Mavs Monta Donuts: The Advanced Stats
DONUT 1: Monta's arrival ...
A deal agreed to, Monta Ellis will arrive in Dallas with a reputation for being a trigger-happy volume shooter with low efficiency. He was not a top priority for the Dallas Mavericks at the dawn of free agency, and found a market much more aware of his deficiencies than his agent, or perhaps he himself, had anticipated.
"Like" is a relative and contextual term. At his original asking price, thought to open at the deals Ellis turned down – he opted out of $11 million next season after declining a 3-year extension said to be worth $12 million per – the level of Mavs "like" was thought to be short of what would be required to add Ellis. (DB.com covered that issue in depth here on July 1.)
DONUT 2: The higher level of risk ...
Yet, as the price for Ellis dropped and the free agency misses for Dallas rose, it appears a middle ground was found. The Mavs slid into a position where accepting a higher level of risk was necessary, while Ellis was forced into a reality that defined his monetary worth to be something short of his expectations.
Thus, what began as a "long shot" inched closer into acceptability.
Regardless of whether you fall into the "hate it" or "love it" crowd (and until we know the exact parameters of the new three-year contract that might start at just $8M, it's difficult to fully commit to either) this is where the Mavs find themselves. If the goal is to return to some form of contention with Dirk Nowitzki as a member of the team's core, there simply isn't time to abide by the long-term building guidelines of purely prudent spending, maturing home-grown talent (primarily, waiting on the fruits of the draft to ripen), and spending years to "grow" a core.
There was no core to compliment. There was only Dirk. There were other solid players, such as Shawn Marion, but none worthy of having a roster built around them. The blueprint followed by teams such as the Spurs wasn't an option as there was no Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili to build around … the decision, or errors, of the past dictated as much.
There was no free agency boon to instantly form the roots of a contender, such as the Heat pulled off three years ago. Misses on Deron Williams, Dwight Howard and Chris Paul assured that.
DONUT 3: A middle ground found ...
Tanking or undergoing what may be viewed as the standard rebuilding process is not currently an option, not with a healthy Dirk. Instead, Dallas finds itself in a perilous middle ground. The situation isn't ideal. Its conception comes from the loins of failure. If the goal is to give the greatest player in the franchise's history one more shot, as it appears to be, the Mavs must work with what they have, in the situation they are in.
For Dallas, regardless of the headshakes from those planted in the numbers game, that means taking a chance, even if the odds of failure are higher than generally considered to be acceptable. It means adding a player with a high ceiling … despite the obvious flaws.
It means someone like Monta Ellis.
DONUT 4: The cost of doing business ...
In a vacuum, it's an easy move to view as poor. In the context of the Mavs current reality, as laid out above, it's the cost of doing business, of a fairly unique brand of rebuild, of an almost complete reconstruction around one with a relatively short window.
Grasping for that upside, what do we find?
DONUT 5: The Presence of The UberMan ...
For one, maybe hope isn't as farfetched as initially believed, based on the reputation of the player alone.
Ellis has not been paired with an offensive weapon the caliber of Dirk, has not worked with the space Dirk's presence should provide.
Monta got to the rim for 5.2 field-goal-attempts per game last season, and has never averaged below 4.5. By comparison, Shawn Marion led the Mavs a year ago with 4.0 attempts at the rim per game (the most for a Dallas player since Marion averaged 4.1 in the 2010-11 season). No Dallas player has matched those 5.2 attempts at the rim per game going back to the 2006-07 season (per Hoopdata.com), and only twice in that span has a Dallas player exceeded Ellis's career-low of 4.5: Marion with 5.1 in 2009-10 and Devin Harris with 4.6 in 2007-08.
It's fair to say, Ellis holds the skills to capitalize on the defense's inability to leave Dirk as much or more than any guard in the Dirk era. Whether or not he is able to exploit those skills remains to be seen.
DONUT 6: Party time! ...
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DONUT 7: Monta vs. Jet ...
For the sake of comparison, let's look at how Ellis matches up to to Dirk's most well known offensive partner: Jason Terry.
Due to the time that has passed since, it's easy to forget how much more efficient Ellis was when playing on a Golden State team that offered other players (Baron Davis, Jason Richardson, Stephen Jackson) that defenses were forced to acknowledge with some degree of fear.
Discarding his rookie season as just that, his rookie season, the next two seasons – before the Warriors thoroughly dismantled the core of the roster that sent the 67-win 2006-07 Mavs home in the first round – Ellis was actually a fairly efficient offensive weapon at times, though he never showed the 3-point prowess of Terry.
In 2006-07 Ellis hit 47.5-percent of his field-goal attempts, then ramped that up to 53.1-percent while averaging 20.2 points the following season. In fact (removing both player's rookie seasons), the lowest field-goal percentage Ellis registered with the Warriors for a complete season was 44.9 (over five seasons). Prior to joining the Mavs, Jason Terry never converted more than 43.6 percent of his field goals, through four seasons (again, ignoring rookie campaigns, where neither player fared particularly well).
