Monta Ellis: Efficient Like Never Before

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Noted for his entire NBA career as a shot-jacking, inefficient “me first” guard, Monta Ellis has turned heads this season. Ellis is producing an offensive efficiency for the Dallas Mavericks he never displayed in all of his previous eight years in the NBA.

Ellis, who isn’t short of confidence by any means, had called himself the second best player in the league in 2010 and just last October he played down a reporter’s question regarding his shot selection stating, “I’m gonna play Monta-ball.” If “Monta-ball” means super-efficient basketball, then Monta should continue to do it.

Through his first twelve games as a Dallas Maverick, Ellis is shooting 49% from the field, scoring over 23 points per game along with adding five assists. Getting into the nitty-gritty stuff, in his eight NBA seasons not any time has he put together a season with an effective field goal percentage above fifty percent. This year? Try 51.6%, which is higher than Ty Lawson and James Harden.

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Dirk Nowitzki, who recently reached 15th in points all-time, remains one of the league’s difficult covers to scheme against. His ability to draw out defenses with jump-shooting from 15 feet to the three point line off of spot-ups and isolation has been of great service for Monta Ellis. As a result of Nowitzki’s brilliance, the former Milwaukee Buck is provided lots of legroom to make use of pick-and-roll prowess.

It’s time to begin referring to Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis as one of more dangerous offensive duos.

The Nowitzki-Ellis two-man lineup has remained potent through twelve games, scoring 110.7 points per 100 possessions, which is the highest on the Mavericks for a two-man lineup that has played at least 175 minutes. That specific lineup is outscoring other strong combos, such as Al Horford-Paul Millsap and the Kevin Durant-Russell Westbrook lineup.

Where Monta is most notably standing out is nearly half of his shot attempts is finishing as a ball-handler in pick-and-rolls. Once more, Nowitzki simply existing on the court is a hefty boost to Ellis’s production this season, and Ellis has taken full of advantage of the space he never received in Golden State or Milwaukee. On many occurrences, the player defending Nowitzki when he screens for Ellis has had to switch onto him, which creates mismatches that lead to blow by layups or jump shots.

The pick-and-roll advantage was clearly evident throughout the Mavs-Rockets contest on Wednesday night, where Terrence Jones was coerced onto Ellis but was no match for his ball in hand speed. It also helps when an infamously bad defender like James Harden is covering a speedy guard. Harden bogs down the defense because he rarely fights over screens to stay in front of ball-handlers, creating disarray for the back-line of Houston’s defense. Ellis is ultra-quick off the dribble and finished with a season-high 38 points over the Rockets on Wednesday night.

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Ellis has buried 52 out of 94 shots at a lofty 55% clip as a pick-and-roll ball-handler through 12 games. He’s scoring nearly a point per possession on it, which is fifth in the league.

Ellis’s efficiency rates will perhaps get lower as the season goes on, but with the help of Rick Carlisle and company his refinement could be a trend for the entire season.

The Dallas Mavericks are currently fifth in the West, and ranked third in offensive efficiency. They likely won’t be able to secure one of the top five seeds just due to how insanely strong the Western Conference, but a sixth or seventh seed is plausible with emergence of Monta Ellis’s new-found efficiency.

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