DALLAS -- For Monta Ellis, “efficient” might as well be a four-letter word.
He’s become a sort of analytics antihero the past couple seasons, a model of scoring inefficiency. Frankly, Ellis is sick and tired of hearing about it, which he made clear by shaking his head and chuckling when the subject was broached during the Dallas Mavericks’ media day Monday.
“I’m going to get criticized for what I do anyway,” Ellis said. “The only thing I can do is laugh it off because there’s a lot of guys that take a lot of bad shots in this league. A lot of bad shots. Don’t nobody want to talk about them, but everybody talks about shots that Monta take[s]. The only thing I’m going to do is take the punches and prove everybody wrong.”
There are a lot of guys in the NBA who take bad shots, but precious few put up more bricks than Ellis did in his final season with the Milwaukee Bucks, which explains why he settled for signing a three-year, $25 million deal with the Mavs that was far shy of his asking price when free agency opened.
Only former Bucks backcourt partner Brandon Jennings had a lower field goal percentage than Ellis (41.6) among players who averaged at least 15 points per game. Ellis’ 3-point percentage (28.7) was the lowest among qualifiers. And, according to ESPN Stats & Information, Ellis had the worst field goal percentage on off-the-dribble jumpers (32.3) among players who launched at least 250 of those shots.
If that continues this season, Ellis will be a terrible investment for the Mavs. But his contract could end up being a bargain if Ellis, whom Dirk Nowitzki excitedly describes as the most explosive teammate he’s ever had, is willing to do what it takes to drastically improve his scoring efficiency.
“What I’m saying is, I’m going to play Monta basketball,” said Ellis, who has a career average of 19.4 points per game on respectable 45.6 percent shooting from the floor. “If y’all want to criticize, criticize.”
Asked to clarify what exactly “Monta basketball” is, Ellis exhibits that he gets it, as much as he disdains the discussion.
“Getting out, running, taking the shots that’s appropriate, and attack the basket more,” Ellis said. “I think over the past few years I got to a point where I was settling for jump shots. At first, I attacked the basket, never was the high-end guy to shoot 3s. I think I put a lot more 3s into my game, so I’m going to get back to attacking the basket, getting out there and being a one-man fast break and bring pace to this team.”
Count on coach Rick Carlisle hammering that mentality into Ellis’ head.
Carlisle spent time this summer working with Ellis on his jumper and making adjustments regarding balance and mechanics, but the Mavs don’t want Ellis launching a bunch from long distance. They definitely don’t want Ellis to average four 3-point attempts per game, as he did last season, especially if many of them are contested and/or off the dribble.
Ellis has proven he’s capable of lighting it up without exhibiting the shot discretion of a lovesick sailor. In 2007-08, Ellis shot 53.1 percent from the floor while averaging 20.2 points per game for the Golden State Warriors, attempting less than one 3-pointer per game. Not coincidentally, the burden of the scoring load didn’t fall on Ellis’ shoulders that season, when Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson also averaged more than 20 points for the 48-win Warriors.
The Mavs want Ellis to do what he does best: attack the basket. They believe he’ll have ample opportunities to do so while playing with Nowitzki, the sweetest-shooting 7-footer of all time, and Jose Calderon, a pass-first point guard who led the league in 3-point percentage last season.
“We’ve got to put him in the right situations and positions,” Carlisle said. “That’s going to give Monta opportunities to find space. When you get him moving toward the rim with space, he’s a great finisher. He can get to the free throw line, and he’s an underrated assist guy. I think all that works.”
If it works as well as the Mavs hope, the word “efficient” might not sound so offensive to Ellis.