Frank Mason III and Svi Mykhailiuk weren’t the only former Kansas players hoping to impress NBA decision-makers in Chicago this week.
Although their draft days came and went without the results for which they hoped, former KU forwards Perry Ellis and Cliff Alexander continued pursuing their professional objectives the past couple of days at the 2017 NBA Development League Elite Mini Camp.
After going un-drafted in 2016, Sunflower State native Ellis relocated to North Carolina, where he played in 50 games for the D-League’s Greensboro Swarm. The 6-foot-7 forward averaged 9.7 points and 4.7 rebounds in 22.4 minutes a game. He shot 45.1% from the floor and hit 41 of 109 3-pointers (37.6%), while garnering enough interest with his offensive game to nab an invite to the minor league’s offseason showcase.
The D-League camp setup mirrored that of the draft combine, with body measurements, athletic tests and scrimmages. The 23-year-old Ellis measured 6-8 in shoes, at 221.4 pounds, with an 8-7.5 reach and 6-10.5 wingspan. The former KU standout displayed a 31.5-inch no-step vertical and 36-inch maximum vertical.
Mike Schmitz, who covered the D-League elite event for DraftExpress.com, reported Ellis’ measurements have been in that range since he was a 16-year-old prospect in Wichita.
“With that said, Ellis was excellent on the floor all camp long, scoring at least 17 points in all four games (20 and 25, respectively, Tuesday) on efficient shooting,” Schmitz wrote. “His footwork, ability to create with spin moves and straight-line drives from the perimeter, touch around the rim and improved 3-point shooting were evident in Chicago.”
Overall, Schmitz assessed Ellis helped his NBA prospects at the camp after a “fairly average rookie year” and compared him to Detroit’s Tobias Harris, as an undersized 4-man who can score.
In Ellis’ first scrimmage, he led his team with 18 points, shot 8-for-11 and made one of two 3-pointers. He was one of two players on the team without a turnover.
During his next outing, Ellis went 2-for-4 on 3-pointers and 6-for-12 overall, while putting up 17 points and five boards (three offensive).
As referenced at DraftExpress, Ellis really took of on Day 2, when he first connected on nine of 15 shots and four of six 3-pointers en route to 25 points — the most by any player in any of the eight games — and four rebounds.
Ellis closed out the scrimmage portion of the D-League camp once again leading his group in scoring, with 20 points, on 7-of-10 shooting, while collecting just one rebound.
Un-drafted in 2015, Alexander, still just 21 years old, played for both Erie and Long Island in the D-League over the past several months. Between his two stops, he played in 40 games, averaging 15.8 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.0 blocks, while converting 51.7% of his shot attempts.
In his hometown of Chicago this week, Alexander measured 6-8.5 in shoes, with a 9-1 reach and 7-3.5 wingspan, and weighed 247.6 pounds. His no-step vertical leap reached 30.5 inches and he had a max vert of 37 inches.
Schmitz reported Alexander, whose 9-1 reach ranked second among the prospects, didn’t play in Tuesday scrimmages due to an injury.
“Measurements have never been Alexander's problem,” Schmitz wrote at DraftExpress, “… he'll have to play with a consistent motor and strong enough mentality to work his way back into the NBA. He posted the second-worst lane agility score at the camp, which doesn't bode well for his switch-ability at the NBA level, but isn't a deal-breaker, either.”
Alexander, who teamed with Ellis, shot 6-for-9 from the floor on his way to 13 points, and added a team-best eight rebounds in his first scrimmage appearance.
The big man was even more efficient scoring inside in his next showing, going 7-for-8, with 16 points and five rebounds.
Both Ellis and Alexander, like the 36 other players attending the mini camp, are unrestricted free agents, able to sign with any NBA team interested in them this offseason. As their former KU teammate Wayne Selden Jr. already has proven, playing in the D-League isn’t a death sentence for one’s NBA ambitions.
After spending a few weeks in early July playing for the Dallas Mavericks’ NBA Summer League team, former Kansas basketball star Perry Ellis describes how his first few months as a professional have been different than his college experience.
