Most Pistons fans were feeling very good this time last year. They had just returned to the playoffs for the first time in six years and gave the eventual champion Cleveland Cavaliers a good first round battle. Then, it felt like things were definitely heading in the right direction when one of the top draft prospects, Henry Ellenson, fell to Detroit outside of the lottery. But here we are a year later; the team has obviously regressed and we have seen next to nothing from Ellenson. Doom and gloom, right? Maybe not. Dispite limited action with the Pistons, Ellenson has shown some things worth getting excited about over this past year.
In 22 starts with the Grand Rapids Drive, Ellenson averaged 17.9 points per game and 8.9 rebounds per game. These numbers aren’t far off from his stats in college at Marquette (0.9 more ppg and 0.8 fewer rpg). Where Ellenson has made some improvement this year was in his three point shooting and his free throws. From deep, his shooting percentage jumped up a full 4% from 28.8 to 32.8. While these numbers aren’t staggering, it is improvement and that’s what matters for a developing rookie. The free throw percentage increased more significantly, from 74.9% to 80.6%. Again, this is an encouraging improvement from the 20 year -old power forward.
The D-League is well and good for a developing rookie, but what is more important is what he does vs other NBA players. Ellenson got a few nights where he saw some action, but he only saw significant minutes in the last four games of the year. In these games he showed flashes, but his performance was a mixed bag overall. He scored in double digits twice (at Houston and at Orlando). He also had double digit rebounds in his game vs the Rockets which game him a double double. He shot only 30% from three over those four games, but those numbers are slightly swayed by a 1-8 night from three in Houston.
Where Ellenson struggled this year was in his overall shooting percentage and his defense. At both levels, these were areas of concern and the main reason he slid out of the lottery in last year’s draft. Ellenson shot just 41.6% from the field in the D-Leauge and an even worse 36.6% in his four games of significant action at the NBA level. This is an area that needs to be improved if he’s going to be a contributor for the Pistons next year. Defensively, Ellenson needs to develop an identity. His foot quickness isn’t good enough at this point to defend other stretch fours and he isn’t strong enough to body up against big time post players. He needs to develop in at least one of these areas to get any meaningful playing time under Stan Van Gundy next year.
Overall, it was a quiet year for Henry Ellenson.
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