Let’s all hope reports are incorrect because reports say the Bucks want to bring back Monta Ellis

(Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

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.

Can anyone explain to me what the draw of Monta Ellis playing a lot of minutes is?
Can anyone explain to me what the draw of Monta Ellis playing a lot of minutes is?

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.

Categories: The Off Season

Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball. He founded it in…

31 Comments

  1. Nice article. Brilliant put together.

    I say blow the whole thing up and start over using teams like Indiana’s formula. If you can’t get stars, just get as big and as physical as you can get to play with the big boys in the playoffs. Seems to me that you can contend without a lot of big names if you find guys with 9 out of 10 potential and body types and mold them with good young coaching. Seemed to work for Roy Hibbert and Paul George. Just a thought.

    • The Indy model and the blowing it up model are two completely different things. The Pacers are for the most part built of mid first round picks and their best player was picked 10th. They never really blew it up, they just made smart trades, free agency signings, smart draft decisions, and built around those pieces. I think that is the better model for the Bucks than blowing it up, unless by blowing it up you mean letting all three of the guards go then I’m on board with that.

  2. Nice article. Brilliant put together.

    I say blow the whole thing up and start over using teams like Indiana’s formula. If you can’t get stars, just get as big and as physical as you can get to play with the big boys in the playoffs. Seems to me that you can contend without a lot of big names if you draft guys with 9 out of 10 potential and body types and mold them with good young coaching. Seemed to work for Roy Hibbert and Paul George. Just a thought.

    • I think Indiana got very lucky to get the guys they did with later draft picks. I don’t think it is a repeatable formula. That being said Larry is a similar player to Hibbert through year 3 so who knows maybe the Bucks can get their version of Paul George with pick 15…

  3. As much as I don’t want to suffer through a 15-20 win season it kills me to see Hammond set this team up to be the new Super Sonics in three years. Hammond runs this team like we are Boston clinging to relevance rather than a team that hasn’t been relevant consistently since 1971.

    • That is really the big problem, that stink of Seattle lingering over everything. The Bucks are primed to be the team Seattle steals away with the Kings off the market now. Which means we will probably get a bunch of bad signings of guys who aren’t really worth investing in but will, as you said, meet the goal of being .500 or barely better. Unfortunately, the East should be a little better next year meaning the Bucks aren’t going to be able to back into an 8 seed like they did this year.

    • Fun Fact: The Bucks had the third highest winning percentage in the NBA over the course of the 80’s.

      The fact that Bucks fans even underestimate those teams explains why Sidney Moncrief isn’t in the Hall of Fame.

  4. literally, the ONLY solution for the bucks is to get rid of ellis AND jennings. Both, gone. Then start building around larry sanders….re sign dunleavy, and keep Illysova. Thats a decent core. Udoh might yet develop. and Henson probably will keep improving to some degree. Then draft dennis schroder….and move forward.

  5. If they give Ellis big contract and control of the Bucks offense, I am going to be sooooooooooo angry.

    A lot of these ESPN reports are just guys looking for something to write about, so I don’t put too much emotion into what they say. But, Hammond does have to make some choices this summer and I shudder to think of what they might be.

    Surprise us all, Hammond. Do something we DON’T expect.

  6. Here’s a “fun” game Bucks Front Office will offer to pay Ellis/Redick combined Over or Under 19.5 million dollars..I think over

  7. Here’s part of what the Bucks need to do.

    1) Start playing guys in roles that they are actually right for instead of forcing players into roles that can’t carry. Ex. Bogut as a #1 scoring option, Ellis as a shooting guard etc ….

    Begin with Larry at center, Henson as a real power forward, Ersan off the bench as a true stretch 4, Luc to the bench to play only in certain matchups, Ellis possibly as point with far less 3 point shooting and bigger size than Jennings, Redick off the bench to shoot 3’s. Dunleavy, Udoh all on the bench for when needed.

    2)That means the Bucks need to a acquire a legitimate starting 2 guard and starting 3 this off season. The Draft may fill one of those spots. It’s up to Hammond to fill the other.

    3) Scoring options look like this- New small forward #1 option. Henson #2, New starting 2 guard #3, Ellis #4 and then the others.