“It’s different, you know,” Ellis says. “Everybody’s fighting for a job. When I got the opportunity, I tried to make the most of it when I was out there…
“It’s just all a process,” Ellis adds. “I just want to keep working and just keep fighting and try to get a place.”
Undrafted out of KU, Ellis, doesn’t have an NBA contract. Nor has he officially received an invitation to be a part of an organization’s training camp.
According to the four-year Kansas standout, he will weigh his options in the weeks ahead. Ellis says one possible path could be playing overseas.
Four years worth of work with Kansas basketball wasn’t enough to get Perry Ellis drafted into the NBA. Now the 22-year-old forward has a few days in Las Vegas to secure a spot in the league the hard way.
A free agent playing for the Mavericks’ summer league entry beginning Saturday night, Ellis will try to convince the same coaches and executives who passed on him on draft night that he actually belongs on a regular-season roster.
Right now, the people Ellis needs to impress the most are Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle and owner Mark Cuban. The Mavs’ Vegas team will focus on the development of second-year wing Justin Anderson and second-round draft pick A.J. Hammons, a 7-foot center out of Purdue. However, while speaking to media members earlier this week, Cuban made it sound as if the other summertime Mavericks won’t be an afterthought for the organization.
“We’ve got a bunch of roster spots,” Cuban said Wednesday, in a video posted on the Mavs’ website. “We put our money where our mouth is in cap room, so there’s a lot of spots for guys to make, and they know if they do what we expect them to do, probably three guys, maybe four, from this group are gonna make the team.”
Cuban made that statement as Ellis and other Dallas hopefuls worked behind him. It has to be a strange dynamic for all the players except Anderson and Hammons. The rest are not only trying to play well, but also, in a sense, beat out the guys next to them for a coveted roster spot or training camp invite.
So who is Ellis playing with/competing against? Here’s a look at the rest of the Mavericks’ Vegas lineup, excluding the aforementioned Anderson and Hammons:
Chane Behanan, 6-6 forward from Louisville
Vander Blue, 6-4 guard from Marquette, who has played in 5 NBA games (none since the 2014-15 season)
Kyle Collinsworth, 6-6 guard from BYU
Dorian Finney-Smith, 6-8 forward from Florida
Jonathan Gibson, 6-2 guard from New Mexico
Isaiah Miles, 6-7 forward from St. Joseph’s
McKenzie Moore, 6-6 guard from UTEP
Giovan Oniangue, 6-6 forward from Congo
Satnam Singh, 7-2 center from India (Mavs’ Round 2 pick in 2015)
Jameel Warney, 6-8 forward from Stony Brook
Dallas hasn’t retained undrafted rookies from its summer teams of late, but if what Cuban said is true, this year could be different.
Ellis, a 6-foot-8 All-American who averaged 17 points and shot 53.2% from the field in his senior season at Kansas, surely understands the scope of what he could do for his professional career in the days ahed.
“You know, I’m just going to come out here and play hard,” Ellis told the Mavs’ website. “It’s a great opportunity for me. You know, it’s an honor to be here, and I just want to go out here and just play my game and play with a high energy.”
It sounds as if Dallas expects Ellis to fit in nicely with this makeshift unit that spent the past few days practicing together. The Mavericks’ summer league head coach, Jamahl Mosely, hailed the Jayhawk’s college résumé as a strength that should help Ellis and the Vegas version of the Mavs.
“He’s played a great amount of basketball,” Mosley said on the team’s website. “I mean, he played four years in college, and he’s very experienced. He knows how to play the game, so I think that’s going to be a big key for us. He knows how to play, he’s in the right position, and he makes the simple and easy play.”
Regardless of what transpires on the floor in Vegas, the Mavs likely won’t need any of these free agents to play critical roles in their regular-season rotation. But Cuban appears more inclined to give one or more of them a roster spot than he has in the past.
“We want to have a good crew of young guns that we develop,” the Dallas owner said.
