Name: Henry Ellenson
Measurables (via Draft Express, from the Draft Combine): 6’11.5" in shoes; 6’10" out of shoes; 242 lb.; 7’2.25" wingspan; 9’0" standing reach; 11.2% body fat
* - denotes top 500 national ranking
Strengths: To put it simply, this:
Ellenson’s 6’11", he comes up with a rebound without skying for the ball, his handle in the open floor for a guy that size is ridiculous, and he can finish at the rim with style and agility. What’s not to like?
Now, yes, that’s against a Lithuanian team of questionable depth and talent and assuredly nowhere near NBA abilities, and who knows how much of that is just them giving up on the play. It’s still a 6’11" tall guy who is confident and comfortable enough with his skill and talent to even attempt to do all of that.
In the half court, Ellenson has a multitude of ways to beat you. His agility allows him to go inside and score either going straight at the basket or fading away. He’s a reliable shooter out to 18 feet, both baseline and straight away, and in fact, his elbow jumpers are a thing of beauty. He was able to get those shots over and over and over for Marquette, and they might be easier to get in the NBA with the longer three point distance creating more mid-range space. Ellenson’s ball handling skills are part of the reason why he can get those mid-range jumpers, as most of the guys who have ended up defending him to this point don’t have the foot speed to be able to stay in front of him.
It’s probably not his original idea, but it was The Ringer’s Bill Simmons that introduced me to the idea of one translatable skill when it comes to moving from college to the NBA. If you have at least one skill that you can replicate at the next level, something that’s not powered by your athleticism, then you can latch on as an NBA player. For Ellenson, that’s rebounding. He led Marquette and the Big East in rebounding in his lone collegiate season, averaging 9.7 caroms per game. He also finished top 70 in the country in defensive rebounding rate and top 500 in offensive rebounding rate. The important part to this is that for all of Ellenson’s physicial gifts, his rebounds are not coming because he’s skying over his opponents to haul in the ball. He’s relying on positioning, hustle, and determination to get after rebounds, and that’s something that he’ll be able to repeat in the NBA.
Draft Express Strengths Breakdown Video:
Weaknesses: Ellenson is not, at least at this point, a reliable three point shooter. As you can see from the stats up top there, he shot just 29% from long range this season. That’s well below the 33.3% efficiency break even point for three point shooting, which means that if you read about anyone comparing Ellenson to Dirk Nowitzki without a major caveat, then you need to reconsider taking that person seriously ever again. He also shot a lot of threes, with his 104 attempts finishing as the second highest total on the team.
This lackluster long range shooting isn’t a major development, either, as he didn’t come to Marquette with a reputation as a shooter. It was more of a "hey, he can step out and hit it a little bit" kind of deal, and "a little bit" is definitely the phrase that matches up with 29%. With all of that said, it may be a situation where he’s just not a good shooter when the lights come on. Watch the start of this video of him playing 1-on-1 with former Marquette star and current Chicago Bulls shooting guard Jimmy Butler. Ellenson jumps out to an early lead against Butler because he just keeps banging home three after three after three, albeit using the three point line at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion. He’s clearly comfortable shooting the ball from distance, and he’s clearly capable of making uncontested shots over and over from there, too. He just hasn’t showed the ability to make it on a consistent basis during live competition.
His other major flaw is that he’s not a center. Sure, he’s got post moves, and looks really impressive when scoring with them. They’re finesse and agility type moves, though, and he doesn’t tend to perform well when attempting to use brute strength to acquire position and score. Ellenson has openly admitted that he really didn’t start playing in the post until he was a sophomore in high school, so the question must be asked how much of his flaws as a post player stem from both inexperience and merely being a 19 year old that hasn’t had a chance to completely develop his physical strength. He also struggles with reading double teams coming at him in the post and finding the open man to avoid getting trapped along the baseline with the ball.
People smarter than me about basketball have gone on the record saying that Ellenson is a poor defender, partially (largely?) due to his lack of lateral quickness. I can’t disagree with this, in fact, it wonder how many of Luke Fischer’s plentiful fouls this past season were a result of having to cover for Ellenson’s defensive woes. While I’ll accept this assessment of Ellenson’s ability, I will counter with the fact that he was top 75 in the country in defensive rebounding rate and top 250 in block rate, so he can’t be all bad on that end of the court.
Draft Express Weaknesses Breakdown Video: