With the NBA draft fast approaching, likely lottery pick Henry Ellenson of Marquette University continues to draw the eyes of potential NBA suitors as a stretch 4 or a small-ball center. With so much talk around where Ellenson will end up, here's a look at his skill set and what teams are looking for a player like him.
NBA Draft 2016
Offensive Skill Set
Ellenson brought a polished, refined offensive game to Marquette out of high school and only got better during his freshman year. His greatest strength is his jump shot, especially at mid-range. He has the ability to create his own shot at times off the drive, but still needs to learn to keep his head up when going to the basket. He has an array of low post moves and can both hold his own against bigger competition using finesse moves and overpower smaller competition with his strength.
Being able to work with an NBA strength team will only make him better. He sees the floor well and knows how to move without the ball. He has surprisingly good handles for a big man and routinely went coast-to-coast last year with Marquette, leading the team up the floor. He can hit the three, but only did at around 29% last year, which was concerning as he came into school as a highly touted shooter at the 4-spot. He will definitely need to adjust to the NBA range. He also is not supremely athletic and lacks some speed and agility at times where both would be helpful (going to the rim, pick and roll, to name a few).
Ellenson will be able to produce offense at the pro level. Whether he averages 20 points a night at the next level is still an interesting question, but the offensive skill set is definitely there and paired with the right players he could flourish as a scorer in the NBA.
Defensive Skill Set
Ellenson averaged almost 10 rebounds a game and was a threat to turn defense into offense with both his ball handling and outlet passing skills. He averaged 1.5 blocks per game, which actually went up against Big East opponents, so his shot-blocking skills increased as the year went on. He also managed to average around one steal per game, which is good for a big man. Again, his lack of speed and agility hurts him against faster players, but if he's playing as a small ball center he shouldn't be guarding too many people that can get around him easily. Sometimes he can get lazy on defense, which comes down to work ethic and defensive awareness, and I can see him improving in both aspects.
The biggest red flag is his high personal foul count. He averaged almost three a game in his lone NCAA season. One was usually him picking up an offensive foul by not keeping his head up going to the rim, but his foul count was still high. Against better, quicker, more athletic competition in the NBA, I can see a high foul count for Ellenson in many different matchup scenarios.
Ellenson is first and foremost being drafted as an offensive player, but his defense improved over his year at Marquette and he still has room to grow. He is not a defensive liability, but he is also not a defensive superstar.
Toronto Raptors, Pick No. 9 - Toronto revolves around their All-Star guard combo of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, but have no big man that can effectively hit a three/jump shot. Having someone like Henry who can score inside and outside, stretch the floor to open up lanes for Lowry and DeRozan, and not be a problem defensively. I personally believe this is Henry's best landing spot, as they have had postseason success and he gets to immediately play with superstars so he can learn the professional game and not be thrust into a role where he is the do or die option for his team on day one.
Utah Jazz, Pick No. 12 - Utah has a good lineup of traditional big men, but they don't really have a stretch 4 to complement Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert, and Trey Lyles. Having Henry playing alongside Dante Exum and Gordon Hayward provides another mid-range to perimeter scoring option without sacrificing size and lead to some interesting experimentation with different pick and roll or pick and pop scenarios with Gordon Hayward.
Phoenix Suns, Picks No. 4 and 13 - Phoenix, like Utah, lack a more dynamic big man. They have their center of the future in Alex Len and a mentor in Tyson Chandler, but they don't have a guy with size that can come out past 12 feet and still be a consistent threat to knock down jumpers or wreak havoc going to the rim. Henry fits both of those offensively, and he could learn how to improve defense from Tyson Chandler, who is a prolific defender.