Editor’s note: There are a few new faces in the Dallas Mavericks front office. While there were no big splashes in their first free agency they did add a piece or two that should make an impact. But we can always ask for more. So we as a staff took some time to ask: if we could add any former Maverick from the post-title years to the 2021-22 Mavericks who would it be and why? I mean, what else are we supposed to do with this down time before training camp? Oh and the Mavericks worked out Monta for some reason yesterday.
With the uncertainty of Kristaps Porzingis ability to be a consistent second option, the Mavericks went into the 2021 offseason with a need for a secondary playmaker. A lot of Mavericks fans wanted to add Demar Derozan, but unfortunately he was dealt to Chicago in a sign-and-trade. For those individuals, however, I offer a consolation prize: 2013-14 Monta Ellis, a 28 year-old guard with elite playmaking skills, a living in the mid-range, and an uncanny ability to get to and finish at the rim.
Where Ellis would help
Nicknamed the “Mississippi Missile”, Ellis was known for his speed and ability to explode to the rim. He excelled at creating a shot in the paint and finishing at the rim. In the 2013-14 campaign, Ellis shot 60 percent in the restricted area on 448 (!) attempts. For comparison, Dwight Howard took 544 restricted area shots that year, Deandre Jordan attempted 466, and in the 2020-21 season Luka Doncic attempted just 283 shots in the restricted area. Doncic, who is widely considered one of the best drivers in today’s game, attempted only 63 percent of the shots Ellis did at the rim in 2014. With the Mavericks re-upping on shooters this offseason, Ellis’ ability to penetrate and finish would open up a new level to the Dallas offense. He would create more open looks for guys like Jalen Brunson, Sterling Brown, and Tim Hardaway Jr. when Luka Doncic is not on the floor, and would alleviate pressure on Doncic, and possibly even set him up for spot up looks, when they share the court together.
It’s not just enough to create open shots, however, because ultimately you have to convert them or they mean nothing. Luckily, taking advantage of open looks was something Ellis did consistently. He averaged 5.7 assists per game in 2014, which is on par with Lonzo Ball from last season, and just 0.3 assists per game shy of Kyrie Irving and Mike Conley. A lot of his assists came in the pick and roll, where he either flipped it back to Dirk Nowitzki for a long two or a three, or found an open cutter for a dunk. With Kristaps Porzingis’ ability to pick and pop, and Dorian Finney-Smith’s ability to slash, Ellis would be a lethal option in this Mavericks pick and roll game, as the threat of either pulling up from the mid-range or getting to the rim would be enough to sway either Porzingis’ defender or the help defender towards him in some way, creating an open look that Ellis converts on more times than not. Having not one, but two threats to run an effective pick and roll on the floor at the same time would be overpowering for modern defenses.
In terms of shooting, Ellis operated mostly in the mid-range and below. However, he did average 2.5 three point attempts a game on 33 percent shooting in 2014. Not great numbers, both in terms of volume and efficiency, but when you take a closer look, you realize his shooting patterns fit right in with the makeup of this team. 58 of his 69 made three pointers that season came assisted, and while his overall percentage was not great, he did shoot 58 percent on 36 attempts from the left corner. Although he wasn’t the best shooter, he did take a lot of spot up shots from three, which would be the best type of three he could take on this current team.
On the other side of the ball, Ellis was exceptionally good with his hands. He averaged 1.7 steals per game in 2014, which would have tied him for third in the league last season. The Mavericks are not and have not been great defensively for some time, and were dead last in steals per game in the 2020-21 season. Adding Ellis alone would have bumped them up to ninth in the league. The Mavericks ranked 21st in fast break points per game last season with 11.4 every night. Ellis averaged over three fast break points per game by himself in 2013-14. His ability to turn defense into offense and turn the other team over with a steal or an occasional block would be an element the Mavericks have seriously lacked for some time.
Where Ellis would need to improve
As I previously mentioned, Monta Ellis lived in the mid-range and below. He was an exceptional play-maker and had an ability to create his own shot whenever he wanted. The only problem was, aside from in the restricted area, he did not shoot well at all. On shots in the paint outside of the restricted area, Ellis shot a dismal 37 percent on 215 attempts. It’s not that he was incapable of making these shots, but his shot selection did not make it easy on himself. A lot of these attempts were awkward floaters or off-balance jumpers that had a degree of difficulty to them, resulting in a poor shooting percentage from this area.
The mid-range was where Ellis racked up the most attempts outside of the paint, making just 157 of 406 shots, or 38.7 percent. For the amount of shots he was taking from these ranges, the efficiency just wasn’t there to justify the volume.
In addition, his usage rate was around 25 percent. This would be considerably high on the current Mavericks given Luka Doncic’s usage rate last season was 35 percent. He was the primary ball-handler a lot of the time in 2014, and for most of his career up until that point, so adjusting to a secondary role behind Doncic would be a necessary change.
Why Ellis would be a great fit on the Mavericks
The Mavericks need a secondary playmaker. Imagine a guy capable of running the pick and roll to a high efficiency, letting Luka Doncic play off-ball, while also having the ability to get his own shot in the isolation when Doncic is double-teamed. In addition, he could spot up in the corner when Doncic is running the offense himself. Defenses would have to gameplan for not just one lethal scorer down the stretch, but two, and if Kristaps Porzingis can get back to who he was, forget about stopping this team. He would take the offense to the next level while also being a plus defender capable of creating points out of defensive stops.
Ellis was the second leading-scorer on a team that took the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs to seven games in the first round. He is a big shot taker and big shot maker, and would no doubt elevate the current Dallas Mavericks into a serious title contender.