An interest in having Monta Ellis play for the basketball team you run doesn’t necessarily mean you’re an unreasonable or incompetent NBA general manager. Ellis scores enough and passes enough that he automatically qualifies as an intriguing NBA player. He’s the kind of player that often leaves you wanting and believing that he can do more … if you haven’t had Ellis play for your team before.
He’s also the kind of player that probably isn’t going to deliver on that more and watching him lead your team for 100+ games should allow you to obtain that information. We have a lot of data that confirms Ellis’ limitations after all. Yet he’s still apparently an at least moderately coveted player as we head towards his inevitable unrestricted free agency in about a month.
Ellis can opt of out his current deal, slated to pay him $11 million next season, and become an unrestricted free agent in late June. Thus far, it’s been reported that the Bucks may be more keen on him than they are on Brandon Jennings. Supposedly the Bucks fancy a back-court of Ellis and JJ Redick heading into next season and presumably two or three seasons following that. While the thought of resigning two aging, small, average guards to long term deals sends me into a near frenzy, at least there’s a bit of data that would indicate this isn’t the worst decision ever.
Lineups that featured both Ellis and Redick last season for the Bucks played 521 minutes and shot 46.4% from the field, a higher percentage than any of the two player combinations that played more minutes than them. So it kind of makes sense that the Bucks would want to feature those two … at least until you think about the two player combinations that were above them.
So Ellis and Redick were superior to Ellis/Jennings, Ekpe Udoh/Mike Dunleavy, Ersan Ilyasova/Ellis, Samuel Dalembert/Jennings and Dunleavy/Beno Udrih among others, eh? Huge accomplishment. Over the past two seasons 22 players have averaged more than 15 shots per game. 21 and 22 in field goal percentage among those players? Ellis and Jennings. Naturally. Pretty much any lineup with either of them is destined for offensive catastrophe.
Yet still, other reports indicate new Kings head coach Mike Malone’s relationship with Ellis may make Sacramento a landing spot for the combo guard, so it seems the Bucks are not alone in potentially courting him. At least I can understand why another team would be interested. The unknown is often appealing, the grass is always greener, you know how it goes. Maybe the Kings think Ellis would be a perfect guard off the bench because they don’t know that Monta Ellis will not come off the bench and stay happy.
But the Bucks have been through this. They aren’t dealing with the unknown. They just watched Ellis and Jennings shoot away a season and a half. They watched the Heat throttle Ellis in the playoffs, holding him to a paltry 14.5 points per game. They watched him shoot less than 16% from three on four attempts per game in the playoffs. They just watched these two waste the time of Bucks fans for 103 games over the past season and a half. What more needs to be seen? How was that enough to convince them that this is a guy worthy of bringing back in a featured role?
One of John Hammond’s first moves with the Bucks was to rid the team of Mo Williams and his bad contract. Now he’s potentially going to pay Monta Ellis more money TO BE THE SAME PLAYER MO WILLIAMS WAS. Ellis would be fine at $6 million as a reserve. Ellis can’t shoot as well as Williams, but he’s a better attacker and finisher, which more or less evens it out. Neither was a pure point guard and, most importantly, neither player should be anything more than a third or fourth option.
Williams adapted to that life. He rode shotgun with LeBron James for a while and made no waves when he was giving up shots to Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap in Utah. He’s a 10 shots, 12 points a night kind of guy now. That’s really who he always should have been. He gets that. Monta isn’t even close to getting that. In terms of efficiency, he’s a smaller version of Rudy Gay. He’s a reserve or a fourth starter with a star’s mind and he appears to have little desire to accept a role smaller than the one he had last season.
Sometimes guys with skills and abilities that only add up to so much in terms of statistical results are coveted as great leaders, locker room guys or defenders. Ellis seemed to have the respect of his teammates last season, the quiet guy who spoke up when it was needed. But by the end of the season, we heard reports of in fighting between he and Larry Sanders over his apparent self interest. And we know, generally speaking, that Ellis is a poor defender, especially off the ball, where he wanders and gambles to his heart’s content.
All of that went unchecked in Milwaukee last season, where there was no accountability defensively, an apparent lack of veteran leadership and little hope of anything other than a dreadful finish.
But hey, he’s more athletic and probably a better passer than Brandon Jennings and he actually was touted as someone who played well down the stretch, you know, so long as you ignore his April in which he shot less than 40% on 16.5 shots nightly.
The Bucks appear convinced that they have to bring back one of their own miserable guards. If that’s the case, Ellis is probably the lesser of two evils. Jennings physical limitations and bizarre use of the Twitter hashtag #BRANDED to “brand” himself (oh my) leave him with disaster written all over a potential future in Milwaukee. Ellis is a bit simpler and, I suppose, can help the Bucks achieve their apparent ultimate goal: 41 wins.
So buckle up for another thrilling summer as a Bucks fan, it looks like it’s going to be a lot like last season. At least it’ll be warm outside, hopefully warm enough that we can get outdoors and forget about a Bucks future* packed with more Monta Ellis every now and then.
*If you can’t see this, it’s ESPN’s Future Power Rankings. Milwaukee is ranked 27, largely because they play in a city that’s not popular, have bad players and a desire to bring them back.