Monta Ellis needs a new identity.
He’s known now as a ball-dominant scorer, a flash in transition who can carry a team when he goes on a heater.
Then there’s the other side of Ellis, which is the more consistent reality. His shot selection is awful, and his desire to take perimeter shots results in erratic shooting nights.
His defensive awareness is an issue too, as he can play on the ball but struggles with pick-and-rolls or defensive rotations. His inconsistent effort is another problem.
Ellis isn’t an elite-tier superstar. He has never led a team to success nor has he ever been named to a single All-Star team. In the right situation, Ellis doesn’t become more—he becomes less.
Ellis can succeed as a complementary star. Yes, his weaknesses can be fixed, but either him or a coach with ultimate control will need to make the decision to fix them.
The upcoming change of scenery is a start.
The Sacramento Kings, equally in need of a makeover, are interested in a deal to sign Ellis, per Ken Berger of CBS Sports. The Atlanta Hawks are also keen on Ellis, according to a report from ESPN's Marc Stein, but Stein has recently reported the Hawks also are chasing Brandon Jennings in a trade for Jeff Teague.
In either situation, Ellis will desire more than the $11 million he opted out of with the Milwaukee Bucks. At 27 years old, Ellis is likely seeking a four-year deal at $48 to $50 million.
That’s too much money to spend on an inefficient scorer who has yet to show successful results.
There was a point early on in which Ellis appeared to be a budding star.
In his third season with the Golden State Warriors, Ellis shot a career-high 53 percent. He took just 52 three-pointers that season, hiding his 23.1 percent mark from behind the arc. What made Ellis fantastic, though, was his quickness that allowed him to get to the hoop. He was also surprisingly talented at scoring in the post against smaller guards.
Then Ellis began to feel his stardom a bit too much.
He went from 15.1 shot attempts per game in 2007-08 to 22 in 2009-10. With that, his shooting percentage dropped from 53.1 percent to 45.1. In 2011-12, Ellis took 4.2 three-pointers per game in 37 games with Warriors, though he was still at just 32.1 percent.
Ellis is tremendous at the basket, where he shot 62 percent this past season with the Bucks and earned the majority of his shot attempts (421), but he’s drastically weaker when he moves away from the rim. Ellis took 328 three-point attempts in the 2012-13 season, and he connected just 28 percent of the time.
Ellis’ shooting numbers from last season, according to BasketballReference.com:
|3 to||33 percent|
|10 to||38 percent|
|16 feet to||36.8 percent|
|Three-point range||28 percent|
This reeks of overconfidence and a lack of understanding what’s best for the bottom line of the team.
However, because Ellis has a strength as a streaky shooter who can change the pace of an offense and score in bunches, he actually fits best as a sixth man who can dominate the ball in spurts like Jamal Crawford does with the Los Angeles Clippers.
The problem is, Ellis thinks of himself as a superstar, which is verified by his ability to potentially earn $12 million-plus per year. That’s too much money to pay a bench player.
The Kings are looking to change the direction of their team, and Ellis is only slightly better than what they already have in Marcus Thornton. More so, Ellis’ demeanor and leadership might not be the best placement within a franchise seeking stability and a change of attitude.
New Kings coach Mike Malone, who is undoubtedly an intelligent coaching mind, must see something in Ellis if Sacramento is going to sign the guard. Malone was the lead assistant with the Warriors for half a season with Ellis before the scorer was traded to Milwaukee.
Also, Kings owner Vivek Ranadive was a minority owner with the Warriors for the latter part of Ellis’ tenure with the Warriors.
But is bringing in Ellis the right decision for the money?
The Kings, or the Hawks for that matter, aren’t interested in making Ellis into a superstar. If he was going to become one, it would have happened by now.
Still, Ellis can be an incredible value if he limits his perimeter shooting and focuses as a dangerous rim attacker. Defensively, Ellis will eventually need to buy into team defense and understanding basic principles if he can succeed in that range.
Ellis will find ultimate success as a strong complementary wing or as an ideal sixth man.
Just don’t tell him that.