On Monday night as the Dallas Mavericks took on the Philadelphia 76ers in their 11th game of the 2013-14 NBA season, Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle knew that the Sixers were going to be playing small-ball, so he combatted that by taking Samuel Dalembert out of the starting-five and playing a bit of small-ball himself.
Carlisle has long been one of the most underrated coaches in the league. He has a tendency to get easily (possibly too easily) frustrated with players and punish them for doing things that aren’t up to his standards, but there’s no denying that when it comes to working with talent, maximizing the talent he has, and strategizing that he’s one of the best in the business.
If you need any physical proof of Carlisle’s impact on a basketball team, look no further than the play of new Mavs guard Monta Ellis. On Monday night, Ellis finished with 24 points, 10 assists and four rebounds while taking just 14 field goal attempts and getting to the line 13 times. This wasn’t just that one game that Ellis has had in previous seasons where it makes you wonder what he could be if he got it together; this was another sign that Carlisle has found a way to make Ellis get it together.
In the 10 games prior to Monday, Ellis has been equally as solid. Over that span he averaged 21.9 points, five assists and 3.3 rebounds in 37.3 minutes per game while shooting 47.1 percent from the floor and getting to the line six times per game.
The biggest knocks on Ellis over the past few seasons have been his decision-making and his shot-selection. However, Carlisle has Monta playing in a way that maximizes the 28-year-old’s talent, with him attacking the rim more often than him settling for bad-jumpers. Not only does that give Ellis a higher-percentage shot, but it also allows him to get to the line, where he’s shooting 85 percent this year, more often.
Ellis has had a couple of hiccups where he tries to do too much and has taken a few too many bad shots, but old habits die hard. Considering the deserved criticism that he’s received in recent years and how much that has changed in Dallas, you have to just applaud Carlisle for whatever it is he’s done with Ellis. Maybe it’s just playing next to Dirk Nowitzki or maybe Carlisle said something to him, but this version of Monta makes him look like an incredibly valuable NBA player as opposed to a punch-line.