It’s the Henry Ellenson era for the Raptors 905, and for better or worse, he is just as advertised.
As the Raptors 905 pivot into the Henry Ellenson era, the team dynamics seems to be shifting as well. Coach Jama Mahlalela appears to have gone away from the small two-point guard lineup in Tyler Ennis and Jawun Evans, opting for a more balanced lineup by inserting Michael Bethea Jr at the shooting guard spot.
Devin Robinson is no longer required to play the middle on a full-time basis with Ellenson in the fold, but even when they’re together, it looks like Robinson is the team’s best defender around the basket. Meanwhile, the floor seems to be opening up more for the guards with the consistent perimeter shooting that Ellenson brings, to go along with Paul Watson’s stroke, and Bethea’s newfound shooting; however, the guards (Ennis, Evans, and Morgan) are yet to truly take advantage of it.
The injury bug won’t leave the Raptors 905 alone either, as they played the past three games without Oshae Brissett due to an undisclosed knee injury. He looks to be OK now, as he made an appearance with the big club against the Atlanta Hawks in garbage time last night. Meanwhile, Dewan Hernandez still has not made an appearance for the Raptors 905 this calendar year, but can always be seen celebrating on the sideline.
We also won’t be going through the rest of the affiliates that don’t have anything noteworthy during the period covered by this piece. Still, we will provide a small update if necessary.
For example, we’ve got Sagaba Konate, who only played four minutes in the past three games (DNP in the last two), and Matt Morgan is back to his cold streak, collecting only three points in the previous three games (including 0-for-10 from the perimeter).
It appears that Jawun Evans has lost his starting spot to Michael Bethea Jr, as he has come off the bench for the last three games. While he had an excellent contribution off the bench on his first game back as a backup (8p/7a/5r/2s), he’s followed that up with a couple of duds, going for a total of six points, on 1-for-6 shooting.
Evans’ minutes have dwindled as well, playing no more than 18 minutes for the past two games. He has been decent outside of scoring, providing decent playmaking for the bench crew, and doing a lot of intangible things that you don’t normally see on the boxscore.
I thought Tyler Ennis was back on track a few weeks ago. But, his (shooting) performance dipped again, which is surprising, as spacing should be better now that he’s running with Ellenson, Watson, and Bethea, all of whom either have a reputation as a marksman or have been killing it from the perimeter lately. Given all that spacing and what Ennis can do, there should be no reason for him to shoot at under 36%.
The issue remains the same: once he gets in the paint, there’s a good chance that he’ll miss his shot or even get blocked if he fails to create a good angle, or was slow enough in doing so, allowing the help defenders to make it difficult for him.
Negativity aside, I thought Ennis was arguably the best player on their win against their Memphis Hustle, as his fingerprint was everywhere. He may not necessarily shoot the lights out, but he does a lot of things that impact the game.
Ennis is really good at continuously prodding in the paint, collapsing the defense, and finding the crack, creating opportunities for his teammates — and sometimes, for himself. He also had a decent perimeter shooting during this stretch, going for 3-8 in three games. Sometimes, I wish that he doesn’t turn down those kick-out passes that he receives and just let it fly.
Devin Robinson seems to be settling down as the team’s third, and sometimes fourth option on the offence. It’s a drastic change compared to the start of the season, where he was leading the team in scoring, and his shot attempts were at the peak. I’m not sure if it’s because of his minutes restriction, but it looks like he hasn’t been featured on the offence enough lately.
Sure, Robinson will catch his lobs whenever they decide to call his number. Actually, it’s easy to estimate where his shots are coming from: He will catch a lob 2-3 times, get a putback 2-3 times, go coast-to-coast once, get a kick-out perimeter shot once, and a shot to breakdown his defender.
Aside from that, Robinson hasn’t really shown anything new lately, and it’s a bit disappointing for people that see him as a potential call-up. The saving grace? He’s still putting up almost 15 points in 61% FG shooting.
Another prospect who’s struggling recently is Paul Watson. Like Ennis, his FG% is down to 36% during this stretch, and looking closer, most of his misses are in the paint.
As I have mentioned before, Watson seems to be trying to do so much more since he was signed by the Raptors as a two-way contract player. In the past, he would mostly spot-up around the perimeter and drive to the basket occasionally.
Recently, Watson seems to be “labbing” his drive to the basket and passing game, leading to mixed results. His forays to the basket looked really good if he can get some separation, but in traffic, his lack of counter moves rears its ugly head.
An excellent development for Watson is that he seems to see the floor well when he drives to the basket, and he is starting to find his teammates, creating excellent shot opportunities for them. It’s still a work in progress, but it looks like he’s leaning more and more on what he can do and how to do things better.
Since Watson played PF in college, he is very active around the basket, fighting for rebounds and contesting shots around the basket.
Lastly, Watson’s three-point shooting funk appears to be over, as he shot 42.9% (averaging 3.7 attempts per game) from the perimeter during this period.
My buddy was at Henry Ellenson’s 905 debut last week, and he messaged me “Dude, this guy plays like Bargnani.” I have seen quite a few of Ellenson’s G-League games, but full disclosure, I have not seen much of his NBA minutes.
The Bargnani comparison got me thinking, and after reflecting on it, I don’t think it’s a fair comparison. For one, Ellenson’s shooting is better. Man can really shoot. Bargnani’s streaky as a shooter, whereas Ellenson, from the games that I have seen, seems to be consistent. The clincher? I’ve seen Ellenson fight harder for rebounds on both ends, I know it’s a small sample size, but that’s how it looks right now. Also, it got me thinking, what kind of numbers would Bargnani drop in the G League? Going back to Ellenson’s comparison — maybe Ryan Anderson? Most likely UniKornet (Luke Kornet).
Focusing on Ellenson, here are some observations:
- Finish with either hand in the paint;
- Pivot with either foot;
- Can shoot everywhere (has a good midrange shot);
- Utilize the dribble to set up his three-point shot;
- His perimeter shot is fast enough, and he shoots over people for the most part because of his height;
- Handle the ball and go coast-to-coast;Good rim-runner/trailer;
- Decent back-to-the-basket game — and can playmake off it; and
- Excellent PnR/PnP roll/pop man.
- Doesn’t offer much defence on the post;
- Wings will easily blow him by;
- Sags the PnR like JV (is he concerned about the “blow by”?);
- Doesn’t seem to have a good help “D” instinct;
- Slow at rotating on defence;
- Easily loses his man on screen actions;
- Gets lost at switches on defence; and
- Can get boxed out easily.
In three games, Ellenson’s addition hasn’t really moved the line for the Raptors 905 on most of the key defensive stats like OPP FG%, DEF RTG, and even basic stats such as Blocks and Rebounds. His impact is felt more on the perimeter shooting, where the team is shooting 42.6% behind the arc, compred to 37.6% prior to that.
Ellenson’s shooting and offensive package are very intriguing, but he needs a lot of work on the defensive end, as I outlined above. I believe some of the things that I mentioned as “cons” are fixable, especially going to a team where the parent club relishes on being an outstanding defensive team. However, he seems to be lacking the defensive instincts that you need to succeed in the NBA. I hope I’m wrong.