Getty Images

PBT’s 2016 NBA Draft Prospect Preview: Henry Ellenson

Leave a comment

Henry Ellenson was among the stars of the 2015 recruiting class that went anywhere other than the bluebloods programs. Like Malik Newman and like Jaylen Brown and like Ben Simmons, Ellenson tried to carve his own path to the NBA, staying home at Marquette, playing with his brother and putting up some impressive numbers without anything close to the same amount of team success.

Will that end up being a wise decision?

Ellenson had a chance to showcase everything that he was able to do well on a basketball court this season, but the lack of a supporting cast that was up to his level made his flaws all the more apparent. A unique talent with a skill-set that blends favorably with the way the NBA is heading, Ellenson also has some red flags that should seriously concern teams that are considering drafting him.

Height: 6′ 11.5″
Weight: 242
Wingspan: 7′ 2.25″
2015-16 Stats: 17.0 points, 9.9 boards, 1.5 blocks, 28.8% 3PT

STRENGTHS: Ellenson’s offensive skill-set for someone his size is ridiculous. He’s a shade under 7-feet but capable of snagging a defensive rebound and going coast-to-coast. His handle and mobility in the open floor is not something you see that often from 19-year olds that are that tall.

And that’s not the only place that he’s a weapon offensively. He can score in the low- and mid-post in a variety of ways. He can make jump hooks with both hands. He can back defenders down. He’s got a quick release on his mid-range jumper and can hit it going over either shoulder, and has the potential to be particularly deadly when using inside pivots. He has the handle and the body control to be a nightmare to defend when he ‘pops’ in ball-screen actions or when he attacks close outs. He has three-point range and already can pump-fake and put the ball on the floor.

Efficiency is an issue at this point — we’ll get to that in a second — but the skills and the physical tools are there. Instead of reading about it, just watch. You’ll understand:

Marquette Men's Basketball freshman Henry Ellenson is one of the most unique players in 2016 NBA Draft. He's got the skill-set at 7-feet tall to be a terrific scorer, but is he good enough defensively to be playable? Here's his prospect breakdown.

Posted by Rob Dauster on Monday, June 20, 2016

WEAKNESSES: There are a couple things about Ellenson’s game that should be concerning, but the biggest issue is, without a doubt, his defense.

He’s just plain bad on that end of the floor. There’s really no other way to put it. He did averaging 1.5 blocks this season, but that had far more to do with his 7-foot-2 wingspan than it did his ability as a rim protector. Because Ellenson is not that. He lacks the vertical explosiveness to challenge at the rim, and more than that, he seemed to simply shy away from it at times. He’s just not a guy with the sense of timing or the desire to be an elite shot blocker.

And that’s not his only issue defensively. Ellenson has ‘heavy feet’, meaning, simply, that he’s slow and he can’t slide side-to-side. He’s a liability in pick-and-roll coverages. He can’t switch onto guards and stay in front of them at the college level. He even struggled with getting out quick enough to hedge pick-and-rolls hard and keep opposing guards from turning the corner. If he can’t do it at that level, what is he going to do against NBA-caliber competition?

There was an element of non-competitiveness to him defensively last season, and it is fair to wonder if the load that he had to carry offensively tired him out and/or made him actively avoid foul trouble. I don’t think it’s an issue of toughness, because Ellenson is a terrific rebounder who can throw his weight around and puts on a clinic for how to box out.

The other major issue for Ellenson right now is that he’s not yet a dangerous perimeter shooter. He hit just 28.2 percent from beyond the arc at the college level, which is a number that needs to improve significantly. He doesn’t have a very quick first step, which means that for him to be able to effectively use his ability to beat defenders off the bounce in half court settings, he’s going to have to do it against close outs. A 28.2 percent three-point shooter will not force NBA bigs to close out hard or long. He doesn’t have any ‘gravity’ yet.

One thing that should behoove Ellenson in the NBA is that he will not have as long of a leash offensively. He’s going to be playing a role. At Marquette, he could more or less do whatever and shoot whenever he wanted to, and that hurt his efficiency and shooting percentages. His shot is a bit flat, but he made 75 percent of his free throws and showed a stroke that looks pretty good. The potential is there.

NBA COMPARISON: This is as tough as a comparison is going to get in this year’s draft, as Ellenson’s combination of skill-set and flaws makes him as unique of a player as you’ll find. How many 7-footers have the ability to grab a rebound and go the length of the floor leading the break? How many of them then can also attack close-outs and score in the low- and mid-post the way Ellenson can?

