In the build-up to the current season, we did a series breaking down the top 50 players. From the 50th ranked Jordan Sibert to our 2x best G League player Johnathan Motley, the series gave in-depth breakdowns on all of those prospects. Within the top twenty on that list, we took a look at NBA veteran Tyler Ennis, who was about to start the year with the Raptors 905 after suffering a gruesome leg injury in Europe during the prior season. In that segment, the analysis was centered around his rough start to his pro career and getting an opportunity to rehabilitate with a fantastic G League organization.
More than two months after that piece, Ennis has had an opportunity to play 24 games with the 905. From a fundamental statistical standpoint, the veteran guard has been fantastic since the start of the season. In November, he averaged 19 points, 8.7 assists, 5.1bel rebounds, and 30 steals on 46% from the field and 30% from beyond the arc on 3.9 attempts per game. Those numbers placed him in the top 5 in both assists and steals per game.
That tremendous play took a step back in December, where he only put up 15.3 points, 6.4 assists, 6.2 rebounds, and a steal on 43% from the field and 32% from 3 on 3.1 attempts per game. His per-game decline was likely due to the inclusion of NBA veteran wing Justin Anderson, who immediately became the team’s leading scorer after arriving on November 23rd.
At the beginning of the month, Anderson and Paul Watson both signed 10-day deals with the Nets and Hawks, respectively. Their departures would seem to put Ennis in the position reclaim his spot as the 905’s leading scorer. However, it would only be until after those players returned where we’d see the veteran guard’s production erupt.
Over the last week, the 905 faced off against the Capital City Go-Go before going to Canton to play back-to-back games against the Charge. During those three games, Ennis has averaged 29.3 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds, and a steal on 56% from the field and 43% from beyond the arc on 4.7 attempts per game. That great run was headlined in a January 17th game against the Charge, where the 6’3 guard put up a career-high 35 points, 7 assists, and 6 rebounds on 16-21 from the field and 3-5 from beyond the arc in the team’s victory.
While he stood as an efficient perimeter weapon during that run, he wouldn’t have been able to produce at that rate without being able to score at the rim. Success in this area starts at the perimeter, where our subject used slick handles and change of speed moves to maneuver past that initial defender.
Due to the spacing of the 905’s offense, Ennis usually had a clear lane to the rim after claiming victory against his perimeter defender. The play below is a fantastic example of that, as the 6’3 guard uses a quick first step to get a step on Matt Mooney and then finish at the rim with his right hand.
Although the guard was able to use handles and great acceleration to create separation, the 183-pound guard has also been able to finish through contact, whether it’s his left or right hand. These factors have led to him shooting 60% from within the restricted area in January on 47 total attempts.
While there are still eleven days until we reach February, Ennis becoming better at finishing around the rim should help his chances of returning to the NBA on a 10-day contract. That obviously shouldn’t be considered a controversial statement as a G Leaguer progressing in any area helps their chances of reaching the next level.
However, the case is different for Ennis as he’s just 15 months removed from suffering a gruesome leg injury while playing with Fenerbahce. If the 6’3 guard can show that his leg has improved to the point where he’s accelerating past the defenders and consistently finish at the rim, it would show NBA teams that his body is nearing 100%.
Is he expected to put up 30 or more points every time he plays with the 905? Of course not. However, he is on the right track athletically when it comes to exploding on the perimeter and finishing at the paint. If he can keep this up for an extended period, it will only be a matter of time before Tyler Ennis returns to the NBA for the first time since the 2017-18 season.