If Ellis fits in as seamlessly as Mosley suggested and goes on scoring tears like he did at KU, the Wichita native just might land a spot in the NBA next season after all. And Ellis knows how significant this business trip to Las Vegas will be for his future. His first game is Saturday night against Miami (9 p.m., NBA TV).
In typical Perry Ellis fashion, he said his main focus for his summer league experience will be to play well and play hard.
“We’ll go from there,” he added, “and see what happens.”
When the 2016 NBA Draft came and went without Kansas forward Perry Ellis getting selected in the two-round, 60-pick extravaganza, there was no need for the 6-foot-8 prospect to panic.
A rookie free agent, Ellis knew he would soon be weighing his options as his agent tracked down possible contract offers or opportunities to play in the NBA Summer League. Sure enough, Dallas added the Wichita native to its summer roster less than 24 hours after the conclusion of the draft.
A summer position, of course, doesn’t mean Ellis will play for the Mavericks during the 2016-17 season. It’s more like an internship. It’s simply a step in the right direction as the 22-year-old, who averaged 17.0 points and 5.8 rebounds in his final season with KU, chases after his professional dream.
Ellis’ next few weeks playing for Dallas will determine what comes next, whether that turns out to be an invite to training camp, a guaranteed contract or playing professional basketball outside of the NBA.
So as we try and figure out, before the summer league even begins, just how likely Ellis is to stay with the Mavs and help out owner Mark Cuban and legendary forward Dirk Nowitzki, let us check out previous Dallas summer rosters to try and get a feel for how the organization utilizes those players following their July auditions.
Upon scouring the Mavericks’ teams from the previous five summer leagues, players in Ellis’ situation haven’t stuck around. The Dallas players who have turned offseason playing time in Las Vegas into actual regular-season minutes the following season have been draft picks or young guys in the earliest stages of their career who already had played for the Mavs.
Plus, the undrafted rookie free agents Dallas brought in between 2010 and 2015 (summer league was canceled in 2011 due to an anticipated lockout) never played a single minute for the organization during the ensuing season.
|Mavericks Summer League players
who played for Dallas following season
|Mavericks Summer League players
who had just gone undrafted
(or drafted in Round 2)
and didn't make the team
|2010||- Rodrigue Beaubois, 2nd-year guard
- Dominique Jones, 1st-round pick, South Florida
- Ian Mahinmi, 3rd-year center
|- Mouhammad Faye, Southern Methodist
- Jeremy Lin, Harvard
- Omar Samhan, Saint Mary's
- Moussa Seck, Senegal
- DeShawn Sims, Michigan
- Eric Tramiel, North Texas
|2012||- Jae Crowder, 2nd-round pick, Marquette
- Bernard James, 2nd-round pick, Florida State
- Jared Cunningham, 1st-round pick, Oregon State
(played 8 games)
- Justin Dentmon, undrafted in 2009, Washington
(played in 2 games)
- Dominique Jones, 3rd-year guard
|- Drew Gordon, New Mexico
- Tu Holloway, Xavier
- David Jelinek, Spain
- Keith Wright, Harvard
|2013||- Jae Crowder, 2nd-year forward
- Bernard James, 2nd-year center
- Shane Larkin, 1st-round pick, Miami (FL)
- Ricky Ledo, 2nd-round pick, Providence
|- Alexandre Paranhos, Brazil
- Dewayne Dedmon, USC
- Jud Dillard, Tennessee Tech
- D.J. Stephens, Memphis
- Christian Watford, Indiana
- Ricky Ledo, 2nd-year guard
(played 5 games)
|- C.J. Fair, Syracuse
- Javon McCrea, Buffalo
- Yuki Togashi, Japan
- Axel Toupane, France
|2015||- Justin Anderson, 1st-round pick, Virginia
- Dwight Powell, 2nd-year big man
|- Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga
- 2nd-round pick Satnam Singh, India
Using recent history as an indicator, it doesn’t appear Ellis has much of a shot at becoming a full fledged member of the Mavericks. However, each player’s situation is unique and Ellis has some factors working in his favor.
