Yesterday, we learned that the New Orleans Pelicans might be looking to retain not one but two recent 10-day contracts for next season. Tim Frazier and his incredible performances have spoken for themselves, but James Ennis' contributions have flown a bit under the radar so let's take a closer look.
The Pelicans are putting the finishing touches on one of the most injurious seasons ever traversed by a team in the NBA. Odds are the topic of missed games will start nearly all conversations upon reflection, but if pressed, what do you think would be one of the top responses when asked to mention a positive?
In my opinion, the in-season signings deserve considerable acclaim and should top the list.
Ish Smith came first, and to the initial disappointment of many, was exchanged for two future second round draft picks. Bryce Dejean Jones, who surprised in Summer League and exhibition games, came next. More recently, Frazier is still in the process of capturing new hearts across Cajun Country. Now, it appears we can add a fourth name to the list: James Ennis.
In the span of just five games, Ennis' talents have materialized and look impressive on the cover, perhaps signaling an effective future 3-and-D player. He certainly has the prototypical size of a small forward -- standing 6'7'' with a wingspan of knocking on 7' -- and possesses elite athleticism.
Won the Western State Conference and Southern California Regional championships in the high jump clearing 6-11.
As we all know, physically blessed specimens are a dime a dozen in this league, but Ennis' set of skills might set him apart and merit inclusion on the 2017 roster. Let's start off with the obvious that has been mentioned repeatedly on social media of late.
Currently, James Ennis has made 11 of his 22 three-point attempts in a Pelicans uniform. Anyone need some help with that glorious %?— The Bird Writes (@thebirdwrites) April 7, 2016
The ball has been going down with absurd efficiency from the area Stephen Curry rules supreme. Based in his previous stops, no one should expect for this torrid pace to continue, but there is enough precedence it's not entirely flukish.
Coming out of Long Beach State, Ennis was tagged with the sleeper label for his versatility including an ability to sink the three-point shot. In over 2000 minutes, he sank 35.4% of his 277 attempts spread across two years. At his next stop, half way around the world in Australia, he knocked down 35.5% of his looks. Then, this season for the Iowa Energy of the D-League, he made the long ball at a 32.1% clip.
Nothing to marvel at per se, but I'd argue it's respectable when taken as a collective whole, especially when factoring in the rest of his attributes. As mentioned, it starts and ends with his athleticism. He's an absolute terror in transition, just ask Rasual Butler.
According to the transition data over at NBA.com, Ennis has been the most efficient player in the open floor. The sample size is incredibly small, but the dunk above illustrates the point well: he's a beast, so take charges at your own risk.
In addition, he's always seeking his next opportunity; notice how he's the first one to react to the following turnover. Had the Philadelphia Sixers not stopped the fast break with a foul, Ennis was probably going to finish the play with another hard slam.
His athleticism also comes in handy off of cuts and offensive rebounds. Notice the effort and timing of this putback against the Boston Celtics.
His physical attributes, though, have shown extremely handy on the defensive side of the ball and this effort is the one the Pelicans have been searching for much of the season. For starters, watch how he recovered well to defend Hollis Thompson, a very good perimeter shooter.
Minutes later, Ennis showed defensively enough from the weak side to help Jordan Hamilton who was beat baseline off the dribble. Thompson elected to pull up and shoot an off-balanced midrange jumper, and Ennis, ever on the move, scrambled back into perfect rebounding position.
The following video clip has me salivating more than any of the others. Ish Smith, one of the fastest point guards in the league, is covered by Ennis after a switch defensively. Ish tries to get by him not once, not twice, but three times to no avail! THIS attribute is what most of the NBA is currently searching for: versatile wings to be able to cover three or four positions.
James Ennis has appeared in just 141 minutes with the New Orleans Pelicans, but apparently they've seen enough to express a desire to commit to him in the future. After pursing through his limited appearances, we should all happily be in agreement with this decision.
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