Are the referees really unfair to Monta Ellis, as Mark Cuban claims?
For starters, check out Cuban’s tweet on March 28:
It’s criminal how Monta doesn’t get calls Pushed.Hit in face.Hit on arm.Im tired of turning in calls.Fans need to post video to wake NBA up.
— Mark Cuban (@mcuban) March 28, 2015
Cuban’s rant came in the aftermath of his Dallas Mavericks’ 94-76 loss to the defending champions San Antonio Spurs on March 27, per ESPN Dallas’ Tim MacMahon.
Analyzing Ellis’ situation ought to give NBA fans an idea if he really is being treated unfairly by the league.
Not only did Ellis sustain a calf injury during the game against the Spurs, he was also an 2015 NBA All-Star Game snub. Talk about a double whammy.
Maybe Ellis will shoot with guns blazing in the playoffs as payback.
Stating Mark Cuban’s Case
Cuban told MacMahon he wasn’t very pleased when he saw Spurs forward Tim Duncan hit Ellis inadvertently on the face without getting a call from the officials last Friday:
He got hit in the face, Duncan gets his body lower, hand was down like this in the replay, and then [referee] Monty McCutchen says he was straight up and down.
Say you missed it, cool. Say you weren’t sure, cool. Say it wasn’t your call, cool. But when the second defender doesn’t jump, it can’t be up and down.
When a drive starts at the top of the key and you go straight down, it’s not lower box, it can’t be up and down unless you jump.
That’s crazy, and it happens three times a game for Monta. Every game. It’s ridiculous.
McMahon adds Cuban and the Mavericks sent a list of non-calls involving Ellis’ drives to the basket this season.
The Dallas owner is none too pleased with what he labels as “ridiculous feedback” from the NBA, so he decided to come out in the open regarding the Ellis issue, per ESPN Dallas:
I’m not allowed to say how many and what, but we literally have a play list of all the calls of Monta getting smacked and no call.
It’s crazy. It’s crazy. It’s always the same: ‘Oh, it’s incidental,’ or ‘It’s not this, it’s not that.’ We tried. We tried to play the game.
Maybe it will all change next year. I’m not even expecting the league to change anything. I’m hoping fans, every time that happens, fans post a video of it so everybody can see it.
It’s just some of the most ridiculous feedback we get. You turn it in, and it’s like, ‘That’s incidental.’
He got hit in the face. Incidental. Knocked the ball loose. Incidental. You know, it’s crazy. The guy [is] one of the leading guys in driving, attacking the basket, went to the line zero times tonight.
In addition, Ellis scored 38 points on 27 shots against the same Spurs team three days earlier. He got to the free-throw line just four times, per The Dallas Morning News’ Eddie Sefko.
The Parting Shot
In order to analyze Ellis’ case, we must not only look at visual evidence. Analytics come into play here.
First, NBA.com (via ESPN Dallas) stats reveal Ellis is 10th in the league in drives with 609 in the 2014-15 season.
For the month of March, Ellis averaged 3.41 free-throw attempts in 12 games, per NBA.com.
On a wider scale, for somebody like Ellis who takes it to the basket a great deal, he is nowhere to be found in the NBA’s free-throw attempts leader board. Through April 1, MVP candidates James Harden (10.1) and Russell Westbrook (9.7) as well as Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (9.2) lead the league by a considerable margin.
Clearly, there is something amiss here.
To be fair to the Spurs, it’s not only against them when Ellis does not get enough trips to the free-throw line. You drive to the basket a whole lot, chances are, you’ll get pummeled one way or another.
His free-throw attempts for March 2015 are indicative of that point. On March 10, he had just two against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Three days later, he had a solitary trip to the charity stripe against the Los Angeles Clippers.
It’s either Ellis does not get the benefit of the doubt or guys like Timofey Mozgov and DeAndre Jordan are good at eluding fouls in the post.
It’s a safer bet the former argument prevails.
If Ellis goes to the basket hard on a regular basis, he has to have more free-throw attempts. He’s 10th in the league in drives and he’s not even in the Top 40 in terms of number of free throws? Ridiculous.
Mark Cuban has a point here. Maybe Ellis would get more calls now that his owner has driven home a point on his Twitter feed.
It would be interesting to find out how this whole saga plays out.