The Dallas Mavericks entered into a rebound relationship Friday. Not able to land their first love in free agency, Dwight Howard, the Mavs agreed to terms on a three-year deal worth close to $25 million with former Warriors and Bucks combo guard Monta Ellis.
The news, first reported by ESPN.com, signals somewhat of a departure from a Mavs strategy that centered on keeping their powder dry for the future. Ellis was the most attractive name left in free agency after he overplayed his hand with the Bucks and ended up having to sign a deal for less money.
He makes the Mavs an infinitely more interesting team because he’s a prolific scorer in the prime of his career. But it’s important to note that he’s piled up big numbers on teams that haven’t accomplished much. In fact, Ellis strikes me as the type of player who will drive Mavs coach Rick Carlisle completely nuts. He was among the worst three-point shooters in the league last season (28.7 percent), but that didn’t keep him from hoisting 382 attempts from that range.
I’ve always had a soft spot for Ellis because he’s capable at any time of having a 40-point night. He’s one of the most willing shooters in the NBA. In his 2009-10 season with Golden State, Ellis scored at least 30 points in 24 games. The fact that he only played in 64 games makes that even more mind-boggling. Ellis is adept at creating his own shot, which should make life easier on Dirk Nowitzki. And as hard as it is to believe, Ellis is a pretty decent passer. Perhaps Rick Carlisle will be able to coach some of the poor habits out of Ellis. Carlisle certainly had a positive impact on O.J. Mayo last season, although the Mavs didn’t seriously consider bringing him back.
Ellis obviously benefitted from Friday’s report that Devin Harris had a dislocated left toe, thus nullifying the three-year deal he recently agreed to with the Mavs. The team believed Harris might be able to start next to point guard Jose Calderon, but that always sounded like a bad idea.
Signing Ellis goes against Mark Cuban’s desire to bring in efficient players. He may have told his analytics department to sit this one out while he decided to go after a player who could provide some old-fashioned entertainment at the American Airlines Center. A report in the San Francisco Chronicle indicated the Mavs were close to signing Andre Iguodala last week, but they missed the chance while waiting to hear from Dwight Howard. Iguodala would’ve cost the Mavs more money than Ellis, but he’s regarded as a much better all-around player.
With Ellis in the fold, the Mavs may resemble some of the old Don Nelson teams in Dallas and Golden State. Carlisle will have to go small at times, especially if the Mavs don’t land free-agent center Samuel Dalembert. Ellis is a gambling player on defense who piles up a lot of steals. He’s not regarded as a solid all-around defender, so the Mavs will continue to lean heavily on veteran Shawn Marion in that department. That is, if Marion’s still on the roster at the beginning of the season.
The Mavs backed themselves into a corner by having to wait on Howard’s decision. Ellis isn’t exactly a rock-solid fallback position, but he ensures that Dallas will remain competitive this season.
Was he what Cuban had in mind when he talked about his two-year plan? I highly doubt it.
Ellis is a player looking to reshape his reputation in the league. And Carlisle’s probably his best chance for making that happen.