The worst thing the Dallas Mavericks could do was to overpay for players who weren’t good enough to be key pieces on title teams.
We’ve heard that over and over from the Mavs front-office folks over the last two years. No matter what happened, they couldn’t make panic moves for significant long-term money.
Isn't that what they just did with Monta Ellis?
ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reports that the Mavs and Ellis have agreed to terms on a three-year deal in the $25 million range. This isn’t a case of getting short-term value out of the bargain bin, as the Mavs did last summer with O.J. Mayo. It’s paying Ellis to be a premium player after missing out on priority targets Dwight Howard and Andre Iguodala.
There is a lot to like about Ellis, a 6-foot-3 combo guard with a career average of 19.4 points per game. He’s a scorer in his prime, and the Mavs certainly need some scoring punch to complement old men Dirk Nowitzki and Vince Carter. The 27-year-old Ellis’ ability to create off the dribble provides the Mavs with an offensive dimension they haven’t had in years.
But Ellis is an awfully inefficient player who hasn’t contributed to a playoff win since 2007 when he was a 21-year-old role player for the Golden State squad that upset the 67-win Mavs in the first round. He shoots a lot of jump shots and doesn’t make very many, which resulted in his field-goal percentage plummeting to 41.6 for the Milwaukee Bucks last season. His 3-point percentage (28.7 percent on 382 tries) was the lowest in the league among qualifiers last season. And he’s a subpar defender, despite getting a lot of steals.
In fairness to Ellis, he’s never played with a threat like Nowitzki and should get much better scoring opportunities in Dallas than he did in Milwaukee, which could potentially help his percentages shoot upward. The Mavs, who snatched up the last potential impact player left in free agency, are clearly hoping that’s the case.
The Mavs also believe that Ellis will benefit greatly from playing with a pass-first point guard for the first time in his career. If they're right and they can convince him that long pull-up jumpers are bad ideas, maybe Ellis' efficiency makes a major jump.
But it’s an odd move for the Mavs to use up their available cap space on yet another guard after reaching deals with Jose Calderon, Devin Harris and Wayne Ellington earlier in free agency. (UPDATE: The news of Harris' deal being off due to a dislocated toe explains the Mavs' desperation to sign Ellis to play most of the minutes at shooting guard.)
The addition of Ellis certainly makes the Mavs more interesting. But is he a building block or the kind of desperation addition the Dallas decision-makers have been tsk-tsking about for two years?