Are you a fan that still dreams about Kevin Love someday suiting up for the Celtics? The 2016 NBA Draft has a more realistic solution for you: Henry Ellenson might be the next best thing and he's eight years younger without the injury baggage Love has. The 6-foot-10 Marquette freshman has a skill-set reminiscent of Love and should be available in the mid-lottery.
Click below to read my profile of Ellenson's transition excellence. Here's a snippet:
Highlighting Ellenson's excellence
Marquette freshman Henry Ellenson is one of the best big men in the country at completing outlets and could take the NBA by storm as the draft's best outlet passer since Kevin Love.
Ellenson is one of the best freshman rebounders in the country with a 24.4 DREB%. At 6-10, he uses his wide frame to box out consistently, but it’s his nose for the ball that sets him apart. He isn’t overly athletic but he’s fantastic at tracking the trajectory of the ball and fighting relentlessly for it. And when the ball does come his way, he always looks ahead.
Averaging 16.4 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game, Ellenson has great fundamentals for his age and it's easy to see him as a player Brad Stevens would trust early on. He understands positioning and timing, which should aid him in earning early minutes if he falls in the right situation.
Though Ellenson only shoots 28 percent from three, he projects as a quality three-point shooter because of his sound mechanics. He also has a tight handle for his position, making him a threat to drive closeouts with intentions to score or pass. If he sounds a lot like Kelly Olynyk or Jared Sullinger, it's because he is similar.
Ellenson's offensive game actually might overlap with what they bring, making him somewhat redundant. The Celtics don't draft for "need," but there's no guarantee Ellenson ever becomes a better overall player anyway. He's not as great of a shooter as Olynyk, or as great of a rebounder as Sullinger. Though Ellenson really works hard on the boards, Sullinger is a vacuum down low.
Ellenson might become a better defender than both, but he isn't necessarily going to be anything special on that end anyway. Like Olynyk and Sullinger, he'll need to rely on positioning, and likely won't be someone that's a shot blocker despite his wingspan.
And that's the core of the issue with a guy like that in today's NBA. Ellenson doesn't project as anything more, at best, than a positional defender, so it's possible he'll get burned by quicker forwards, and he doesn't quite have the size to battle traditional bigs.
Love is still theoretically a superstar, but all you need to know about how much the NBA has changed is there are legitimate questions about whether Jae Crowder has more value than Love. Versatility on both ends of the floor is gold, especially on defense. And Love doesn't have it. That's one reason why the Cavs would consider trading him. But neither does Ellenson. That's why, as much as I like him as a prospect for his hustle, rebounding, ball handling, and potential shooting, I'm not quite sure he brings the versatility necessary to be a perfect fit for the Celtics.
If Ellenson is the selection using the Nets pick, he could at least someday fill a role similar to Olynyk or Sullinger, or develop into something more. He might fill the void you have in your heart for Love, and he'd come on a much cheaper contract too, without the injury history. But in the modern NBA, I'm not convinced that's the type of player you want compared to some of the talented wings available.
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