What to Expect of Pistons Rookie Henry Ellenson

With the eighteenth overall pick of the 2016 NBA draft the Pistons selected Marquette freshman power forward Henry Ellenson.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the young big man, let me tell you what you can expect.

Ellenson is a scorer first and foremost.  He averaged 17.0 points per game in his only college season and showed a variety of moves in the process.  Ellenson has outstanding touch around the rim.  He has excellent hands to catch the ball in traffic and he uses the glass extremely well.  This soft touch also extends outside of the paint.  Ellenson shows a nice turn around jumper as well as a good mid range jump shot.  While it is fair to call Ellenson a finesse player, he also shows the strength to back his man down and get a good look at the basket.

Another part of his game that is still developing, but shows a lot of potential, is his three-point shooting.  Ellenson shot 29% from deep last year, which is not spectacular.  However, the Pistons are hopeful that this part of his game will continue to develop.  The rookie has good mechanics with the rotation and release point that projects well to the NBA.  At the very least it will keep opponents honest and force them to close on him when on the perimeter.  When defenders do chase him to the three-point line Ellenson has shown that he is a fluid enough athlete and comfortable with the ball in his hands to attack his defender and drive the ball.

Finally, Ellenson is a very good rebounder averaging 9.9 per game last season.  He’s 6’10 with a 7’2 wingspan and 245 lbs which means he’s got all the size he needs to clean the glass at the next level.  What really sets him apart in this area is his physicality when boxing out.  Ellenson searches out for someone to put a body on, gets leverage and throws his weight into them.  He seems to have a natural feel for this area of the game and will fight for every inch to secure a rebound.  Expect this to be his biggest impact to start his career.

So how did such a skilled big man with a tenacity on the boards fall to the Pistons?  Of course, like any rookie, Ellenson has holes in his game.  Here are the limitations you can expect to see from him in year one.

The thing you need to know about Ellenson before you get too excited is that he’s a bad defender.  He has slow, heavy feet that prevent him from guarding the perimeter or from picking up guards who are driving.  It is very easy to blow past him and get to the rack.  While Ellenson has strength and a wide frame to add additional muscle, he can be backed down fairly easily too.  This weakness to his game will be easier to fix as he grows into his body, but as of now he will be a liability in every aspect defensively.

Ellenson is an underwhelming athlete.  He is not explosive and will play almost exclusively below the rim.  He also lacks the quick burst to fly down the court in transition.  He is fluid and comfortable running the floor, but it takes a few steps for his to get up to speed.  What this means is that Ellenson will never be a rim protector or an exciting dunker who can finish through contact.

One last major limitation Ellenson has is that he’s fairly inexperienced and it shows. As a freshman last year he looked a little lost at times.  He will play out of control at times and has a limited basketball IQ.  These things will get better with experience, but as of now Ellenson is still a little rough around the edges.

Player comparison – Greg Monroe

Much like Monroe, Ellenson is a blow the rim player who shows a nice touch offensively and the ability to out rebound more explosive leapers due to his physicality and boxing out well.  He also has a lot of the weaknesses of Monroe, such as poor defense and below average athleticism.  They’re not exactly alike as Ellenson has much more range and a better jump shot that will help him fit into the Van Gundy offense, but their skill sets are very similar.

Overall Ellenson is a little bit of a project.  He will be a good rebounder from day one and will be able to score.  However, he is still developing his offensive skill set in some ways and he won’t be a finished product in this aspect.  One thing to keep in mind is that Stan Van Gundy puts a lot of emphasis on defense, so Ellenson might struggle to get on the floor until he shows some improvement in this area of his game.  I expect Ellenson to start out slow for the Pistons, but as he gets stronger and develops as a defender he will find himself in the regular rotation in time to help with a playoff push.