It has not often been questioned around the league whether a team should bring back their leading scorer. The Mavs, entering the offseason with a plethora of options, and cap space, have to ask themselves this question: Do we resign Monta, and if so, at what price? I take a look at the possibilities.
When Monta Ellis came to the Mavs, he was viewed as a player who couldn’t be an integral part of a contender, and a guy who had off the court issues with other players. That’s why the Mavs got him for such a bargain deal of 3 years and 24 million, with a player option for the 3rd. People didn’t quite know how he’d fit in Dallas, and some questioned the move. During his first season with the Mavs, he put all those questions to rest. He teamed up with Dirk Nowitzki to create one of the most impossible to guard pick-n-rolls in the league. It was a perfect pairing that, while only resulting in an 8 seed in the playoffs, gave opposing teams fits, and particularly the Spurs during their first round matchup as the Mavs were the only team to take the future champions to 7 games. Those who shook their heads at the signing of Monta found themselves loving him, and it appeared that Ellis felt the same way about the franchise and the city and fans that surround it.
“This is a great city, the fans here are amazing,” he said at last season’s exit interviews. “Even the media guys are awesome. It’s a great environment, Mark and Donnie have built an amazing franchise here. It’s like a family here.”
His second year as a Maverick couldn’t have gotten off to a better start. He was thriving in the pick n roll heavy flow offense, an offense that was on record pace. But there was a key issue with the Mavs, and it was the fact that they couldn’t defend a brick. The front office made a bold move in trading for Rajon Rondo, in hopes to sure up their poor defense in a point guard loaded Western Conference. But the move was a terrible fit for multiple reasons, one being he and Monta just didn’t fit together. Monta is a ball dominant guard, and he needs the ball in his hands to make plays and be at his best. The trade took the Mavs shooting guard out of his groove, and he wasn’t quite ever as dominant as he was pre-Rondo. He was rumored to be unhappy, wanting a contract as big as Chandler Parsons. He was seen not celebrating with the team after a double overtime buzzer beater from point guard Raymond Felton. After the trade, he was just never the same player we were used to seeing. What seemed to be a perfect marriage with Monta and the Mavs now has the front office wondering if they should bring the hybrid shooting guard back.
Monta is one of the best pick n roll players in the NBA. His mid-range jump shot was pretty consistent all year. If anyone is a model of consistency, it’s Ellis. You know what youre going to get with the guy: 19 points, 45% shooting, 4 assists, and 2 steals a night. His scoring was so valuable to the Mavs success the past 2 seasons. So why isn’t he a no brainer to resign?
Monta is very undersized for his position. He isn’t a full time point guard because of his tendency to turn the ball over. He isn’t a true shooting guard because of his height and inability to shoot the 3 ball (29% last season). And his defensive inabilities were on display several times this season, as he was found wandering in the lane guarding nobody at times. And these past few Mavs teams have been hopeless on defense, giving them little chance in the playoffs. The Mavs desperately need two way players. They need guards who can keep up with point guards of the West. So to make Monta fit in smoothly, you need to pair him with a point guard who can play lock down defense and shoot 3 pointers. Can the Mavs find that in free agency? Here are some of the guys that could replace Monta, or pair with him:
Wesley Matthews, SG, POR: Wes defines “2-way player”. He is a big-bodied shooting guard who is automatic from deep (39%). And he is often given the task of defending the opponents best perimeter player. His defense would be a valuable addition to the Mavs, however questions surround him due to a non-contact Achilles tear that happened in a regular season game against the Mavs.
Danny Green, SG, SAS: Green has truly found his niche with the Spurs. He knows who he is as a player, and doesn’t try to do too much. He is one of the best 3 point shooters in the NBA (42%), and is a proven playoff performer. He is also one of the more gritty 2 guards in the league. He is not afraid to step up to the challenge and guard the opposing teams best perimeter player. However, he doesn’t have the shot creating ability that Monta Ellis does, which is why he doesn’t score at a high clip like Monta. If the Mavs could get him for the right price, youd be foolish not to consider it.
Patrick Beverley, PG, HOU: This might have people shaking their heads. But a guy who is considered one of the best on ball defenders in the NBA would be a beautiful partner for Monta Ellis. At a point when the Mavs need an elite on ball defender so badly, he should be looked at. He is also a capable 3 point shooter (36% last season, far better than Rondo). Again, for the right price, you have to take a look at the annoying point guard.
Brandon Knight, PG, PHX: A more outside-the-box option for the Mavs. He is restricted and Phoenix wont want to let him go, but he could make sense for the Mavs. He is a young point guard that is finding his way nicely in the league. A 39% 3 point shooter and play-maker who is capable on defense cant be overlooked.
With all of these options, is it best to resign Monta (assuming he opts out), or let him walk to find 2 way players? In my opinion, I think it will be tough to replace 19 points per game from one player via free agency. If you can convince him to A: opt in (unlikely), or B: Take a one-year, roughly $14 million dollar max deal until the cap spikes next offseason, I think you have to. Pair him with a point guard who can lock down opposing teams, and we will more times than not see the good Monta. There isn’t another free agent guard that can score like he does, and with a player who fits better, unlike Rondo, he will thrive like we became so accustomed to seeing. Monta Magic needs to be back in a Mavs uniform next season.
Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports