When Henry Ellenson was drafted by the Detroit Pistons after his freshman season at Marquette, people knew two things about him: that he was incredibly talented and that he is a long way away from being a finished product.
His potential to impact the game on offense is almost limitless. His 6’11” frame, when paired with range that extends past the three-point line, makes him extremely dangerous. However, his lack of defense and consistency on offense has him far from ready to contribute night in and night out at the NBA level.
What he needs right now is playing time, but that isn't something he will be getting a lot of in his rookie season. With Marcus Morris, Jon Leuer, and potentially Tobias Harris (depending on the lineup) all in front of him, head coach Stan Van Gundy should look to the Grand Rapids Drive to help get Ellenson some much needed game experience to help iron out his game.
During Summer League, Ellenson showed flashes of his potential, but also proved he has a lot to develop on before he’s ready for consistent NBA minutes. In five games played, he averaged a consistent 12.4 points and 7.4 rebounds while shooting a disappointing 31 percent from the floor and and abysmal 23.1 percent from deep. While some of his poor shooting numbers can be attributed to good defense and taking shots late in the shot-clock, the real cause is his poor shot selection.
Through those five games, Ellenson averaged 11.6 shots per contest. Of those 11.6 shots, 5.2 of them were from deep. A lot of rookies struggle with shot selection, it is all apart of the transitional process from college to the pros and is worked out by actually playing game minutes. By letting Ellenson go to the Drive, he can be under the watchful eye of Pistons management, learn how to play the game the way Van Gundy wants him to, and be able to know when and where to let it fly from now that he is in the NBA.
Another thing that Ellenson can work on in Grand Rapids is his work on defense. While at Marquette, Ellenson was famous for all sorts of bad habits on defense. His defensive footwork leaves a lot to be desired as he has a tendency to ball watch, doesn't defend the pick and roll, and is usually out of position. Thankfully, these are all things that can be fixed with hard work, proper coaching, and consistent playing time to feel out the process.
If nothing else, the Pistons should develop him in the D-League for no other reason than convenience as Grand Rapids is a little over two and a half hours away from Detroit. Ellenson could hypothetically be at practice in the morning or afternoon, in Grand Rapids for a game that night, and back at Auburn Hills for practice or a game the next day. It would be almost foolish to have him ride the pine during home games not honing his game, especially when he could be under team supervision shredding the D-League and gaining confidence.
Ellenson is a prospect that has a very high ceiling but a very low floor. If he can get everything to click, he will be special. But if he fails to develop a consistent stroke from deep and continues to play zero defense, there won't be much demand for him. If he can play 15-20 games with the Drive this season, than he will be way ahead of the curve in comparison to if he rode the bench in Detroit all year. Having an affiliate as quality and close as the Grand Rapids Drive only makes this decision easier. If the Pistons want to invest in his future, then he will be in the D-League at some point this season.