The midrange chucker who pissed off stat nerds in the Bay Area and in Milwaukee is going to Dallas. But midrange Monta Ellis might get a new slate in the summer heat of Texas, and he’s never teamed up with an NBA champion like Dirk Nowitzki before.
Dallas’ team last season was in disarray at the point guard position, with an underachieving Darren Collison giving up wide-open lanes to the basket to try his hand at a 20-footer. Dirk looked old, and Mike James actually stole the starting point guard job from Collison because he wasn’t playing hard enough defense for coach, Rick Carlisle.
If that above graph doesn’t sound eerily similar to the Monta Ellis bloggers love to write, then you haven’t been paying attention. Monta shoots a lot of shots from that inefficient place between the restricted area near the rim and the 3-point line. He also shoots a lot three’s, and at a low percentage. Ellis shot 36.2 percent from the midrange, via NBA.com/stats and that included almost five attempts per game from 16-23 feet, where he shot just 34 percent, by way of hoopdata.com. Even Darren Collison shot a respectable 43.7 percent from the midrange.
While Monta shot well from the mid-range earlier in his career in Golden State, he hasn’t done well enough from that that area to necessitate the sheer number of attempts. Jonathan Abrams highlighted Ellis’ insistence on gunning it for Grantland last season, and while it’s commendable to understand why Monta shoots so frequently, it also does little to curb the practice.
Ellis’ shooting numbers make amateur analytics gurus explode in anger and that’s primarily because he’s considered a top flight guard in a league full of them. Unfortunately, the stats don’t bare that idea out at all. Ellis’ too-infrequent forays into the paint and his underrated passing ability—he averaged 6.1 assists per game last season, and has been over five per game since 2009—conspire against the numbers. He looks good, but that shouldn’t be confused with actually being good. Smart GMs have wizened up, and that’s why Ellis had to accept less from the Mavs than he would have made if he’d opted in for one more year in Milwaukee. That’s also why his former backcourt mate, Brandon Jennings, isn’t getting the $12 million a year he’s looking for right now.
But Ellis’ black mark in the stats community may come to an end under Rick Carlisle in Dallas. You can be sure Dirk, Vince Carter, Shawn Marion, new backcourt mate, Jose Calderon, Wayne Ellington and others will be ready and willing to accept the dimes we know Ellis can throw. The question is whether he’s able to sacrifice his midrange jumpers to help the betterment of the team. That’s where Carlisle comes in. He’s not mentioned very often when people talk about the best coaches in the league, but Carlisle has won a title, and he’s a hard-nosed guy who isn’t going to accept less than 100 percent on the defensive end. That resume of Carlisle’s will hopefully earn Monta’s respect. But for the jumpers, that’s another question entirely.