The Detroit Pistons had everything they needed after a radical transformation in the offseason. Troy Weaver had four fresh draft picks to add on the development side and four free agent targets to weave into a lineup that was set to feature Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose. But something was still missing, and it was an essential ingredient in the modern NBA — shooting. Enter Wayne Ellington for his second stint with the Pistons with a stint with the New York Knicks in between. Ellington turned out to be an invaluable addition to the Detroit Pistons.
Despite being the 15th person added to a 15-man roster, Ellington ended up starting 31 games for the Pistons and was playing well enough to garner legitimate trade buzz at the deadline as a potential addition to playoff teams looking to stock up on shooters.
That trade never materialized, but Ellington stayed his positive, hard-working self for the Pistons even as the rebuilding team increasingly leaned on young guys to play minutes and the few veterans still remaining began to be stripped away from the team.
Ellington delivered exactly as advertised and hoped for in Detroit — be a high-volume 3-point shooter and steadying veteran presence. His maturity and work ethic served as a model for younger players and his spacing on the floor allowed those same young players a little more space to navigate with the ball in their hands and find it both easier to find an open lane to the hoop or a convenient kick-out option if the basket was cut off.
The 3-point specialist shot 42% from the perimeter on six attempts per game. Ellington is always willing to move to find the open space along the perimeter, and is ready and willing to fire away in transition.
Two buckets from a six 3-pointer game against the Rockets in January highlight how dangerous Wayne is behind the long line. In this clip, Josh Jackson sets a pretty weak screen on Ellington’s man as Wayne looks to go from the corner into an easier passing lane for Derrick Rose. His man fights through the screen, but because Ellington was willing to set up and hoist from three feet behind the long line, he’s able to catch and shoot in rhythm.
Another set of plays from earlier in the same game shows you a new shot Ellington has increasingly relied on, and one that will probably keep him in the league for a few more seasons as he heads into his mid-30s. Ellington is becoming a dangerous off-the-dribble 3-point marksman. He will catch and dribble a few steps over to the side. He uses that movement as part of establishing his rhythm and is able to fire off a quick 3 as soon as his feet are set again.
At this point in his career, Ellington is what he is — a 3-point specialist who isn’t going to give you much beyond shooting. He’s not a ball stopper because he’s either going to take his shot or move it to someone else, but he’s not going to give you anything in the assists, rebounds or steals department.
He’s also not much of a defender, though he puts in as much effort as he can muster on that end of the floor. That means when Ellington’s shots aren’t falling, it is hard to find a reason to keep him on the floor. But as an unrepentant shooter, if he misses his first four 3s, you don’t want to yank him because he is liable to connect on his next six attempts.
Does He Stay or Does He Go
The Pistons are stronger and deeper than they were one year ago along the perimeter, but don’t rule out the possibility that Detroit finds itself in the same position near the beginning of next season. They could easily decide they want one more 3-point threat on the roster, and the comfort level for the organization, the coaching staff and player seems like a quality match. Ellington is likely going to command a veteran minimum contract, and that very well might be with the Pistons.
However, with the emergence of Frank Jackson as “Wayne Ellington but 10 years younger” and perhaps a desire to play on a winning squad, I would say it is more likely than not that Ellington finds himself playing elsewhere in 2021-22. If he is back, though, nothing but good things will come from it.