After reportedly agreeing to a free agent contract Trevor Ariza, the Lakers moved fairly quickly to add another former Laker when they agree to terms with shooting guard Wayne Ellington.
If Ariza is the prototypical 3-and-D player, Ellington is much more of a 3-and-more 3’s type of guy. Ellington shot 42.2% on six attempts from behind the arc for the Pistons last season and is a career 38.2% shooter from distance. He’s someone who can get hot from the arc and can hit 3’s in a variety of ways, not just as a standstill guy who will only be able to spot up. Some of you probably remember his early season game vs. the Lakers as an example of how quickly he can get it going and what that looks like:
The thing that stands out to me about those clips is that it features a pet action that will surely come in handy for the Lakers: the guard to big screen that flows into a 3-pointer. In the same way that Ellington set those screens for Blake Griffin and then popped into open space to get off his jumper, I expect him to run similar actions with LeBron and even Westbrook.
That ability to screen and then flare into open space, set your feet, then pivot into squaring your shoulders for shot isn’t easy, but it’s something that Ellington can do pretty well. Add that to the more conventional 3’s he’s sure to get when playing next to any combination of Russ, LeBron, and AD and it’s fair to expect Ellington to feast on some of the highest quality shot attempts he’s had in his career.
Of course, like Ariza, Ellington is only available for for the salary the Lakers will pay him because of the holes and flaws in his game. Ellington is not a good defensive player and will be targeted by teams, particularly in the playoffs. He will compete on that end of the floor, but at only 6’4″ and around 200 pounds, he doesn’t have great size and can be taken advantage of on switches and by bigger wings. Further, against shiftier or explosive ball handlers, he can be beaten at the point of attack in ways that compromise your entire team defense.
He’s also not a ball handler or a shot creator for his teammates, so his offensive utility is pretty much limited to his ability to hit shots. If his shot isn’t falling, he’ll have some gravity to occupy defenders, but, as the saying goes, “it is a make or miss league” and for Ellington to be a positive contributor, he’ll have to hover at around 40% from deep on good volume.
That said, he’s more than capable of doing that. Whether the Lakers will have enough helpful defensive players to hide him or whether he proves more competitive defensively in the right matchups is another story entirely. But, if those things do happen, the Lakers could end up getting tremendous value out of Ellington this season. Time will tell, but I’m fairly excited about getting him in the fold to fill a role as a bench shooter.
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