If you look at the five seasons Terry played before joining Dirk and the Mavs in comparison to the six full seasons Ellis played with the Warriors, you'll find very similar players, statistically speaking.
Note: perhaps it is an arbitrary decision, but we've left off the season and a half with Milwaukee for Ellis. In part, this was due to the nature of his time there – he played only 21 games after being acquired via a mid-season trade his first season, then endured a coaching change midway through his second – and the clear negative impact it seemed to have on his productivity.
Jason Terry per game averages with Atlanta (five seasons):
16.2 points, 42.7 FG%, 36.7 3PT%, 5.5 assists, 1.5 steals, 2.6 TOs, 53.3 TS%, 48.5 TS%, 28.3 AST%, 14.7 TO%, 23.1 Usage Rate, 17.2 PER.
Monta Ellis per game averages in full seasons with Golden State (six seasons):
19.4 points, 46.9 FG%, 33.1 3PT%, 4.2 assists, 1.7 steals, 2.7 TOs, 53.7 TS%, 49.4 TS%, 19.4 AST%, 13.0 TO%, 25.1 Usage Rate. 16.8 PER.
DONUT 8: The jump-outs ...
A few things jump out instantly when looking at those numbers. First, the inefficient Ellis converted 4.2 percentage points more of his field goals than Terry, and despite hitting threes and free throws at a lower rate, Ellis had a slightly higher true-shooting percentage (a statistic that takes into account 3-pointers and free throws) and effective field-goal percentage (a statistic that adds weight to 3-point shooting).
It's also a bit surprising to note that despite having a slightly higher usage rate (implying a greater reliance from his team on him), Ellis turned the ball over a lower percentage of the time, though Terry countered this with a much higher assist percentage.
While it may be wildly optimistic to hope that Ellis makes a similar leap to that of Terry in his first year with the Mavs (Terry's career 42.7 FG% at the time jumped to 50.1 (+7.4) and career 36.7 3PT% rose to 42.0 (+5.3)), perhaps it isn't a drastic stretch to believe Ellis may be due for a bump.
To look at the other end of the spectrum, JJ Barea saw his field-goal percentage drop from a career average in five seasons with Dallas of 43.5 percent to 40.0 (-3.5) in his first season away from the Dirk-led Mavs.
DONUT 9: The OJ comparison ....
For a more recent example of how coming to Dallas could aid a player's efficiency, look no further than OJ Mayo, who set career highs in true-shooting and effective-field-goal percentages during his single season with the Mavs (and doubled his market value), directly following his two least efficient NBA seasons.
At the point in which they came to Dallas, Ellis arguably has more raw offensive talent than either Terry or Mayo arrived with, though he also joins an older Dirk (much older in the comparison to Terry).
None of this speaks to the defensive impact of Ellis, where his lack of size at the shooting guard position and tendency to gamble can cause him to be a liability, traits that may be compounded in their negative impact by being paired with defensively-deficient Jose Calderon in the backcourt … and further highlighted by the current lack of a presence to protect that paint behind them. (The addition of a rim-protecting Samuel Dalembert - one of the handful of moves Dallas is making at center - may curtail this a bit. Also, we know the Mavs are boomeranging Devin back to the roster. There are ways to use him and Ellington in the backcourt to improve the defense in situations.)
Contrary to those truths, it may be worth noting that per Synergy Sports Ellis allowed 0.77 points per possession (ranking 39th in the NBA) last season, contrasting the 0.91 Mayo allowed (ranked 307th) … though you must also point out that Ellis generally had the aid of a very strong rim protector behind him in Larry Sanders (Ellis saw his defensive rating plummet when playing without Sanders, from 99.4 with Sanders to 106.7 without) while Mayo had no such benefit.
DONUT 10: Thanks to Red Rock! ...
Our North Dallas hangout for sports and live music? It's Red Rock Bar & Grill! They help make DB.com what it is ... thanks, guys!
DONUT 11: The Carlisle advantage ...
Another advantage that Ellis will find, just as Mayo did, is the presence of Rick Carlisle.
Carlisle has shown a willingness to spend a great deal of personal time with players willing to put in the work. Despite his shot-hunter reputation, Ellis is not said to have a poor approach to the game and should arrive to the Mavs with a large chip on his shoulder after his experience with free agency.
DONUT 12: The Final Word ...
Ellis will turn 28 just before the first game of next season, meaning his basketball fate is far from set in stone. Terry turned 27 just before his first season with the Mavs.
It's easy to believe Ellis will be nothing more than he's been, but, as Terry has shown Dallas fans, there is also reasonable hope that he could become something more, both as a player and/or an asset.
There is risk … perhaps we're being blinded by hope, but the advanced stats and other factors say there could also be reward.