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PBT’s 2016 NBA Draft Prospect Preview: Henry Ellenson

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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.

Heat’s Goran Dragic says he’s not going to Slovenia during layoff

Heat guard Goran Dragic
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MIAMI (AP) — Goran Dragic of the Miami Heat said Tuesday that he is prepared to forgo his annual offseason move back to his native Slovenia if that is what the NBA schedule necessitates.

Dragic, his wife and their two children are in Miami and have no plans to leave for Slovenia amid the global coronavirus pandemic. His parents recently left Miami to return home, but the Heat guard says he’s staying.

“Three days ago they flew back home because they had to, the government said that all the Slovenian citizens needed to get back,” Dragic said, referring to his parents, adding that they wore masks and gloves on their not-very-full flight back to Slovenia. “But my situation is different. Here is my home. We have health insurance in America and we have a home to go to, so we’re going to stay here.”

Dragic and his family have gotten a firsthand global view of the pandemic.

He’s in Miami, and so is his uncle — who is staying in the U.S. because he cannot get back to his native Serbia because Dragic said that country has essentially locked its borders over health concerns. Dragic’s brother Zoran, a former Heat guard, was quarantined while playing in Spain, then returned to Slovenia recently and is under quarantine again, unable to leave his hotel room for a couple more weeks.

“It’s a really crazy situation over there,” Dragic said, detailing what his brother went through in Spain — one of the hardest-hit nations with more than 94,000 confirmed cases of the virus and more than 8,000 deaths attributed to the virus, the second-highest total worldwide behind only Italy. Slovenia has confirmed 802 cases through Tuesday, with 15 deaths.

In Miami, though, Dragic is trying to keep some sense of normalcy.

Dragic said the Heat are participating in a daily team workout on Zoom most mornings, those sessions often including strength and conditioning coach Eric Foran and Heat assistant coach Chris Quinn, among others.

“We try to work together, in isolation,” Dragic said.

Dragic has been working out individually as well at his waterfront home, trying to stay fit. He’s hopeful that the season resumes at some point, and said he hopes the league has teams play no more than a handful of games before starting the playoffs.

“I’m running around the house. I’m going to be in good shape,” Dragic said.

Dragic is averaging 16.1 points and 5.1 assists this season for the Heat, coming off the bench in all but one of his 54 games.

Report: NBA, players’ union in talks to withhold some of players’ salaries

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The forced suspension of the NBA’s regular season is hitting the league hard — and it’s about to hit players’ paychecks hard.

The NBA and the players’ union are in negotiations to withhold more of players’ paychecks in an escrow account if the rest of the NBA season is canceled, as is seeming more and more likely. Up to 25 percent of the players’ salaries will be withheld, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The NBA and National Basketball Players Association are discussing scenarios for withholding up to 25 percent of players’ remaining salaries in a league escrow should regular-season games eventually be canceled, sources tell ESPN…

The Collective Bargaining Agreement maintains that players lose approximately 1 percent of salary per canceled game based on a Force Majeure provision, which covers several catastrophic circumstances, including epidemics and pandemics…

Commissioner Adam Silver, NBPA executive director Michele Roberts and a group of league and union lawyers have been discussing a number of ways to prepare financially for how the likely cancelling of scheduled games will impact some percentage of lost salary for players, sources said.

In every NBA check, even in a typical season, 10 percent of a players’ salary is held back in an escrow fund. Then, at the end of the season when the books are balanced, and the players get 50 percent of the basketball related income (BRI). If league income was slightly lower than projected, the players do not get all of their money back from the escrow fund, the league takes whatever portion is needed to get to the CBA’s prescribed 50/50 BRI split (and the rest is returned to the players).

This season, due to the coronavirus possibly canceling more than 20 percent of the season and condensing the playoffs, there is going to be more than a 10 percent shortfall in the projected BRI.

Players will get a full regular paycheck on Wednesday, April 1. If the NBA and players union reach an agreement before April 15, that check could start to see the reductions as money goes to the escrow account.

The vast majority of players have their pay stretched out for the entire year (the first and 15th of every month), but some players take an option to get more of that money up front. Regardless, everyone will pay into the escrow fund.

