DALLAS -- Listen to the Dallas decision-makers long enough and you might begin to believe that Monta Ellis should be considered a Most Improved Player candidate in 2014-15.
How much better can a nine-year veteran with career averages of 19.4 points and 4.9 assists get?
A day after the Mavericks were eliminated, coach Rick Carlisle said he anticipated Ellis making “quantum leaps” in his second season in Dallas. Owner Mark Cuban has similar expectations.
“We haven’t seen the best of Monta Ellis yet,” Cuban said during his appearance on 103.3 FM’s “ESPN Dallas GameDay” on Saturday. “Now that he’s more comfortable, now that he knows what’s expected of him, he’s going to work on his game over the summer. ...
“I’m messaging him left and right all the time saying, ‘OK, what are you working on today? What are the things you’re adding to your game? Because you can’t come back with just the same game. You’ve got to be better to take us to the next level.’ And he’s all in.”
The Mavs’ brass also believes that the trade for center Tyson Chandler will mask two of Ellis’ biggest flaws.
First of all, as president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said, Chandler covers up for a lot of defensive sins. Ellis showed grit and commitment with his willingness to take charges and has always come up with a lot of steals, but he’ll never be known as a lockdown defender, to put it politely. The Mavs now have a premier rim protector to prevent a lot of the pain caused by dribble penetration allowed by Ellis.
Ellis should also benefit from Chandler’s presence on the offensive end, although Jose Calderon’s floor-spacing 3-point shooting will be missed. Chandler affects spacing in a different way because of his prowess as a roll man, much like Brandan Wright. Cuban believes that the fact that the Mavs now have two big men capable of catching and finishing above the rim -- Samuel Dalembert’s hands prompted Erick Dampier comparisons -- should help Ellis slash his turnover total.
“The one thing that I don’t think people will realize until they see it is Tyson is going to make Monta significantly better,” Cuban said. “I think Tyson will reduce Monta’s turnovers by one, one and a half per game simply because there were times Monta threw it up thinking that Sam [could catch it].
“Look, defensively in particular and even offensively, Sam had some monster games for us against the Spurs and at the end of the season. He got incredibly better, but his hands aren’t as good as Tyson’s. Tyson is going to be able to catch some things that Sam wasn’t able to. That’s going to make Monta better.”
If Ellis improves as much as the Mavs hope, he might earn his first All-Star bid.