By Josh Cohen
July 5, 2017
ORLANDO – Henry Ellenson may be the smoothest, most polished scorer at this year’s Mountain Dew Orlando Pro Summer League. He’s extremely confident, aggressive and highly skilled.
To take his game to the next level and be a major offensive threat in Stan Van Gundy’s system, Ellenson must become a reliable 3-point shooter. Particularly because he isn’t an elite athlete or a premier defender, Ellenson most likely will need to be able to stretch the floor if he hopes to see big minutes with the Detroit Pistons next season.
Wednesday’s showing in Detroit’s 87-82 win over the Charlotte Hornets was a good sign for the 18th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. He erupted for 29 points (12-of-20 from field, 4-of-8 from 3-point range) and grabbed six rebounds.
“The guards were able to find me right away,” Ellenson said. “I was able to get some shots going early. It’s easier to start off a game like that.”
Very even-keeled, Ellenson seems to have the right mentality and poise. While he only shot 32.8 percent from beyond the arc in 21 games in the G-League last season, the 6’11, 245-pound forward never wavered when his shot wasn’t falling. Ellenson averaged 5.5 3-point attempts with the Grand Rapids Drive.
“I’ve been happy with his development,” Van Gundy said. “Obviously, he’s much more comfortable in what’s going on. All in all, I think he’s done a lot better. As I’ve said all along we thought those skills were there, they’ve developed nicely.”
Ellenson buried a crucial baseline jay with just over two minutes remaining after the Hornets trimmed the Pistons’ lead to two. Michael Gbinije spun into a jumper on Detroit’s ensuing possession to extend the advantage to four and Ellenson came through again when he dropped in a floater with 47 seconds remaining to help secure the victory.
His counterpart in Wednesday’s summer league contest, Johnny O’Bryant III, also had a terrific game. Out of action for much of his time with the Hornets last season because of a badly sprained ankle, O’Bryant posted 26 points and four rebounds.
Like Ellenson, O’Bryant has been working on improving as a 3-point shooter. He’s only connected on four threes since his NBA career began in 2014 but he recognizes the importance of extending his range.
“That’s where the NBA is going, the bigs have to be able to shoot the 3-ball so it’s definitely something I want to put in my game,” O’Bryant said.
Rookies Luke Kennard and Dwayne Bacon were both solid once again for their respective teams. They each scored 14 points.
With the win, the Pistons earned a spot in Thursday’s championship game. They will play the only undefeated team so far in the tournament, the Dallas Mavericks.