Ellis Signifies Change in Milwaukee

Milwaukee is trapped in NBA purgatory.

For the past two seasons, the Bucks finished ninth in the Eastern Conference, good enough to push the team out of serious contention for the first overall pick in the draft lottery without the benefit of qualifying for the post season. 

Milwaukee has hovered around .500 for the past three seasons, posting a 112-118 record in that span, it has seen little opportunity to improve its roster, leaving the franchise in a struggle to draw fans.

Since 2004, the Bucks haven’t finished higher than 20th in total attendance.

Two years ago, the franchise had the most anemic offense in the league, averaging 91.9 points per game, its lowest output since the lockout shortened season of 1998-99.

In need of offensive firepower, the Bucks dealt oft-injured center Andrew Bogut, the first overall pick form the 2005 NBA Draft, to Golden State for Monta Ellis , a prolific scorer at shooting guard.

Ellis has been depicted as an inefficient gunner, a player capable of pouring in 25 points per game, as he did in 2009-10, but needed 22 shots per game to accomplish the feat.

His tenure with the Warriors was marred following his deceleration that he wouldn’t be able to play alongside point guard Stephen Curry, a player with a similar skill set to Ellis, an undersized guard capable of producing high scoring numbers.

Monta Ellis averaged 17.6 points and 5.9 assists in 21 games with Milwaukee last season.

The clash between the two was evident during their first season together, as Ellis ignored Curry for a majority of his rookie season. The problem on the court was the high volume of turnovers each produced in addition to their scoring numbers.

In the first three games of the season, the duo combined to turn the ball over 24 times and the Warriors lost six of their first seven games when both players were on the floor.

For the 6-foot-3 guard to thrive, he needs the ball in his hands. Last season, he was the only non-point guard to finish in the top-15 in assists, as he averaged six per game, and he was the only shooting guard in the league to average over five assists.

Once again paired with a point guard better suited for being a top scoring threat than a distributor, Ellis now has to find a way to coexist with Brandon Jennings.

The 6-foot-1 Jennings thrived at the end of the season, topping 25 points in four of his final six games as Ellis served as a more traditional point guard.

Ellis tallied at least five assists in 15 of 21 games, including eight of his final nine, but Milwaukee managed just a 12-14 record after acquiring the 26-year-old.

Offense was no longer the problem for the Bucks, scoring 102.8 points per game after Ellis was acquired and 99 points it averaged for the year were the highest scoring in the Eastern Conference.

Monta Ellis and the Bucks were the highest scoring team in the Eastern Conference last year.

Putting the ball through the net wont’ be a problem in Milwaukee, but preventing opponents from doing the same will.

When Jennings and Ellis shared the court, the Bucks allowed 107.7 points per 100 possessions. Ball Don’t Lie mentioned the figure was more than five points-per-100 below Milwaukee’s season average.

The only team to allow a similar average last season was Charlotte, a team that set the NBA record for worst winning percentage last season.

When Ellis was part of an undersized, ill fitted defensive back court in Golden State, it seemed destined to fail because he didn’t buy into the possibility of success.

As Milwaukee is nearly three weeks away from opening training camp, the mindset is Ellis can be part of a foundation and lead a team into the post season.

“With everybody doubting it, I think it’s important that me and him, we just work together to show everybody it can work.

“Everybody knows we both can score like crazy. But I think everybody thinks we can’t win together,” Jennings told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “That’s going to be one of our biggest challenges. I’m up for it and I know he is.”

The Bucks challenged Philadelphia and New York for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference last season but faded in the final weeks of the season.

As Jennings has until Oct. 31 to reach a contract extension, or become a restricted free agent at the end of the year, the Bucks need to figure out quickly if he can combine with Ellis to snap a two year playoff drought.

If not, Ellis will have to continue his search for a back court partner that will allow him to thrive.

About Brendan Galella

Brendan Galella founded Shatter the Glass to make the NBA even more accessible to basketball fans. Composing player rankings, team evaluations and intriguing observations, he hopes to turn every reader into a dedicated and educated basketball follower.

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