Grade the deal: Pacers sign Monta Ellis to four-year, $44 million contract
Monta Ellis has agreed to sign a four-year, $44 million contract with Indiana, according to ESPN.com and CBSSports.com. The deal, which starts in 2015-16, includes a player option for the 2018-19 season. The Pacers reportedly beat out the Kings to acquire Ellis's services.
The Pacers' uninspiring, No. 23 ranked offense needed a boost, and the unpredictable and often electric Ellis is here to help. Last season, Ellis was the leading scorer on a top-five offense in Dallas, posting averages of 18.9 points and 4.1 assists. The 10-year veteran guard had a typically up-and-down year, averaging 20+ points before Jan. 1 before tailing off badly down the stretch. Ellis shot just 17.9 % on three-pointers after the All-Star break and struggled to coexist with Rajon Rondo.
A change of scenery should produce a better fit. Indiana can use all the extra ball-handling and play-making that it can get, and Ellis handles those tasks well. His arrival will allow George Hill to move off the ball while allowing C.J. Miles to fill a complementary role.
Importantly, Ellis will ensure teams can't totally load up on George, who played just six games in 2014-15 after suffering a serious leg injury last summer. Indiana's top priority on offense is to put George in position to succeed, and Ellis helps ensure that George doesn't face a wall of defenders every time down the court. Striking the right balance between the two players when it comes to shots and touches will surely be an ongoing story throughout next year.
Pacers coach Frank Vogel has overseen a top-10 defense in each of the last four seasons. Ellis's lack of discipline and attentiveness on that end will take some serious massaging, but Indiana clearly concluded that trading defense-for-offense by adding him was worth the risk. Although center Roy Hibbert has been the subject of much trade speculation as Pacers executives have expressed a desire to play faster, protecting Ellis with a quality backline defender should remain a priority.
Ellis turned down an $8.7 million option to enter free agency, a decision that was rewarded with a nice per-year pay increase and long-term money. The size of his new contract is similar to the anticipated rise in the salary cap, meaning Indiana isn't really committing that much more of its cap room, percentage-wise, than Dallas did on the last deal. Ellis's inconsistency and one-way reputation were surely factors in limiting his ability to pull down a monster contract this summer, but he slides in alongside the likes of Danny Green (Spurs) and Iman Shumpert (Cavaliers) in the second-tier of wings. That's a good spot for him.
If there's one long-term cause for anxiety to keep an eye on, it's Ellis's mileage. Over the last five years, no player in the NBA has logged more minutes than the durable Ellis, who has missed just two games combined over the last three seasons. At 29, Ellis isn't in immediate danger of seeing his production fall off a cliff, but a decline could start earlier for him than most given his preference for attacking off the dribble and his limited outside shooting. From the Pacers' perspective, that's a concern that can likely be postponed until the back half of this deal.