Remember that the Mavs’ original offer and Ellis’ asking price weren’t even in the same region until both parties became desperate. The Mavs needed a starting shooting guard after discovering that Devin Harris needed complicated toe surgery, and Ellis needed a team after discovering that the market for him was pretty dry, so they essentially met in the middle and agreed to a three-year, $25 million deal.
They fell in love after their marriage of convenience. Ellis emerged as a dynamic scoring sidekick for Dirk Nowitzki, averaging 19.0 points and 5.7 assists while shooting 45.1 percent from the floor, enjoying basketball as much as he has since his early seasons in the NBA. The Mavs firmly believe they found a foundation piece, impressed as much by Ellis’ relentless desire to win as his production.
But the bar will be raised for Ellis now.
“I just think Ellis is at a point in his career where he can still make some quantum leaps as a player,” coach Rick Carlisle said.
At 28 years old, Ellis is in his athletic prime after nine seasons in the NBA. The Mavs believe he will benefit from entering next season with “corporate knowledge,” as owner Mark Cuban likes to call it, and from continuing to play for one of the league’s elite coaches.
Carlisle made a point to visit Ellis in his offseason hometown of Houston soon after the Mavs signed him last summer. They’ll spend significant one-on-one time together again this summer as Carlisle pushes Ellis to make those quantum leaps.
Much of that work will be on Ellis’ jumper. Ellis, who opted not to speak to the media during the Mavs’ exit interviews Monday, significantly improved his shooting percentage this season primarily because he had much better shot selection than he did in Milwaukee, which he considers a luxury of playing on a team that doesn’t ask him to carry most of the offensive load.
Ellis is an elite off-the-dribble attacker, but he remains a below-average jump shooter. He shot 36.4 percent (196-of-538) from further than 16 feet this season. Those are the shots opposing defenses dare him to take while going under screens in the hope of preventing Ellis from lighting it up in the lane.
“I would say that his outside shot is the one thing that -- and he would agree -- to get that up to the next level,” Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said. “If he can make that midrange jump shot on a consistent basis, I don’t know how you guard him.”