credit should be given to Dirk Nowitzki, who shot 47.8 percent, Mayo also shot above the league average from this area with a 41.9 percent mark.

However, Monta Ellis, Mayo’s replacement, is an entirely different story. Last season, Ellis shot an abysmal 36.3 percent (181-for-498) from mid-range, more than two points lower than the league average.

If Ellis’s mid-range shooting is a downgrade from Mayo’s, perhaps his 3-point shooting provides a more positive story.

O.J. Mayo shot 40.7 percent (142-for-349) from deep last season and was particularly deadly from the top of the key, where he shot 47.6 percent. On the other hand, Monta Ellis posted an underwhelming 3-point field goal percentage of 28.7 percent, while shooting 11 points worse from the top of key and no better than 37.9 percent from any zone behind the arc. Nevertheless, Ellis still chose to attempt 328 3-pointers.

 

A look at the bigger picture reveals that, although Ellis averaged more points per game last season, his offensive production is unlikely to provide the upgrade the Mavericks were hoping it would be. According to Synergy, Ellis only averaged 0.84 points per possession (ppp) compared to Mayo’s 0.94 ppp.

Admittedly, one major limitation to this side-by-side comparison of Ellis and Mayo is that it ignores the fact that, in Milwaukee, Ellis’ and Brandon Jennings‘ idea of an offensive system was essentially to go one-on-one and launch a lot (and I mean A LOT) of shots, quality be damned. In their defense, the Bucks had terrible floor spacing combined with a frontcourt loaded with players who were incapable of creating their own shots.

Surrounded by Dirk and Jose Calderon, Ellis’s offensive situation will be quite different from that in Milwaukee.

Calderon is a top-notch floor general, with the ability to space the floor for Ellis, and control the pace, which will limit Ellis’s opportunities to chuck up ill-advised shots. Dirk is another player who can open up the floor for Ellis. On top of that, the pick-and-roll with Nowitzki could be deadly.

If the defense comes off of Dirk to defend Ellis, this could happen.

Even if the lane is closed, Ellis would still have the option of hitting Dirk for a decent look from mid-range, a shot he’s made a living off of.

If the defense hedges to guard Dirk, Ellis is quick enough to come off the pick and drive to the hoop, or hit the open shot, much like what happened when Jason Terry ran the pick-and-roll with Dirk.

Accounting for the fact that Ellis will be in an offensive system that naturally creates higher percentage looks for him, it’s very plausible that the one-man firing squad will find a way to reinvent himself into a more efficient offensive threat.

Alternatively, Ellis may prove, to the Mavericks chagrin, that old habits die-hard.

Monta Ellis may be the NBA stat geek’s nightmare, but one thing you can’t say about Ellis is that he’s capable of making very exciting plays.

Defense

On the defensive end of the floor, the Mavericks surrendered 0.88 ppp and 101.7 points per game, more points than any other team gave up with the exception of the Charlotte Bobcats, Houston Rockets and Sacramento Kings.

Individually, Mayo allowed his opponent to score 0.91 ppp, while Ellis’s opponents only scored 0.77 ppp.

Ellis was one of the best players in the league at forcing turnovers, averaging 2.1 steals per game, an entire steal higher than Mayo’s average. For a Mavericks team that was in the middle of the pack in opponent’s turnovers per game last season, the addition of one steal per game would have thrust them from 14th in the league into the top five.

What the statistics don’t really show is Monta’s apparent lack of interest in playing consistent defense. Whether it’s because he’s trying to reserve his energy for when he has the ball in his hand or he just doesn’t care about playing defense, I’m not sure, but with fewer offensive responsibilities maybe we will see more defensive effort from Ellis.

Another issue that plagues Monta on defense is that he’s basically a shooting guard in a point guard’s body.

Ellis is a 6’3” shooting guard, with an even shorter wingspan of 6’2.75”. His lack of size and length means that he has a difficult time defending against opposing shooting guards and is relatively unable to meaningfully affect the shot of opposing wings. Because of this, the Mavericks will likely rely heavily on an aging Shawn Marion to guard the larger shooting guards, like Kobe Bryant or Joe Johnson, etc.

At the end of the day, if Ellis can learn to take the efficient shots created for him within the flow of the offense, and minimize the liability he could be on defense, the Mavs have the opportunity to use his explosive offensive ability and turn into a playoff run.

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Tags: Dallas Mavericks Dirk Nowitzki Mavericks Monta Ellis Monta Ellis

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