Milwaukee Bucks guard Monta Ellis must decide by June 20 whether to exercise his early-termination option and opt out of his $11 million salary for the 2013-14 NBA season, and the latest report from Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports reinforces the basic message sent in previous rumors from October and April: Ellis "plans to opt out" and become a free agent this summer. This isn't merely a reproduction of previous reports, however, as there's a new angle that may shed light on what Ellis would do when he starts searching for a new deal.
A decision by Ellis to opt out and hit the open market wouldn't necessarily be an indictment of his time with Milwaukee. At age 27, it's probably a good idea for a guard who relies heavily on his athleticism to shop for a new deal with more guaranteed money and try to shift the risk of injury to a team. Therefore, the assumption has always been that if the Bucks are still interested in tossing more money into the Monta Pit, he'd listen and make a return to Milwaukee if they presented the top offer. Here's the thing: the Bucks don't have Mike Malone.
Spears notes that Ellis "quickly gained a great deal of respect for Malone's basketball IQ and his ability to teach and relate to players" during the final season Monta spent with the Golden State Warriors. Now that Malone has been hired as the head coach of the Sacramento Kings, their chances of signing Ellis in free agency have reportedly improved.
The fit in Sacramento isn't really ideal for Ellis at the moment. He struggled to score efficiently playing next to Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings during his time in Milwaukee -- he posted his lowest true shooting percentage (49.3 percent) since his rookie season (48.6) in 2012-13 -- and often functioned better when taking on point guard responsibilities in the offense. The Kings have an even smaller player they like at point guard (Isaiah Thomas), and they will also have the right to match offers for restricted free agent Tyreke Evans this summer. However, if Malone thinks he knows how to unlock Monta's potential, the dynamic guard could still find his way to Sacramento.
Ellis has three weeks to officially exercise that early termination option, and at this point, all signs suggest he is ready to do so and become a free agent.