The Heist named Henry. (Draft pick preview.)
Apologies: I apologize for no posts the last 4(?) days. We lost power and then the internet was out and I had no alternatives to get posts up lol. Which sucks but whatever, its all good now and I'll actually be back state-side soon.
Who Is Henry Ellenson?
Born in Rice Lake, Wisconsin in 1997, and now aged just 19 years old, (in case you don't math so good) Ellenson was awesome in high school and went to college at Marquette. He only played one year for a not very good Marquette team, but he was certainly very good, averaging 17 points and just under 10 rebounds per game. He would make the All-Big East first team (note that it is not the freshmen team, although he made that too) and was named Freshman of the year.
Ellenson is just 19. He is a little bit older than Stanley was at the same time last year, but still, he is 19. As a player he already has a NBA ready body at 6'10 245 pounds. (with a 7'1 wing span.)
The best thing I would say about him is that he was really stinking good as a freshman. I said several times regarding Stanley Johnson last year that even if he is not all that good, it is hugely impressive that someone as young as Johnson gave real minutes to a playoff team. So even if Marquette was not all that good in his lone season, and the big East is not what it used to be, it is super impressive that Ellenson was legitimately one of the best players in the conference and the best player on his team as a freshman. And he did it on a TS% of .534 as well, which isn't too shabby.
As for his actual game, Ellenson is a big who has some real skills. It will remain to be seen exactly how well his skills will translate to the NBA. But he regularly was the lead ball handler on fast breaks, looks damn near Melo like with his jumper, (even if it isn't as good) can finish at the hoop with either hand, shoots nearly 80% from the line, and just generally is a good basketball player. In the NBA he figures to be a stretch big who can play either the 5 or 4 spot. He was also an excellent rebounder at Marquette, which is good because rebounding is the skill that translates to the better to the NBA with consistency than any other.
Lastly, apparently he was the #10 guy on the Pistons draft board, and was a guy who the scouting staff had listed under "definitely not going to be availible" to the point that SVG admitted in his press conference that they didn't even bother having him in for a workout and SVG watched "Like 2 of his games and didn't even take notes". That is how highly the Pistons scouts thought of him, and so far at least, there is good reason to believe in the Pistons front office's opinions of players so there is that.
He is just 19, which means he still has a lot of learning to do, and given that he is on a good team he may not get much run for a year or two. But that is not a big deal since the Pistons have most of their important holes filled.
The main issue with his game right now is his defense, which was fairly atrocious in college. He is not a terrible athlete, he has some hops and some quickness, but he made tons of mental mistakes as a freshman, and he doesn't have anywhere near the athleticism to overcome all the mental mistakes. Whether it be making the right rotations to contest at the rim, not falling for pump fakes, not giving up post position etc. And once again, he does not have the best defensive tools to work with so it is a bad combination for him.
On offense he has some of the same issues of being pretty raw, although his tools for offense are much better obviously. Despite his silky jumper, he did not shoot all that well from 3, (just 29%) although he was better with his jumper from closer so there is good reason to believe that he can extend out to the NBA 3, as KCP has taught us this past season, there is more to making 3s than good form.
With the ball in his hands he does not always make the best decisions, he often will not pass out of double teams sent his way and can get tunnel vision heading to the hoop, and when he does make passes they are not always the right ones or very accurate ones. HOWEVA he did occasionally throw some really nice passes so there is some hope for him there.
The last main issue I see with Ellenson is that, due to him not having overly inspiring bunnies, he occasionally had some trouble scoring against length and athleticism. This is potentially a problem because length and athleticism is all there is in the NBA. Obviously it is far from a death knell because he is so young that he has little in the way of the sort of canny required to score on good defenders, but it will be something to watch.
Where does he fit on the Pistons?
He is (in theory) a guy who can play either the 4 or the 5, which is the sort of player that the Pistons have been trying to add really all of last season already, and they even did (briefly) add with DMo. Whether or not he finds consistent 3 point range, Ellenson should absolutely be a good enough shooter to fit alongside Drummond/Baynes/whoever would be playing center. And he will be at a bit of a speed and quickness disadvantage against some 4s, he will be much bigger than most of them, allowing him to hopefully get back the points he might give up. As a 4 there is some real potential for him being able to really punish smaller guys by shooting over them and dominating them on the glass.
