Ending up the dog days of summer, DBB is rolling out a series of players that our writers are optimistic about this coming season - even perhaps irrationally optimistic. We kick it off with Henry Ellenson.
When the Pistons selected Henry Ellenson with the 18th pick in the 2016 NBA draft, I was already irrationally excited about him. He was projected as a lottery pick and fell back in the draft and was a big guy with a high amount of offensive skill. I have remained irrationally excited about him since then even though Stan Van Gundy appeared not to be.
Everything Henry Ellenson has done in his career so far has given no reason to be irrationally excited about him. He has only played 475 minutes in his career, mostly in garbage time. He is only shooting 36 percent from the field for his career and 32 percent from three. He struggled in summer league as a third year player when he should have been dominating.
So you may be asking, “How can you be irrationally excited about Henry Ellenson? He is clearly a bust.”
My irrationality about Henry Ellenson comes from the fact that he is a part of the skinny white dudes that enjoy buzz cuts club, a club in which I have been a part of for years (just kidding...maybe). But in all seriousness, it is the mystery about what he can do that makes me irrationally excited about Henry Ellenson this season.
As mentioned above, he has only played 475 minutes in his career and hasn’t gotten many chances to showcase what he can do in meaningful minutes. He started off last season in the rotation and had a couple of solid games. He had 13 points on 5-10 shooting on opening night and then had 14 points and five rebounds against the Timberwolves a few nights later. After a three-game West Coast road trip that included wins over the Clippers and Warriors, but a blowout loss to the Lakers, Ellenson was benched and would not see any meaningful minutes until the Pistons were out of the playoff race. It was because of his defense, but Ellenson has never been highly regarded on that end.
In those two games mentioned above, Ellenson showed that he could put the ball on the floor pretty well for a man of his size and he also showed that he could knock down the three ball, which is going to be a key for him getting minutes. If Jon Leuer continues on his path of being scared to shoot threes, Ellenson’s quick trigger could be a welcome addition to the bench unit.
Yes, I know a two game sample size is how fans become irrational about guys like Henry Ellenson, but let me have this. The skills that Ellenson showed when he did get to play are also attributes that many people talked about when the Pistons drafted him in 2016. He cannot play any defense, but he has a solid offensive skillset for somebody who is 6’10.
Many people were discouraged by how Ellenson played during the summer league. He shot the ball poorly and shot the ball too much. However, he did showcase his ability to put the ball on the floor and wasn’t afraid to put up shots. The whole goal of Summer League is to experiment with things and take risks in a low-pressure environment. Ellenson changed up his shooting release, which could have played a role in his poor shooting. If he made his shots, the narrative on Ellenson from Summer League would be way different.
Ellenson gets a fresh start under a coach in Dwane Casey who wants to try and develop the young guys. With Jon Leuer now recovering from yet another surgery and Anthony Tolliver off the team, Henry Ellenson finally has an opportunity to earn a spot in the rotation and play through a few of the growing pains. It is make-or-break time for Ellenson, and if he can make his shots, the skillset that he has shown in small doses offensively is something that could help the Pistons this season.
That is why I am irrationally excited about Henry Ellenson this season.
PS: We need Ellenson to get some more playing time so we can get more photos of him that are hopefully a bit more flattering.