The volume shooting guard has peaked my curiosity since his days with the Golden State Warriors. He can score in bunches and sometimes seemingly at will. Other times, his shots are so off he seems allergic to made baskets.
It has been the same story, different uniform with the Milwaukee Bucks. Ellis is averaging 18.4 points per game this season, but shooting just 40.1 percent from the floor overall and a regrettable 23.5 percent from three. The Bucks are scoring more with him on the floor, but their assist percentage is up when he’s not. And so continues the infuriating trends that comes with being Monta Ellis.
As we near the end of the season and become that much closer to free agency, however, Ellis’ tenure seems poised to take an unexpected turn, more unexpected than his shot selection.
He has an $11 million player option that he can pick up, or he can decline it and become an unrestricted free agent. Most believe he’ll opt for the latter and test the free agent waters, but that’s not news.
Alex Kennedy of Hoopsworld’s report that Ellis wishes to join a contending team this offseason, however, is:
Like Iguodala, Ellis can exercise his Early Termination Option after this season to become an unrestricted free agent. Most people around the NBA expect Ellis to leave that final $11 million of his contract on the table to test free agency, and there’s no guarantee he’ll re-sign with Milwaukee. Some league sources believe Ellis wants to join a contender this summer. Ellis has only made the playoffs once in his career, and it was during the 2006-07 season when he was still coming off of the bench for the Golden State Warriors. He has had plenty of individual success and impressive statistics, but he wants to experience the postseason and have the opportunity to perform on the league’s biggest stage.
Why exactly is this surprising?
Because of what the sacrifice, the commitment it would entail.
I by no means am calling a Ellis a loser or someone who is more concerned about dollars and cents than winning (thought he might be), but if this report holds true, and he wants to play for a contender, he’s going to have to be prepared to change.
Contending factions aren’t going to toss large sums of money in the direction of an inefficient scorer. Say the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers or Miami Heat had cap space. Are they going to pay eight-figures annually to a guy who toils with shooting under 40 percent from the field just because he can score 18-plus points?
Of course not. Ergo, Ellis’ commitment to playing for a potential contender or proven winner, like say the Dallas Mavericks, may entail taking a pay cut. Lowering his asking price will be a good way (the only way?) he can catch more relevant teams’ attention.
What it’s also going to demand is that Ellis except he must alter his ways. That he wants to play for a contender means he understands said team wouldn’t be built around him. For one, a current contender will already have a proficient core in place and 2) the Warriors couldn’t make the postseason by building around him. Admitting he’s not a cornerstone, though, may be the toughest concession for him to make.
It may also be a necessary one.
At 27, Ellis has reached a crossroads in his career. He’s in his prime, but does he really want his latest displays to be remembered as how he peaked? He’s never had the opportunity to play alongside an All-Star caliber veteran on a full-time basis. Both Stephen Curry and Brandon Jennings have been his equal/are more inexperienced them him. He’s never had that guidance some players so desperately need.
And perhaps he does desperately need it. Not every “star” is LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony. Not everyone can be The Man without a rock to lean on at first.
Ellis may need that rock, that grounding veteran presence that has alluded him these last eight years. Playing alongside one may not fix all his problems, but it will infuse in him some perspective. It will help him come of age and expose him to a different type of culture, one that he has not yet seen or even come close to playing within.
Which is why I find myself hoping against hope that Ellis sets up shop with an established contender after this season.
Not necessarily because he’s fit to make a sizable impact, but because of the impact playing for one will have on him.
Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.