Entering the 2016 offseason Detroit had many gaping holes they needed to address before going into next season. With point guard Steve Blake and Anthony Tolliver becoming unrestricted free agents, Detroit needed to acquire both a backup point guard and a backup power forward. As we discussed in Michael Gbinije’s season preview, Detroit added a wing that could play point guard in Gbinije and would later add a slew of point guards to their roster in Ish Smith, Ray McCallum Jr, and Trey Freeman. Moving on to power forward, they added stretch four Jon Leuer from the Phoenix Suns on a four-year deal. Backtrack to the NBA Draft and the Pistons drafted what many considered to be a steal at the 18th pick, Henry Ellenson out of Marquette. Ellenson is a 7’0 power forward that enters the NBA as a power forward with stretch forward potential. We’ll delve into those skills later in this piece. To recap their offseason at power forward, Detroit drafted Henry Ellenson, a freshman, and then in free agency signed an experienced power forward in Jon Leuer, who for years has been a prominent floor spacer at power forward. Before we talk about Ellenson’s role on the team this upcoming season, let’s talk about his skill set.
As mentioned, Ellenson has the potential to be a stretch four. He’s 7’0 and showed an outside game last season at Marquette. Detroit was able to get a very good look at Ellenson throughout his freshman season and in the Orlando Summer League. At Marquette he was a premier option for the Golden Eagles, as he was able to put together a scary statline for a freshman. He averaged nearly a double-double, posting 17 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. The numbers look well, but his inefficiency in college is a bit worrisome. His shooting line finalized at 49.5%/28.8%/74.9%. Those numbers are not scary, as he shoot inefficiently from the field. His free throw shooting was solid, but other than that, his overall shooting efficiency will need to develop for him to become a legitimate threat in the NBA, especially under a Stan Van Gundy system that allows for little failure. In the Orlando Summer League we saw the same issues occur with Ellenson. He was used in a prominent role on offense, and that lead to him shooting the ball very poorly. His line was 31%/23.1%/74.1%. That is not going to cut it at the NBA level. He averaged a steady 12.4 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, but that shooting is horrific. This leads to where he stands in the Pistons deep rotation next season.
While he was inefficient in Summer League his scoring prowess was promising.
Ellenson does not have a spot in the Pistons rotation, even if they stretch it to a 10-man rotation. Jon Leuer, who will be the backup power forward next year, is a proven threat on offense and is a better defender than Ellenson at power forward and center. The starting power forward and center spots are not up for grabs with both Tobias Harris and Andre Drummond firmly locked in at those positions. The backup center spot already has a cog even without Ellenson in the mix. Behind Andre Drummond is Aron Baynes who had a fantastic summer with the Australian National Team, and will likely be the second center in Detroit’s rotation. The third center spot is locked up with the 7’3 animal that is Boban Marjanovic. He is a good player and provides Detroit with the best center depth in the NBA. That leaves any available minutes at center to Leuer, wh the Pistons could go to in a smaller lineup situation. Ellenson is the third power forward, and that is as high as he will get on the depth chart this season barring any injuries to Detroit’s bigmen. Ellenson needs to live in the weight room the rest of the offseason and throughout his rookie season, as he does not have the girth to battle with other NBA bigmen. This will lead to Ellenson doing one of two things. He will either sit on the bench unless the Pistons are blowing out a team or being blowed out themselves. The other option involves him leaving the Pistons. No, Detroit is not going to trade him, but they should consider sending him down to the NBA D-League at times throughout the season. That will give Ellenson the opportunity to play live games against some of the best competition in the world, including other NBA players. He would get the opportunity to play power forward and center, which is what he needs to learn to do, as the Pistons thrive off of versatility. The experience would be beneficial for Ellenson and would help him develop his game.
The Pistons first round pick may not get the opportunity to have a major role this season with the Pistons, but his rookie campaign is very important nonetheless.
Featured image via: Associated Press