(First posted at RealGM)
Ellenson is a hard guy to write about. He’s good. But he also sucks.
His skill-level is quite appealing.
Ellenson has a nice handle for a seven-footer, unable to run offense from the perimeter like Simmons and perfectly able to bring the ball up the court in jogging up the court in a slow break. He can also pass quite well facing the defense from the high post, help facilitating offense from the elbows or making a quick kick-out out of the short roll – assisting on 11% of Marquette’s scores when he was on the floor.
His outside shooting could also be an asset, despite the fact he hit just 28.8% of his 104 three-point shots last season. But his stroke looks pretty good and he converted 42.7% of 218 mid-range jumpers, particularly impressive in the low post; on face-up shots off jab-steps and turnaround-fadeaway jumpers. His release is quick and compact off the catch. He doesn’t get much elevation off the ground but doesn’t need it for a high release that is tough to contest due to his length.
Ellenson is also a volume rebounder thanks to his wide 242-pound frame. He’s attentive to his box out responsibilities and is a tough guy to move off his spot, collecting almost a quarter of opponents’ misses when he has on the floor.
The problem is Ellenson is a fairly poor athlete for NBA standards.
On offense, the threats of his shooting and passing open up some driving lanes for him to attack closeouts but he’s pretty slow off the bounce and doesn’t have any lift to attack the basket. That also makes him restricted scoring out of the pick-and-roll or grabbing offensive rebounds against opponents who can keep him from establishing inside position, with his average seven-foot-two wingspan limiting his ability to rebound outside his position.
On defense, Ellenson has no agility to guard high in the perimeter and is a massive liability against the pick-and-roll, not just picking up smaller players on switches but on standard coverages like hedging and showing hard. Mike Schmitz made a good point on David Locke’s podcast of how Ellenson used to be a heavy person, shed a lot of weight over the last couple of years but still has plodding feet.
That inability to defend in space suggests Ellenson should be played more as a center, dropping back on pick-and-rolls to prioritize rim protection but he’s also subpar as a presence close to the basket, unable to play above the rim as a shot blocking threat coming off the weak-side and lacking toughness to defend the opponents’ most credible post threat.
Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara