Another big name has been added to the list of 2013 NBA free agents. Monta Ellis has reportedly told the Milwaukee Bucks that he plans to opt out of the final year of his contract. He was set to make $11 million next season.
According to Chris Broussard of ESPN, a few teams with cap space are interested in the guard. The Atlanta Hawks and Dallas Mavericks will be able to offer max-contracts this offseason and are likely to explore the possibility of adding Ellis.
Sources tell Broussard that the Los Angeles Lakers are also interested in Ellis. Unless L.A. were to do something drastic like use their amnesty clause on Kobe Bryant, they would be able to acquire the free agent only through a sign-and-trade. A trade between the Lakers and Bucks seems unlikely, but Los Angeles might be able to offer an acceptable package to Milwaukee. Sending Pau Gasol to the Eastern Conference might get the job done, helping to improve the club’s front line, as well as giving them financial flexibility with the big man’s contract, set to run out in 2014.
The Lakers could be in the market to add another scoring guard. Bryant is in the final year of his deal and he could miss significant time next season due to his Achilles injury. Los Angeles, however, might be reluctant to commit a lot of money to a player like Ellis. He averaged over 19 points per game last year for the sixth straight season, but he’s been unable to help his teams become legitimate contenders.
The No. 1 priority for L.A. is re-signing Dwight Howard. If they are able to bring back the center on a long-term deal, the club’s payroll will be over the luxury tax threshold, disqualifying them from making a sign-and-trade.
If the rules allowed the Lakers to have Howard and Ellis, Los Angeles might be the guard’s top choice. ESPN reported that Howard might want to play with Ellis if he’s unable to join forces with Chris Paul. There have been rumors that Howard and Paul have had discussions of playing together, but that scenario would likely have to take place in Atlanta. The Hawks can sign two top free agents, but neither Howard nor Paul has much reported interest in going there.
Milwaukee reportedly offered Ellis a two-year extension worth $24 million. That offer may be off the table now that he has opted out of his current deal.