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Henry Ellenson- 6’10” Power Forward/Center, Marquette University, 19 Years Old
Henry Ellenson finished his first year in college on somewhat of a low point. His Marquette Golden Eagles failed to make the NCAA Tournament and were eliminated in the second round of the Big East Tournament. With a conference record of just 8-10, placing them 7th in the conference, Marquette struggled all season. Ellenson did not, averageing 17 points, 9.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists per contest while playing an average of 33 minutes a night. The young man was dominant, and showed his array of skills night in and night out. Because of his outstanding freshman season, Ellenson has been ranked as the 9th best prospect of the 2016 class per DraftExpress, and it should come as no surprise.
The first thing that jumps out at you with Ellenson is his body. At 6”10, 245 lbs with a 7”2 wingspan, the kid has an NBA body already at 19 years old. He is strong with wide shoulders and seems to have committed to improving his body having shed 20 lbs over the course of his freshman season. With such an impressive size and frame, Ellenson is also a very smooth athlete, and he uses his strong base and wide shoulders to feast on the glass. He has excellent box-out technique and puts his body on an opponent early, sometimes before the shot even goes up. As a result he collected over 24.2% of all defensive rebounds. That’s an incredible number, for reference Brice Johnson (widely considered the best rebounder in college) collected 24.4% of all defensive rebounds. His offensive rebounding numbers are less impressive at only 7.8%, but he spent most of his time above the free throw line extended so the numbers are slightly skewed. He is the perfect big man for the modern NBA, long, athletic and with great hands, he also brings a very refined skill set. He has the ability to grab a defensive rebound and push the pace, dibbling up the court like a guard, pulling up for jumpers, finding open shooters and can go either way to finish in the paint. In fact he accounted for 40% of Marquette’s transition possessions as the ball handler, and was very good at it registering 1.17 points per possession. A capable post game, he is still developing moves and counters down low but his ability to use either hand comfortably and his great size make him very promising as a back to the basket guy.
Perhaps his best NBA skill is his shooting stroke. While he only shot 28% from distance, his mechanics are solid and smooth. His shot preparation is solid, however his release is slow, no doubt a key factor as to why his percentage is so low. Ellenson did shoot 75% from the line, making nearly 6 trips to the charity stripe a game. He shows great potential as a pick and pop big, fading to behind the three and attacking closeouts he should be a nightmare for defences.
This list is fairly short and comes down to one thing. Defence. Ellenson is an atrocious defender at this point in his career, neither being adept at contesting shots at the rim nor quick enough to contain penetration. Despite his size and strength he is also very poor defending the post, going for ball fakes and leaving his feet all too easily. There is a silver lining. A reason he does not alter shots at the rim is because he rarely made the proper rotation. This is promising because it does not mean he is physically unable to do so, just that as a teenager he may not have grasped the proper defensive concepts at Marquette. Many big men have this problem at a young age, as their defensive responsibilities are great, sometimes their minds simply cannot catch up. The situation is similar when he defends the low block. If Ellenson would be more patient and mature he would have much greater success at staying in front of his man and walling them from the rim using his great length. When trying to stop penetration, Ellenson is often hunched and not in a proper stance, slowing his feet and making him off balance. If the team who drafts him can correct this he may be slightly more reliable defending the perimeter.
While a very smooth athlete, Ellenson is not explosive and needs a head of steam to rise up with great athletes. He compensates for that lack of explosiveness with great touch and strength, but the fact that he lacks the ability to consistently rise up above the defence and dunk the ball through traffic could hinder him.
Finally his shot. As mentioned Ellenson has a great stroke and good mechanics, but his release is very slow and the footwork he utilizes is not optimal to counteracting that. He uses the 1-2 technique consistently, meaning that when catching the ball he plants his left foot, then his right, before exploding off the ground. While fundamentally sound, Ellenson should be hoping into his shot, landing on both feet and exploding. This sublte change in footwork would quicken his release dramatically. When he misses it is because his shot is flat, meaning he is either rushed or does not get enough lift on his jumper (again he is smooth but not explosive), so changing into a hop shooter would help in this regard too, as he would be able to be more balanced and explosive that way.
Many NBA teams are looking for a playmaking big who can shoot the ball, handle in transition and pass, and Ellenson fits the bill nicely. It is unlikely that Ellenson will ever be a great defender such as Draymond Green, but many of his defensive issues can be remedied relatively easily. He only turned 19 in January and is still extremely young, so it’s not too late for him to improve. As such, coupled with his considerably impressive offensive arsenal, Ellenson should go in the 6-10 range of the lottery, where teams such as New Orleans or Toronto are looking to add some frontcourt talent alongside either Anthony Davis or Jonas Valanciunas.
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