The NBA has not officially announced the cancelation of regular season games yet, but games will be lost. Warriors coach Steve Kerr said he doesn’t expect the Warriors will play any more games this season. More and more sources think the regular season is lost, but the league is holding out hope.

It’s impossible to calculate how big the revenue hit to the league will be until a plan for the postseason is put together (if one is put together), but it will be massive. Possibly more than a billion dollars if the season and playoffs are canceled. Right now, the league is simply running a lot of scenarios to try and project how to lessen that blow when they do return to action.

Still, the coronavirus suspension is going to hit the players’ pocketbooks. This increased escrow account is just the first wave.


LeBron James, Kevin Durant among handful of players who got this year’s contract money up front

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Years ago, NBA players (like those in other professional sports), got paid every other week during the regular season. They might get a bonus during the playoffs if the team did well, but in the offseason they had no money flowing into their pockets.

Over the past decade that changed. Now the standard contract now calls for players to get paid over 12 months, giving them cash flow all year long.

This also means the vast majority of NBA players have yet to get most of their pay for this year, which will get interesting as the owners and players union start discussing the “Force Majeure” clause in the CBA to take some of the players’ salaries because of canceled games.

Mark Stein of the New York Times talked about it on Twitter.

However, a handful of big-name players got more their money up front — the CBA allows players to get a chunk of their money in advance then get then rest over a 12-check, six-month span. Some of the biggest names in the sport went for that.

In addition to LeBron James, players such as Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Blake Griffin have gotten the majority of their pay already.

NBA owners are scheduled to have a remote meeting soon to discuss next steps. They are talking both about the restart of the season (in whatever form that takes) and about invoking the “Force Majeure” clause. That CBA clause allows teams to reduce players’ salaries in the event of an “act of god” kind of event that cancels games – things like war, natural disaster, and epidemics. Obviously, the epidemic part has come into play and shut down the league.

If the NBA doesn’t play any more regular season games — which reports have said is seeming more likely — teams and players will miss about 25 percent of the season (give or take depending on how many games their team played) and owners would want to recoup some money. Doing some of that through “Force Majeure” is on the table, with the canceled games triggering the clause.

The players union warned its members this could happen. For LeBron, Durant and other players who have gotten most of their money up front it could mean checks next season will be docked to make up the difference.

Damian Lillard opposes idea of later NBA season start running into summer

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At the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference a few weeks back (although it feels like a lifetime ago), Atlanta  CEO Steve Koonin suggested the NBA should permanently shift its schedule to a mid-December start with the Finals running into August. The idea was to stop going head-to-head with the NFL and college football at the start of the season. Then the pushed back playoffs forced by the coronavirus have made that discussion more relevant. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said everything is on the table.

Damian Lillard is not a fan of the idea.

He likes the schedule just the way it is, something he said during a video conference with the media on Tuesday, hat tip to Dwight Jaynes of NBC Sports Portland.

“I just don’t see it. I mean, the season starts when it starts now, then February all-star weekend, getting toward the end of the season in April and then getting into the playoffs. You get that early June Finals and then you get to go off into your summer…

“You get to enjoy real-time summer,” Lillard said. “Our break is into the summer and then you get to come back as summer is leaving. I think that’s been perfect…

“It’s been perfect for us,” Lillard said. “So, for that to change and for things to be pushed back, I’m definitely not a fan of that and I don’t see many guys being a fan of that.”

Lillard is not alone in thinking this way, but Silver is more open to change than most sports commissioners. That said, changes that break with long-standing traditions are hard to make a reality.

There would be a lot of questions around a schedule change. Would the ratings still be as high for a Finals series in the heart of the summer? The NBA season no longer would sync with the NCAA or international leagues’ schedules, leading to questions about the draft and timing for players who want to test the waters. There would need to be reworked television contracts, both regionally and nationally. It could make scheduling a challenge at arenas used to having more concerts and other events in the summer.

Plus, all of this would need to be negotiated with the players union — and Lillard speaks for a lot of players on this issue.

If the NBA could somehow convince players that starting later meant more money in their pocket, those union negotiations would take on a different tone. But would the move increase revenue? That’s not an easy sell.

With this NBA season likely running late, the start of next season could be pushed back, and this theory could get a little bit of a test. Or, the next season could be shortened a little to get the league back on its regular schedule.

Which would make Lillard happy.