I never imagined Henry Ellenson would be available when the Pistons' pick came up, #18 in the first round. I'd seen him projected as early as 4th, and rarely as late as 12th. But this was a weird draft. There were four outright WEIRD picks taken in a row - Maker going #10 to Milwaukee, Sabonis (a lesser version of Ellenson, in my opinion) going to OKC via Orlando at #11, and then Taurean Prince to Atlanta via Utah with the 12th pick. Then, Phoenix, picking for Sacramento (who had traded back from #8 with a superior talent in Marquese Chriss available) took Greek center Georgios Papagiannis with the 13th pick. Yeah, I'd never heard of him either, until a couple of days ago.
Anyway, a couple of decent looking foreign players were then taken about 10 picks earlier than I expected, Valentine and Baldwin also, and that left Henry Ellenson, the #10 guy on Stan Van Gundy's board, for the Pistons to take with the 18th pick. I didn't really look at him prior to the draft because I figured he'd be long gone, so let's take a closer look now.
1st rd, 18th pick - PF Henry Ellenson, Marquette
Physical stats: 19 yrs old, 6'10.5", 242#, 7'2" wingspan, 9'0" reach
College stats: 17.0 ppg, 9.7 rebs, 1.8 asts, 1.5 blks, .446/.288/.749 shooting
Ellenson is big and offensively skilled. He's drawn a lot of Kevin Love comps, but Jalen Rose's Troy Murphy comp may have been the most spot on. His college 3P% is a little low for a prototypical stretch 4, but he hits the midrange jumper at a nice rate, and based on his shooting motion, most experts think he should be able to stretch it out to an NBA 3pt range. He's a smart offensive player, and I think he'll make an immediate impact on the Pistons next year. He also rebounds well, improves our size at the 4, and possibly could run some at the backup 5 spot as well.
You can really see the good and the bad in Ellenson in his earlier matchup with #1 pick Ben Simmons. He hit some nice shots and rebounded well, but Ellenson couldn't hang with Simmons on the other end. Now Simmons is a top-level talent, but that's closer to what Ellenson would see on a regular basis in the NBA. Simmons is obviously good enough to start now, Ellenson isn't. But with an improved 3P% and some pushback on D, he'll get there. I like the pick.
The next pick the Pistons had was 19th in the 2nd round, 49th overall. There were several players that slipped into the 2nd round - Patrick McCaw, Deyonta Davis, Demetrius Jackson, and Tyler Ulis - that the Pistons might've gone with if they'd still been around at 49. Kay Felder, a local kid that a lot of people liked, was available when the Pistons came up.
2nd rd, 19th pick (49 overall) - G/F Michael Gbinije, Syracuse
Physical stats: 24 yrs old, 6'7", 205#, 6'7.5" wingspan, 8'5" reach, 37.5 max vert
College stats: 17.5 ppg, 4.1 rebs, 4.3 asts, 2.8 tov, 1.9 stls, .461/.391/.663 shooting
Gbinije is supremely athletic, with superior vertical, agility, and one of the top sprint finishes in the combine. He's 6'7" and can handle the ball, run backup PG, and defend 3 positions. He's pretty old for his draft class at 24 (already older than 5 current Pistons Drummond, Harris, KCP, Hilliard, and Johnson), but I'm not sure that's a bad thing. He also shoots a pretty poor FT% for a guy who knocks down threes at a .391 clip, which is weird. Gbinije transitioned from an off-ball SF to Syracuse's primary ball handler, and was really their main guy. His nickname is "Silent G" (which could REALLY be my nickname, for other reasons), which is pretty cool and gives a clue how to pronounce his last name. He also looks a lot like The Game, which is also pretty cool.
I think a lot of the league is looking at what Golden State has done and saying, "we need passing, length, and defense at every position, and some shooting wouldn't hurt either." Gbinije, if he works out, absolutely fits that mold. He doesn't have Shaun Livingston's crazy wingspan, but he has a better 3pt shot and positional versatility, able to play and guard positions 1-3. I like this pick as well, especially in today's NBA.
Overall I give the Pistons an A for their draft. They didn't succumb to the temptation to trade up, they got a LOT lucky when Ellenson dropped to them, they addressed positional needs AND skill set needs with both picks, and I think they got players who can help them right now, as well as in the future.