Monta Ellis comes to the Dallas Mavericks with a somewhat negative reputation as a “chucker,” meaning he is a player who looks to chuck up the ball whether he’s taking a good, high-percentage shot or if it’s a well-guarded prayer of a shot. While it’s still early to say definitively that this will be the Ellis who shows up during the regular season, what he’s done so far has been very encouraging, to say the least.
For starters, Ellis’ field-goal efficiency has been much better than it was last year when he was with the Milwaukee Bucks. He’s taking less shots, only 17 so far, and making them at a high clip. Through these two games, he’s shooting just under 53 percent, including three out of five from beyond the arc. He appears to be playing very comfortably within the flow of the offense and seems fine with not being the primary scorer.
More surprisingly, he seems to have embraced a role as a facilitator, leading the team with 15 assists over two games, while only turning the ball over three times. He hasn’t been the leading scorer in either game, but when Dirk Nowitzki is shooting 70 percent on his way to 20 points as he did in the second preseason game against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Mavericks don’t need Ellis to score in bunches. They just need him to score enough that opposing teams hesitate to double Dirk.
It has been said that part of the reason Ellis has had such a bad stretch of low shooting efficiency was due to not having enough talent around him, and he had to try to pick up the scoring load because his teammates weren’t able to. It’s always difficult to tell how much that matters in a situation like his, but if he continues to play the way that he has so far in the preseason, it will certainly lend some credence to that argument.
Once the Mavericks get some of their guards back from injury and they won’t be relying on a rookie starting point guard, Ellis’ assist numbers will probably drop some. Hopefully, with Jose Calderon on the court, Ellis won’t need to drop seven or eight assists each game the way he’s been doing. While his assists are currently inflated, the main point to take away from these early preseason games is that Ellis seems entirely open to embracing whatever role this team needs him to. And that is very, very exciting for these Mavericks who desperately need him.