To me, there isn’t any specific player he can be compared to, mainly because who he ends up being will depend largely on where he ends up and how they decide to utilize that blends of skills and flaws. But if we’re talking about a best-case scenario, I think Kevin Love — not the guy he was pre-Cleveland but better than the guy he’s been in Cleveland — is a fair comparison. Ellenson is a post scorer and, assuming he puts in the work, a big man that can not only spread the floor with his ability to shoot but a guy that can beat a close-out with the bounce. Love doesn’t do that right now.

And, like Love, Ellenson is a terrific rebounder that is never going to be a rim protector, will likely be a below-average defender in the league and can be a downright liability when he’s forced to defend ball-screens or switch onto smaller defenders.

OUTLOOK: Continuing with the Kevin Love theme, I think that Ellenson’s fluidity and perimeter skill-set is going to make him a weapon in the NBA, but so much of that is going to depend on how good he gets shooting the ball from beyond the arc. Love is a career 36.3 percent three-point shooter, making more than two-per game the last three years. Ellenson shot 28.2 percent from three as a freshman.

That matters because he’s never going to be a good defensive player, which means that he’s going to have to be good enough offensively and on the glass to make up for that. Say what you will about Love, but he’s a good enough shooter that he has ‘gravity’; he forces defenses to pay attention to him. He creates space simply by standing at the three-point line.

The other side of this is that becoming a three-point threat will open up the rest of Ellenson’s game. He’s not quick enough to beat people off the dribble when he’s just squaring them up. But when opposing fours and fives are closing out long on him? Then he becomes a real problem to deal with.

And the only way that he remains a major piece on an NBA roster for a long time is if he is a “real problem to deal with” offensively.

Dwight Howard will join Lakers for restart, donate check to social justice cause

Lakers Dwight Howard
Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Leave a comment

“Basketball, or entertainment period, isn’t needed at this moment, and will only be a distraction… I would love nothing more than to win my very first NBA Championship. But the unity of My People would be an even bigger Championship, that’s just too beautiful to pass up. What better time than now for us to be focusing on our families? This is a rare opportunity that, I believe, we as a community should be taking full advantage of. When have we ever had this amount of time to sit and be with our families? This is where our unity starts. At home! With Family!!”

Those are the words of Dwight Howard, who was among the players questioning the NBA’s restart in Orlando.  He was grieving the loss of Melissa Rios, the mother of his 6-year-old son, David, and was looking at his family as the biggest priority in his life. As it should be. Howard also is committed to the Black Lives Matter movement and, as he stated, saw the NBA’s return as a distraction.

In the end, he has decided to play in the NBA restart and donate his checks the rest of this season to charity, something Howard announced on CNN (hat tip Dave McMenamin).

That is about a $700,000 donation by Howard to Breathe Again.

Howard played a central role as a big man off the bench on a Lakers’ team that is the odds-on favorite to win it all. A ring would be the cherry on top of his Hall of Fame career.

Howard wants to be a part of that, but it means sacrificing time with family. He said it was not an easy decision, and he is putting his money where his mouth is donating his earnings to charity.

The thoughtfulness behind those decisions shows the kind of maturity Howard has grown into, even if fans never see it.

Jaylen Brown heads to restart with Boston, plans to use voice for social justice

Jaylen Brown Boston
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Celtics’ Jaylen Brown has been one of the most active NBA players in the Black Lives Matters movement — even driving from Boston to Atlanta to lead a protest.

That’s not changing because he’s going to Orlando for the NBA restart.

Brown admitted he considered not playing in Orlando due to the pandemic, but the opportunity the NBA’s platform provided to speak on social issues was too great to pass up, Brown said in a conference call with reporters Monday, via the Associated Press.

“Once I thought about the opportunity that the organization and the NBA presented to play for something bigger than myself, I was signed up,” he said. “I plan on using my voice while I’m down there. I plan on spreading light on things that are getting dimmed and hopefully the NBA and our organization can understand.”

Brown is not alone in thinking that. Portland’s CJ McCollum is on the executive committee of the National Basketball Players Association as well and said a lot of players see the same opportunity.

“But now [the talk is] more around what impact we can make to support what is going on in the real world, to continue to support Black Lives Matter and the things we’re facing as a society,” McCollum told NBC Sports. “Those are the calls we’re having now. How can we impact? How can we spread awareness on certain things in the world that are going on?…

“The biggest thing is to take advantage of the platform [in Orlando], to coincide with the NBA and figure out productive ways we can continue to spread information, to continue to educate, to continue to put light on things that have often been behind closed doors and never been brought out to the public eye, so I think those are the conversations we’ll continue to have.”