For one thing, Ellis is a consensus All-American. That doesn’t mean an NBA team will just hand him a contract. But, given his pedigree and talent, he should enter this trial with confidence. Ellis is more than capable of producing in summer league games and reminding Dallas that he is a different player than most undrafted free agents the team has tried out in the past.
Also, this year the Mavericks only made one draft pick, taking Purdue center A.J. Hammons 46th overall, in the second round. The organization could take a different approach to rookie summer players now, because it wasn’t able to utilize the draft as well this time around. If the Mavs were bringing in two or three draft picks, it would be inherently more difficult to be swayed by a young free agent. But with fewer roster spots slotted to go to draftees, you could see Dallas taking a longer look at Ellis and Florida’s Dorian Finney-Smith, who is in the same boat.
While Ellis spends the next several weeks putting in the work required to make an NBA roster, the Mavericks’ success in free agency could determine how likely they are to sign a rookie to an inexpensive deal. At this point, the only core players Dallas has under contract are Wesley Matthews, J.J. Barea, Devin Harris and Justin Anderson. That means Cuban has loads of room to spend, spend and spend some more in free agency. Every summer Dallas goes after the biggest names available, and if Cuban can land Hassan Whiteside and/or Mike Conley and he wants to bring back Dallas free agents Nowitzki (obviously) and Chandler Parsons, while also adding a few less expensive NBA veterans, there will only be so much money left under the cap to fill out the roster. The more the Mavs spend, the more attractive it becomes to sign a young bench player on a cheap contract.
On top of all that, Dallas isn’t the only NBA team that will be watching Ellis. Scouts, coaches and general managers from all 30 teams attend summer league games. If Ellis plays well and the Mavericks still don’t want to keep him around, another franchise can swoop in and sign him instead.
Case in point: the Mavericks summer squad in 2010 featured a little known guard out of Harvard named Jeremy Lin. Lin never played for Dallas. In fact, he only played 29 games for Golden State the following season. But the next year, Lin became a sensation in New York and has had no trouble finding work in the NBA since.
Ellis’ journey may begin with the Mavericks, but there’s no telling where it will go from here.
— PODCAST: What’s next for KU’s 2016 NBA Draft class?
According to the experts, four-year Kansas standout Perry Ellis won’t hear his name called at the 2016 NBA Draft.
Maybe I’m crazy, but I’m not buying it.
Ellis has spent most of the past couple of months proving his worth at workouts in front of coaches, executives and scouts, in NBA cities all over the country.
Now, Ellis isn’t unique in that sense. Plenty of college players and international prospects have done the same since the NBA Draft Combine in early May. But when it comes down to it, and some general manager and coach who want to keep their jobs are making a late second-round pick Thursday night, who do you think they would rather add to their stable of talent:
- Someone who is taller and/or maybe more athletic than Ellis but unproven?
- Or someone who scored 1,798 points at a major Division I program and will be a model pupil and citizen?
Not every team drafts players late in the second round with the intent of signing them and bringing them to training camp. But there are some organizations that need to fill out their roster via the draft or want effective players on cheap contracts. And I’d be willing to bet one such team will gladly add KU’s standout forward before the evening’s festivities conclude in Brooklyn.
Assuming none of the numerous teams which worked out Ellis during the past several weeks shocks everybody watching and selects him ahead of schedule, let’s assume he’ll be one of the final players drafted in 2016.
Here’s a look at the teams that own the final handful of spots:
No 55, Brooklyn
No. 56, Denver
No. 57, Memphis
No. 58, Boston
No. 59, Sacramento
No. 60, Utah
Odds are the names next to one or a few of those slots will change before the end of draft night. Front offices tend to play hot potato with second-round picks late in the process and some could even get moved more than once.
For sanity’s sake, let’s assume each of those teams holds on to its late pick and examine how Ellis would fit in on each roster.
BROOKLYN, 55th pick — Boy, this squad needs all the help it can get. If the Nets can find someone better than Ellis at this spot, good for them. If not, they’d be crazy to pass on the 6-foot-8 forward, whose smooth jump shot at times went underutilized at KU.
