The Detroit Pistons were not expecting Henry Ellenson to be available with the 18th pick in the NBA Draft. Stan Van Gundy even admitted they were so confident he'd be gone that the team didn't bring him in for a workout. I'll be honest, I was so confident he would be gone that I didn't to do much research on him either.
Then teams with multiple picks in an iffy draft and nowhere to trade them started picking foreign players with high upside and the ability to stash them overseas. That meant some highly skilled college players were falling. Detroit became a beneficiary and grabbed Ellenson.
Thankfully, Jack Goods of the Marquette Wire reached out to me on Twitter and offered to handle any questions on Detroit's newest big man. Goods covered Ellenson during his one season at Marquette and had some terrific insight into his strengths and weaknesses.
1. Most people see Ellenson and think "stretch big man," but he seems to have some offensive versatility. Can you talk a little about his offensive game?
1. He has often been described as a stretch-four, and I think that's a fair label. In college, he showed off what I thought was elite mid-range skill. He's a player that can score from anywhere although he didn't shoot as well from three this year as he would have liked.
I think the thing that could set Ellenson apart from many stretch-fours is his ball-handling ability. He really has point-forward qualities. He came up the floor a lot while in high school at Rice Lake and a decent amount at Marquette. That also translated well while moving in the paint, as he was more agile than many big defenders.
His offensive game is clearly the most attractive attribute for scouts. He set the freshman record for scoring at Marquette for a reason.
2. He was majorly productive on a team that struggled somewhat. Do you have any insight on his intangibles -- leadership, work ethic, effort on the floor, etc.
I've heard nothing negative about his personality. Everyone I knew who came in contact with him said he was very nice to them, and he always was when dealing with me. He was definitely a leader on the team, which is always a tough spot to be in as a freshman.
When Marquette had their highest recruit, Markus Howard, in town this year the team had him hang out and spend time around campus with Ellenson, which shows that Marquette trusted him as an ambassador. Howard ended up coming to Marquette as well, so clearly it went well.
3. Fans seem worried about his defense. What insight do you have about his defensive abilities and shortcomings? Is it a lack of athleticism, a lack of awareness or just lack of experience?
Defense is definitely what he needs to work on the most, and I'm guessing that's no surprise to anyone who has read a scouting report on him. I think a lot of it comes down to awareness. He often got burned on pick-and-rolls, which he definitely needs to clean up to be able to play serious minutes at the NBA level.
However, I think playing with someone of the caliber of Andre Drummond will really help him. Marquette had very little size, and center Luke Fischer had a real issue with fouls this year. When he was out Ellenson either had to play center with a very undersized power forward or at the 4 with Matt Heldt, a freshman who often looked over his head. So long story short, Henry didn't get a lot of help.
4. He's not a 3-point shooter by the box score, but after watching him shoot during his freshman season do you feel like that part of his game will come or is he more or a mid-range guy?
He didn't shoot nearly as well from three as I expected coming into the year. 29 percent is definitely not great for a player marketed as a three-point shooter coming out of high school. That being said, his stroke is fine so it's not like he lost all outside shooting ability when he went to college. Every once and a while he would hit a really important three, but since he statistically wasn't shooting very well, he shot a few too many threes for my liking. It sometimes was a detriment to the Marquette offense.
5. What don't people realize about Henry Ellenson that someone that has watched him closely can share with Pistons fans? What are they really getting in Henry Ellenson?
I actually think the scouting report from national media on Ellenson has been pretty spot on. The positives and negatives are pretty much what I saw on display throughout the season.
What people need to know about Ellenson is that he could have gone to a bigger school. We have a great tradition with great former players in the NBA like Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler, Jae Crowder and Wes Matthews, but he had offers from blue-chip programs like Michigan State and Kentucky.
He wanted to be the guy, the one with the team on his shoulders, and he definitely was that at Marquette.
He had a lot of pressure since he was the best recruit the school has landed since Doc Rivers. And even though the team didn't make the tournament again, it definitely wasn't on him. He had one of the best freshman years in 100 years of basketball at Marquette. Even when you didn't notice him, he'd quietly put up 15 points. He came up big in some of the team's biggest games this year, helping the team take down Ben Simmons at LSU, beat in-state rival Wisconsin and upset Butler.
If he can get near his college level at Detroit, he will be well liked. He left a good impression at Marquette, and I know a lot of people in Milwaukee are going to be walking around in Pistons jerseys next year.