Compared to some of the other projected one-and-done NBA lottery picks, the incoming hype surrounding Marquette freshman Henry Ellenson wasn't particularly loud. A broken hand forced him to miss last year's McDonald's All-American, Jordan Brand Classic and Nike Hoop Summit—three giant platforms and opportunities to raise one's stock.
I'd argue he's still flying under the radar for a potential top-five selection. Ellenson, one of three freshmen in the country averaging a double-double, has showcased NBA-friendly versatility fueled by an inside-out offensive game.
He's been a rock for Marquette all year long, having finished with double figures in scoring during 24 of the team's first 25 games. Scouts are certainly tuned in.
|Henry Ellenson 2015-16 Numbers|
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Ellenson's 16.6 points per game highlight a polished, balanced offensive attack, even though he hasn't been super efficient. He's shooting just 48.7 percent inside the arc and 29.3 percent behind it.
However, he makes an impressive 42.4 percent of his two-point jumpers, per Hoop-Math.com and 74.3 percent of his free throws. And despite the shaky percentage from deep, he's still hit 23 three-pointers.
Otherwise, Ellenson has been an active rebounder, particularly under the defensive boards (23.4 percent defensive rebounding percentage, per Sports-Reference.com).
At 6'10", 245 pounds with a 7'1 ½" wingspan, Ellenson has solid power forward measurements. He's more mobile and coordinated than he is explosive.
His ball skills are also excellent, from his tight handle to his shot-creating and shot-making ability.
It's not unusual to see him take a defensive rebound coast to coast and weave through traffic on the way.
And with the game slowed down, he's shown he can score playing back-to-the-basket basketball in the post or facing up from short corners, where he's comfortable putting the ball on the floor or rising up for an isolation jumper.
Ellenson's shooting touch factors heavily into the intrigue over his potential. He's a big who can work the pick-and-pop game or stretch the floor from behind the arc.
Outside of scoring, Ellenson has good hands, a nose for the ball and the willingness to throw his body around down low. And he's flashed strong vision out of double-teams or quick one-to-two-dribble drive-and-kicks.
Ellenson doesn't jump out of the gym and can struggle finishing against length at the rim. Scouts may question how strong of a paint scorer he can be. Though he possesses promising shooting potential, it could be a while before he's comfortable from the NBA three-point line.
Still, the biggest concern is Ellenson's defense. He doesn't project as a rim protector and isn't particularly quick laterally around the perimeter. Small-ball 4s could give him problems, while bigger ones such as Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge and Kristaps Porzingis may have too much size and athleticism.
Ellenson shares the same strengths and weaknesses as Kevin Love, whose identity revolves around stretchiness, occasional post scoring and rebounding. Neither forward plays above the rim or brings much to the table defensively. But like Love, Ellenson can knock down jumpers, convert with his back to the hoop and clean the glass.
Love only made two threes as a rookie and shot 33 percent form deep his second year before emerging as a knockdown shooter. Ellenson would have to make similar strides around the perimeter to ultimately match Love's success as a pro.
Ellenson's measurements are nearly identical to Morris', a power forward with 6'10", 245-pound size. Neither player offers flashy athleticism, either.
Like Morris, Ellenson could make a living in the pick-and-pop game. He might not become a featured go-to scorer, but his ability to knock down jumpers off the catch, as well as opportunistically score around the key, should translate in a similar fashion.
If Ellenson maxes out his potential, the team that drafts him finds a long-term starting power forward. His skill level is exceptionally high for a 19-year-old with NBA measurements and adequate athleticism.
Improving his body, conditioning and shooting range could ultimately take his game and career to All-Star heights.
It's possible he struggles against NBA rim protection without offering any of his own. Still, a worst-case scenario for Ellenson sees him in an offensive-minded bench role.
Even if he can't dominate in any one area, which is possible, his ability to make mid-range jumpers and rebound should still translate and hold some NBA value.
While scouts put varying degrees of importance on a player's performance in the NCAA tournament, with the eyes of the nation on March Madness, playing well or poorly in the most critical games of the season can certainly sway one's opinions. Some players, like the Connecticut Huskies' Shabazz Napier, have used the tournament as a springboard to rise up draft boards in recent years.
Marquette seems like a long shot to receive a bid to this year's NCAA tournament. It shouldn't matter too much for Ellenson, who isn't exactly surrounded by significant talent.
"It's not easy when you're relying on freshmen in this conference to be 'the guy' or 'the guys,'" coach Steve Wojciechowski told the Associated Press' Genaro C. Armas (via NCAA.com).
He's already had big games in wins over Ben Simmons and LSU, Kris Dunn and Providence (twice) and Wisconsin on the road. Failing to receive a Big Dance ticket shouldn't have any major impact on his stock.
Ellenson's consistency and overall polish help create the perception he's one of the safer bets. And that should ultimately go a long way during a draft that lacks can't-miss talent outside the top two.
Look for Ellenson to go anywhere in the No. 4-to-late-lottery range. The Phoenix Suns, Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets could each be in the market for upgrades or changes at the 4 spot.