From the day Monta Ellis signed with the Mavericks, his job was clear: get to the basket and make things happen. And through 10 games, Ellis has done just that, more so than almost anyone else in the league.
Ellis, who in recent years struggled to find efficient shots — playing mostly with middling supporting casts in Golden State and Milwaukee — is experiencing somewhat of an offensive renaissance this season in Dallas. His efficiency numbers are up across the board.
Through 10 games, Ellis’ 47.1 field goal percentage is his highest since the 2007-08 season, which was probably his best as a pro. His 55.8 true shooting percentage, a metric which factors in free throws attempted, is also his best since ’07-08. And his 49.4 effective field goal percentage, which weighs made three-pointers as more valuable than made two-pointers? Yep, it’s his highest since that same season.
The secret behind Ellis’ efficient resurgence isn’t really a secret at all. Playing alongside pick-and-roll partners Dirk Nowitzki, Sam Dalembert and DeJuan Blair, Ellis has finally found teammates offensively capable enough to create shot opportunities off of the pick-and-roll, something he didn’t always have on his other teams. So, during pick-and-roll sets, teams can’t afford to trap, blitz, or double-team Ellis, and that opens up the lane for drives. Ellis said himself before the season that he wants to get back to “Monta-Ball,” which, he said, means getting to the rim and making plays.
So far, so good for Ellis. Per SportVU, Ellis drives to the rim 11.2 times per game, second-most in the league behind Denver’s electric Ty Lawson, and only Lawson and Houston’s Jeremy Lin create more team points off of drives than Ellis’ 12.2 per game. Ellis scores 8.1 points per game himself on drives, highest in the league. Only two other players in the league score more than 7 per game on drives, meaning Ellis is in the highest of echelons when it comes to attacking the rim.
Perhaps more importantly for Ellis’ offensive versatility is that defenses are now trying to limit his ability to drive to the rim by backing off and conceding an open look at a jump shot, which Ellis is converting at a higher rate than ever. The sample size is still small, considering Dallas has only played 10 games, but Ellis’ 57.1 field goal percentage (16-of-28) on shots from 15-19 feet is far and away the highest of his career — he’s never before shot higher than 43 percent from that range, per NBA stats. And he’s mostly doing it off the dribble, too. More than 80 percent of his made field goals within 19 feet have come unassisted, meaning Ellis is creating his own shots at a much higher clip than any scorer Nowitzki has ever played with.
Ellis’ driving prowess and the threat of leaving other capable players open has left Ellis with excellent mid-range looks, and he’s made opponents pay. The Monta-Ball experiment has so far been a success, both for the Mavericks and for Ellis.