One way players can make a statement is by replacing the name on the back of jerseys with a message pre-approved by the league. Brown, like 76ers forward Mike Scott, is not a fan of how the NBA handled it.

“I think that list is an example of a form of limitations,” Brown said. “I think we should be able to express our struggle just a little bit more…

“The bottom line is there are improvements that need to be made,” Brown said. “The NBA has a great voice, a lot of resources and a lot of influence. We’re appreciative that they’re helping and aiding in a lot of those things that we care about. That’s really important.”

Brown understands the NBA’s voice, and he heads to Orlando planning to use his.

76ers’ Mike Scott on social-justice messages on NBA jerseys: ‘That was terrible. It was a bad list’

Leave a comment

The NBA approved a list of social-justice messages players can wear on their jerseys:

  • Black Lives Matter
  • Say Their Names
  • Vote
  • I Can’t Breathe
  • Justice
  • Peace
  • Equality
  • Freedom
  • Enough
  • Power to the People
  • Justice Now
  • Say Her Name
  • Sí Se Puede (Yes We Can)
  • Liberation
  • See Us
  • Hear Us
  • Respect Us
  • Love Us
  • Listen
  • Listen to Us
  • Stand Up
  • Ally
  • Anti-Racist
  • I Am A Man
  • Speak Up
  • How Many More
  • Group Economics
  • Education Reform
  • Mentor

76ers forward Mike Scott, via Paul Hudrick of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

They gave us some names and phrases to put on the back of jerseys,” Scott said. “That was terrible. It was a bad list, bad choice. They didn’t give players a chance to voice their opinion on it. They just gave us a list to pick from. That was bad. That’s terrible. Just voice your opinion, how you feel.

“I don’t know how you can use your platform. I don’t know. Vote. Of course, vote. See what laws we can change. But I’m all about just doing, instead of just saying or posting or putting something on the back of your jersey. I don’t think that’s going to stop anything. I don’t know how you do it. I don’t know.

Celtics wing Jaylen Brown, via Darren Hartwell of NBC Sports Boston:

“I would like to see — because I think it can still happen — more options available to put on the back of our jerseys,” Brown said Monday in a video conference with reporters. “We understand anything vulgar our league doesn’t necessarily represent, but for histories and causes such as now, I think that that list is an example of a form of limitation. I think we should be able to express our struggle just a little bit more.

” … I was very disappointed in the list that was agreed to. I think things were tried and attempts were made to add to that list, but the NBA agreed that that list was satisfactory. Hopefully we can get some more names on that list.”

“Maybe ‘Break the Cycle,’ ‘Results’ — that’s what everybody is really playing for — ‘Inequality by Design,’ ” Brown said, “things like that I think may have a deeper impact than some of the things that were given to us. I think it was a little bit limiting.”

As far as Scott’s complaint about players not having a voice in the list, the plan was presented as developed in conjunction with the National Basketball Players Association. Perhaps, this is another example of union leadership not being on the same page as its members. But to be fair, it’s difficult to satisfy everyone. Scott and Brown don’t necessarily speak for players en masse.

Of course the NBA – a multi-billion-dollar company – was going to allow only sanitized phrases. The middle has shifted, but not enough for mainstream support for a sharp criticism like Brown’s “Inequality by Design.” (He’s right, though.) The NBA doesn’t want too much controversy.

However, simply by operating, the league gives players platforms and resources .

Nobody should have expected these jersey messages to be the primary means of change. They’re fine and can help draw attention.

But players can do more outside the league’s formal structure, including speaking up in interviews – like Scott and Brown did today.

Pelicans sign Sindarius Thornwell as substitute player. For whom?

Sindarius Thornwell vs. Pelicans
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Three Pelicans tested positive for coronavirus. At least.

Is one of them not playing in the NBA’s resumption at Disney World?

Despite having a full roster, New Orleans is signing Sindarius Thornwell.

Pelicans release:

The New Orleans Pelicans today announced that the team has signed free agent guard Sindarius Thornwell as a substitute player for the remainder of the 2019-20 season.

Thornwell will wear #12 for the Pelicans.

Christian Clark of The Times-Picayune:

At this stage, only players who can’t play due to coronavirus or choose to it out can be replaced. That’s not Darius Miller, who’s still recovering from an Achilles injury.

With Zion Williamson looking fit, the Pelicans could be dangerous. They’re in a tight race to force play-in games. But they don’t have much margin for error in the playoff race.

So, keep an eye on whom Thornwell is replacing.