It wasn’t so long ago that Monta Ellis was the up-and-coming star shooting guard for the Golden State Warriors. He was a guy who shot an excellent 45 percent from the field, dished some assists and averaged over 20 points a game.
Then he was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks, a decision that has clearly paved the way for a talented Warriors team and allowed Stephen Curry to become the face of the franchise, but the Bucks never made good use of Ellis. Through the end of the 2011-12 season and entirety of 2012-13, Ellis was stuck on a team that had Brandon Jennings as their point guard — a guy who pretty much just jacks up whatever he wants whenever he feels like it instead of running the point — and Scott Skiles as their head coach — whose philosophy is play hard on defense and hope to score enough points throughout the game to win.
That combination turned Ellis into a highly inefficient, and relatively average two-guard. He only shot 43 percent to close out his first year there, and then that dropped to under 42 percent the following season. His points per game average fell from mid-to-low 20s while at Golden State to around 18-19 up in Milwaukee. Never mind the fact that his team just wasn’t very good around him.
Ellis still dished out his six assists, swiped a couple steals and pulled down about four boards every game, but it was clear his effectiveness scoring wasn’t nearly as potent as it was with his previous team.
Now, some critics thought that this was just Ellis — that he had regressed, was taking a lot of bad shots and that he couldn’t be the player he once was.
I didn’t really buy that, though, because he was so great with the Warriors, and could those critics not see how bad that Bucks team was? I actually thought for a little while that maybe the Chicago Bulls — my favorite team — would be wise to try and trade Luol Deng and amnesty Carlos Boozer to try and make a run at him this past offseason. With Derrick Rose going down, that wouldn’t really matter at this point, but really, I don’t believe that their front office would be so bold to attempt that type of move anyway.
Regardless of all that, what actually happened was him signing with the Dallas Mavericks. A team that was ancient in basketball standards needed an injection of youth and a scorer. They got both with the 28-year-old Ellis.
The Mavs are now back in the playoff hunt at 13-8 after missing out last season, and Ellis has been a huge part of that. He’s averaging 21.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 1.6 steals while shooting 47 percent from the field, not to mention 36 percent from deep — a number that is almost eight percentage points better than his final year in Wisconsin.
Just last night, Dallas even knocked off the Portland Trail Blazers, the best team in the Western Conference so far this season, for their third-straight win, 108-106. And who hit the game-winner as time expired? Monta.
With just under two seconds to go in the game, Ellis came off of a screen and got the inbound pass. He then took the ball around a pick set by DeJuan Blair and raised up for a beautiful-looking leaner at the top of the key and drained it as the backboard lit up red.
Now that he’s got some structure on a team with a good head coach in Rick Carlisle, a couple of good point guards who don’t take a bunch of unnecessary shots in Jose Calderon and Devin Harris, a few good scrappers with Blair, Shawn Marion and eventually Brandan Wright (he’s been injured) and a couple of excellent veterans who can space the floor in Vince Carter and Dirk Nowitzki, Ellis can finally flourish once more — and he’s done just that.
Despite a couple of mediocre years with the Bucks, Ellis is back on track to be the exciting and acrobatic scorer he once was with Golden State. I’m sure he’ll be a staple of the Mavericks’ franchise for at least the next few years that he’s signed with them and prove a great move by Mark Cuban and his front office.
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