NBA Position: PF/C
General Information: 19-year-old freshman, played at Marquette. From Rice Lake, Wisconsin.
Measurables: 6'11.5", 242 lbs. 7'2.25" wingspan.
2015-16 Season Statistics: 17.0 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.8 SPG, 1.5 BPG, 2.4 TOPG (33 games played, 33.5 minutes per contest) - 44.6% FG, 74.9% FT, 28.8% 3P
Ellenson has all the tools to be a new-age stretch four, with a versatile skill set and the size, strength, and mobility to adequately defend both big man positions. He's certainly a project player, and will need to show more commitment to defending consistently, but he's got natural scoring instincts beyond his age.
Ellenson mostly hung outside on offense, but he is a developing post-player who has good body control and a number of moves in the paint. He shows the full package as a scorer, but expectations should be tampered by his inconsistency (44.6% shooting is well below the other projects in his draft range). He's not an explosive player, and will need to develop many more post moves to compensate for playing below-the-rim.
It was exciting to see him knock down 30 threes in his freshman year, but much like Marquese Chriss, the potential doesn't match the resume. Marquette was happy to let him shoot the longball, but that 28.8% mark indicates a developing skill that shouldn't be expected from day one. Marquette heavily utilized him outside the paint, and over 50% of his shots were two-point jumpers, but his 42.7% clip is slightly underwhelming for a project stretch four. There's plenty of room for him to grow into the role—he's only 19, and shows good promise—but his range isn't an NBA-ready weapon yet.
His range (or potential range) is complimented by his ability to put the ball on the floor and attack the basket, although he'll need to be much smarter about utilizing this against NBA length. His size and shooting ability also makes him a prime threat in the pick-and-roll as a big who can actually perform both of those roles. He's a capable passer and showed some nice court vision (11% assist rate and 2.1 per 40 is solid for a freshman big), but he was also playing on a messy, inconsistent offense that may have hampered this development.
Ellenson also has strong physical tools for a player of his size; he's 6'11 in shoes, shows no issues at adding weight (this may become a problem in a few years), has a solid 7'2 wingspan, and is quick and agile enough to play in a decently fast offense. He could shift over and play the five in small ball lineups, stretching the floor even further, which adds another layer of versatility to his offensive game.
The freshman ranks near the top of the class as a rebounder; his 24.2% defensive rebounding rate and 16.5% total rate are both great for a 19-year-old. He shows good instincts on the ball, and is willing to use his size and muscle to battle on the glass. Ellenson won't be beating most NBA power forwards in explosiveness, but he should become a tough, efficient rebounder at the pro level.
Ellenson's defensive intensity didn't match his offensive intensity, and where he showed instincts with the ball beyond his years, these instincts aren't present on defense. I'm not worried about his physical tools on defense—he showed he's fast and lengthy enough to beat defenders on the drive, and he can learn to guard perimeter players like himself. As he becomes smarter and more aware on defense, his size could allow his future team to play small without sacrificing too much size against centers. Regardless of the potential versatility, his defense is the major red flag in his development at this point.
Aside from a lack of defensive intensity, there aren't any effort flags with Ellenson. Ellenson's family has a long history with basketball—if you're interested in a personal piece on the big man, Ricky O'Donnell has one over at the SB Nation hub. Ellenson named Carmelo Anthony as his favorite player to emulate, so it's exceptionally clear that he's putting all his chips on that stretch four bet.
Ellenson had a head-to-head matchup with LSU and likely-top-pick Ben Simmons early in the collegiate season, and Marquette squeaked out a one-point win. Ellenson had 16 points and 11 boards (6-11 shooting) in the win, while Simmons had 22 points, 20 rebounds and seven assists on 6-14 shooting. I recommend watching the DraftExpress matchup video below; it highlights both Ellenson's strengths (He showed off his outside shot and his driving ability, and he was smart enough to force Simmons to shoot the ball) and his weaknesses (Simmons is an athletic freak, and while Ellenson did his best to stay with him, Simmons was able to maneuver around him well).
Fit with Sacramento:
If the Kings organization thinks Ellenson is the BPA at no. 8, there are reasons for optimism; Ellenson is a young, emerging shooter with good scoring abilities and plenty of room to grow in all aspects of the offense. While he's not going to be the fastest big man on the court, he's a fluid athlete for his size and should be able to keep up in transition.
I'd love the long term potential of a Willie Cauley-Stein/Ellenson duo; they'd fit well together, wouldn't crowd the paint, and Cauley-Stein could help cover up Ellenson's defensive flaws. I'm less keen on a DeMarcus Cousins/Ellenson line-up on the defensive end, but they'd provide two big men who can stretch the defenders away from the basket.
As always, check out the DraftExpress breakdowns.