  8. for those that think we shouldnt rebuild: you mean to tell me you would rather see the bucks fight for the 8th seed and get knocked out in 4 straight just like they did this year than get a player like Wiggins or Parker, the super star we have been looking for ages? You think Milwaukee will get more excited over option 1?

      • Mediocrity=relocation
        If the bucks had been relevant recently, mediocrity could buy them some time. Being irrelevant for quite some time clearly hasn’t generated any fan interest. If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten

        • You nailed it on the head 1988. The excuse for bucks brass to keep the team “competitive” is that they will lose fan interest. I, and many other people who ive talked to would be much more on board with the bucks if they had a chance at getting a player like Wiggins next year. One year of sucking would guarantee us a very good player in one of the most talented drafts next year. A vision of forward thinking and building from the ground up fans would be much more in favor of then competing for the 8 seed to get your ass kicked by the heat

  9. I personally would love if the Bucks started over in the backcourt. It sounds like Devin Harris is interested in signing with the Bucks. How about a backcourt of Harris and OJ Mayo? I don’t think that would break the bank and that way you can work on signing Sanders to a long term deal. That would give you a more conventional PG that can create and is pass first. Harris can hit the open 3 if the defense sags. Mayo could be your #1 scoring option. Would anyone mind this roster?

    PG: Harris
    SG: Mayo
    SF: 1st rd Draft Pick (Glenn Rice JR, Shabazz Muhammad, Tim Hardaway JR, Tony Snell)
    PF: Henson
    C: Sanders

    Bench: Ilyasova, Udoh, Mbah A Moute, Ayon, 2nd rd pick, Ish Smith, Gooden, Dunleavy (hope to resign), and another FA.

    Add a PG and another wing guy between the 2nd rd pick and FA.

    • Still an 8th seed at best but more than likely wouldn’t make the playoffs with the East being better next year

      • I wouldn’t expect them to be anymore than a 8th seed next season but with Henson and the 1st rd pick being given ample PT, could be in for good things a in the second season.

    • I’d like OJ Mayo but he is not going to come cheap. At least 11 Million to play in Milwaukee

      • What about a 4/$40 mil for Mayo? Maybe they could front load the contract since we have some cap space.

        • That wouldnt be a bad idea if Mayo were willing to take it. I just cant imagine him wanting to come to a team that views contending as borderline making the playoffs unless he gets vastly overpaid

  10. I’m not surprised. what do the Bucks have? not much. they have to try to sell tix somehow. I hope they dont keep him for Monta’s sake. his game has deteriorated horribly in Milwaukee.

    not sure why, but it looks like Monta has forgotten how to play his game. maybe its the offensive system in Milwaukee. Monta is best used as a slasher and mid range shooter off the dribble. if you are asking him to run the offense or shoot jumpers from 3 w/ the shot clock running down its not going to work. its clearly not a good fit.

    the collection of misfit players in recent years has been laughable. they gave up on Tobias Harris w/o giving him so much as a chance for whatever reason and look at what they have. its not like the team had better options. financially it isnt a very viable team and the FO seems to be clueless on the basketball end. if they are going to continue to run this franchise so poorly maybe they should sell and relocate to Seattle.

  11. I would rather have Ellis then Jennings any day!! A sign and trade with Jennings and keep Ellis would be great for the bucks!!!

  12. Everyone needs to stop saying “blow up the team”. Blowing up the Bucks is what would get us moved to Seattle!!! As soon as we get the number one overall pick, Seattle will be there waiting. Goal number one is a new arena. To get a new arena we have to consistently make the playoffs and now and then make it to the second round. I don’t like Kohl but he is a die hard Wisconsin fan and I know he’ll try anything to keep the Bucks in Milwaukee. This being said, we have to trade for players and pray that our #15 picks turn out like Larry.

    Support the Bucks through thick and thin.

    • I don’t see how continuing to be an 8th seed at best over the next few years and getting swept in 4 games will get us another arena. I dont think that will garner fan interest. Hope is what garners fan interest. A wiggins or parker with a hope that they turn into a super star will garner fan interest and a desire to keep the team here not mediocrity.

  13. We need some guards who actually who move the ball around and have an unselish attitude. Brandon Jennings and Monte Ellis seem to have huge ego’s and worried too much about their individual stats.
    Yes lets bring Devin onboard!