The Detroit Pistons probably didn't expect Henry Ellenson to be available at their pick at No. 18. Ellenson was largely thought to be a mid- to late-lottery pick. He has the ideal body for a power forward at 6-foot-11 and 240 pounds and in today's NBA can use that size to slide down to center when needed .
1. Ellenson is the new and improved Donatas Motiejunas
Essentially, Ellenson is the new Donatas Motiejunas, who the Pistons originally traded the No. 18 pick for in a trade with the Houston Rockets at the trade deadline. That trade was revoked days later after Motiejunas' physical raised some red flags.
Ellenson can score all over the floor in a variety of ways, just like Motiejunas. What Ellenson has that Motiejunas didn't is rebounding ability, five years of cheap, cost controlled production and a healthy back. What he doesn't have is a 3-point shot.
While the Marquette big man doesn't quite have 3-point range coming out of college, his mechanics and success at the free-throw line suggest he should grow into a shooter with solid perimeter range.
2. The Pistons didn't outsmart themselves
The 2016 NBA Draft was crazy. Several players projected to go in the 30's and 40's went ahead of Ellenson, who was tabbed as a high pick in early draft analyses. The thing is, sometimes the more question marks about a player, the easier it is for fans and teams to talk themselves into a player.
They will latch onto the handful of skills that make them intriguing, look at the pile of things they don't know and assume if those things break right the guy will be a superstar. That's not Ellenson. He was a known product from the Midwest playing in a major conference.
He averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds. There was endless game tape of the highs and lows against quality competition. There were far more answers to questions and so some teams passed on him. But scoring 17 and 10 as a freshman is rare. He was insanely skilled and productive as a freshman.
No, he's not Thon or Georgios or Hernangomez or Guerschon. He's Henry. And that's just fine.
Sometimes the draft is easy like that.
3. Ellenson doesn't really plug any of Detroit's holes ... yet.
The big man out of Marquette is certainly an intriguing developmental prospect for Detroit, but nobody should expect much impact this year. He's got one year of college experience, and while Detroit has a hole at power forward, he doesn't provide the 3-point shooting that Stan Van Gundy wants out of a stretch big man or the defense to handle beefy power forwards that Tobias Harris or Marcus Morris might struggle with.
4. Does this make it more or less likely Anthony Tolliver returns?
Related to the first point, this makes me wonder what happens to Tolliver. I can't imagine Van Gundy not wanting a stretch-four on his squad off the bench. I suppose Marcus Morris could fill that role, sliding down from his small forward position when Tobias Harris hits the bench, but the more I saw of Morris at power forward last year the more I became convinced he's strictly a small forward.
If Detroit decides it wants to move on from Tolliver I'm not sure who they could bring in. Brandon Bass has experience with Van Gundy, but he's more of a mid-range threat and played some bad defense on some bad Lakers teams after being a quality defender at previous stops.
5. Is he SVG's Ryan Anderson or SVG's Marcin Gortat?
When you look at Ellenson you're more likely to think of Anderson, but it's hard to see the future of a 19-year-old kid with all the positives (and negatives) of Ellenson. Could he actually be more similar to Marcin Gortat? This is more of an insta-reaction that I might regret, and I have a lot of studying up to do on Ellenson.
But remember when JJ Reddick was drafted as an offense only player and he didn't see the floor under SVG and then all of the sudden he became dangerous on both ends of the floor? When I watch tape of Ellenson I see a guy with decent enough lateral mobility and agility but he doesn't really know what he's doing. He's a blank slate, he's undisciplined and he does a lot of stupid things.
That doesn't mean he's destined to develop a 3-point shot and stay a terrible defender. Again, he's all of 19. Who knows what the future holds.