The Mavericks have agreed to sign unrestricted free agent guard Monta Ellis to a three-year contract, according to ESPN.com and CBSSports.com. The deal will reportedly be worth between $25 million and $30 million. USA Today Sports pegs the number at $28 million.
Ellis, 27, averaged 19.2 points, 6 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game for the Bucks last season. Acquired by Milwaukee from Golden State in a 2012 trade, Ellis led the Bucks in scoring but shot just 41.6 percent overall and 28.7 percent from deep.
A combo guard who can create a shot, finish in a variety of ways and do a passable job initiating a halfcourt offense, Ellis has never been regarded as a plus-defender. His 16.3 PER ranks slightly above league average, and Ellis is most naturally cast as a lead scoring option on a team with no real playoff hopes.
Perhaps that team is Dallas. The Mavericks opted not to re-sign their own unrestricted free-agent combo guard, O.J. Mayo. As it happens, Mayo agreed to sign with the Bucks for $24 million over three years, and Ellis' agreement with the Mavericks completes this NBA equivalent of a "wife swap."
At the time of Mayo's agreement, The Point Forward noted that Milwaukee made the right call in overpaying Mayo instead of Ellis, because of his range (significantly better) and age (two years younger). That's still true even if Ellis' deal winds up in the $25 million ballpark, which is less than he likely expected he would receive after opting out of the final year of a six-year, $66 million dollar deal.
Ellis enters a new-look backcourt that includes Jose Calderon, Gal Mekel and 2013 first-round pick Shane Larkin, all added this offseason. Ellis adds a dynamic scoring element to that group, and he should return to a full-time off-guard role when things shake out. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban appears to be using his cap space to accumulate proven players regardless of position, likely as a method for facilitating future deals.
Updates: What a day for the Mavericks' backcourt. Yahoo! Sports reports that Larkin suffered a broken ankle that could sideline him for "2-to-3 months" while ESPN.com reports that a toe injury will "scrap" a three-year agreement between the Mavericks and Devin Harris. GRADE: C-. Assessing this signing will ultimately depend on the final terms, but it doesn't look great, even at the lower end of the reported range. Compare Ellis' deal to Tony Allen ($20 million over four years), Martell Webster ($22 million over four years, although the last year isn’t guaranteed), Kyle Korver ($24 million over four years), J.R. Smith ($25 million over four years), J.J. Redick ($27 million over four years), Kevin Martin ($28 million over four years) and Mayo ($24 million over three years). There's at least three guards in that group who are preferable talents to Ellis, and yet he is the highest-paid of all of them. There are many ways to react after striking out on Deron Williams, Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, but adding a player at a star's price without a star's efficiency probably wasn't the ideal conclusion.