Him playing center is a bit more of a question since he largely played PF in college. But he is huge and strong so he should figure to be pretty capable of banging with most centers, certainly backups. Even though it is more of a question, him playing backup center is more fun to think about. His combination of ball handling on the break and shooting could result in the Pistons bench mobs being a shooting and speeding group that could be tons of fun to watch. (Just as a for instance. *insert PG here*, Bullock/Meeks, Stanley/Marcus, Tolly, Ellenson.) Once again though, the question is his defense, can he be any sort of reliable rim protector? And even though he has the size, he was not a good post defender in college, once again it is ok because he is so young, but he has some learning to do.
Channing Frye. Although with Ellenson's potential handling the ball he could end up being much better than Frye, (although at his peak Fry was a pretty solid defensive player) and if peak Channing Frye is what Ellenson ends up being then this is a brilliant pick for the Pistons.
Upshot for the rest of the roster?
SVG said in his press conference that the pick does not change the team's free agency aproach at all, and free agency will have more to say about it than Ellenson does. HOWEVA, it almost certainly mean that Bairstow is going to be let go, which is kind of a bummer I guess because he might've been the sort of goofy player that would be fun to have on the end of the bench but whatever. And there is a decent chance that Joel Anthony will be let go as well and Ellenson will be the 3rd big. (at both center and PF) Hopefully the Pistons let the 3 compete at least a little, because if they let both Bairstow and Anthony go and then Ellenson shows up to camp and it is clear he cannot play center, they would have a bit of an issue. Obviously that does not figure to have a huge impact on the team, but I just hope they don't just hand him the job without at least working him out first. Other than that, it does not change a ton. The Pistons are still going to get a PG (and probably 2) in free agency, and add a PF of some sort, and the starting lineup is probably set unless they add a starting caliber PF moving Morris to the bench. Really Bairstow and Anthony are the only possible (and very likely with Bairstow) casualties here.
He impresses upon arriving in Detroit, and the Pistons have enough faith in him to let Bairstow and Anthony go, saving them a little more than 3 million in cap space, and Ellenson becomes the 3rd guy on the depth chart at both the 4 and the 5. He gets minutes occasionally due to foul trouble and injuries but is never thrust into major minutes, and possibly makes a few trips to Grand Rapids (plz) and whenever he gets on the floor he looks good. He gives the Pistons faith to let Baynes walk (he has a player option after next season he is likely to exercise) and make Ellenson the full time backup 5, and he also fills in at the 4 when the matchup asks for it.
He extends his range to 3 and is a very reliable shooter, and uses his ball handling to abuse closeouts for a nice pump and go game, and he learns fast on defense to become perfectly acceptable on that end and fits in as a bench big for at least the duration of his rookie contract, potentially taking over starting duties once Marcus Morris' contract is up and he gets a (likely well deserved) pay raise.
The Pistons decide to keep one of the other bigs so he doesn't save them any cap, his 3 point shooting never really comes along, and he proves to not really be athletic enough to be of much use on either end. He loiters on the bench for a few years before the Pistons give up on him and move on.
I love the pick. SVG shared my own thoughts on the benefits of a big who could play either the 4 or 5 over a guard in that they can find him some minutes without relying on him for minutes. And Ellenson was much higher on most people's boards. The thing that makes me most excited is just how skilled he is already, his profile kind of reads like that of a guy who was a 4 year player in college "Big strong white guy with some skills and not a very good defender." Except that he is just 19, meaning that he has a lot of improving he will likely do, and he is already very skilled. I love the potential of him being at the 4 and the 5 off the bench, and really like his game. I think he will probably end up being one of the bigger steals of the draft.
I love that after the pick was made, all the other Pistons core guys (other than KCP who doesn't really twitter anyways) all tweeted to Ellenson, and all of them told him to be ready to work lol. Also I really liked what SVG said in his press conference. They were drafting the first round straight from the board, regardless of position they were taking the top guy on their board. And since they got Ellenson I am pretty glad that they did not move the pick.
What do you think? How do you think he will pan out? Let me know! We all get smarter!