The best players in Brooklyn uniforms are center Brook Lopez and power forward Thaddeus Young. Returning at small forward, the Nets have Bojan Bogdanovic and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
Even if Brooklyn is enamored with those four, they’ll need some frontcourt assistance off the bench. Ellis, depending on how his team wants to deploy him, could step in at power forward or small forward depending on matchups.
Playing for the Nets might not be as enjoyable in terms of wins and losses, but that actually could turn out to be the best spot for Ellis to play the most minutes and prove he belongs in the league.
DENVER, 56th pick — As mentioned in an examination of where Cheick Diallo could fit in at the next level, the Nuggets have a pretty loaded frontcourt for a struggling Western Conference team.
With Kenneth Faried, Jusuf Nurkic, Nikola Jokic, Danilo Galinari and Wilson Chandler, a rookie forward (whether picked in the lottery or late in the second round) would have trouble cracking this rotation.
Then again, maybe former Kansas forward Darrell Arthur doesn’t return in free agency, and Ellis slides in as his replacement. You never know. But it seems Ellis’ role would be minimal next season if he did end up in the Mile-High City.
MEMPHIS, 57th pick — The Grizzlies are another team that probably doesn’t have much need for Ellis, with interior players Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, Brandan Wright and JaMychal Green under contract, as well as veteran small forward Vince Carter.
But if Memphis likes Ellis and sees him as someone who could learn for a year, then become a replacement for one of the team’s aging forwards or someone who leaves next summer in free agency, the Kansas forward could work out longterm with the Grizzlies. It just seems unlikely he would play much next season in this scenario.
BOSTON, 58th pick — The Celtics own eight picks entering draft day, and reportedly are in active discussions with a number of teams in search of executing a trade or two (or three or four or more).
So no one knows exactly how Boston’s roster will look by the time training camp opens in the fall.
However, the Celtics have seemed to prefer power forwards and centers capable of stretching the floor and giving the offense space to operate. So, in that sense, Ellis would be a justifiable option as a smaller 4 who comes in off the bench to exploit specific matchups, as guided by coach Brad Stevens.
SACRAMENTO, 59th pick — Unsuccessful and, really, dysfunctional as this team has been the past several seasons, the Kings actually have a lot of options at the forward spots, to play alongside their ultra-talented, mega-grumpy big man, DeMarcus Cousins.
Rudy Gay, Marco Belinelli and Omi Casspi are under contract, and it appears Sacramento might be interested in playing big man Willie Cauley-Stein with Cousins, too.
Ultimately, Ellis (or fill in the name of any rookie here) would probably prefer to play elsewhere. But if he did end up in Sacramento, he’s too good of a person not to make the best of it and probably would play his way into the lineup one way or another.
UTAH, 60th pick — The Jazz are one of the more sound and complete teams not operating on the national radar. When it comes down to it, it’s just hard to make the playoffs out West.
As Utah has made significant strides the past couple of seasons, it has done so with solid players who — for whatever reason — get overlooked. Sounds a lot like Ellis entering the draft, doesn’t it?
From that perspective, Ellis would fit in perfectly in Salt Lake City. But is there a place for him in the rotation?
The Jazz have small forwards Gordon Hayward and Joe Ingles and power forwards Derrick Favors and Trey Lyles coming back. Meanwhile, backup power forward Trevor Booker is an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Should Utah fear losing Booker in July, Ellis could be a viable replacement, and a steal at the end of the 2016 draft.
WILD CARD, another team trades for a late pick and selects Ellis — This actually would have to be the best storyline for the 22-year-old forward.
Regardless of what franchise it turned out to be, you would think the coaches and decision-makers like him enough to make the move, and would have a plan to fit Ellis into their system.
In a perfect world, a standout at a prominent college basketball program would love to transition to the NBA with a playoff team and keep that winning feeling rolling.
For plenty of rookies entering the league, though, such a dream scenario simply isn’t possible. If you’re a top pick, the odds are stacked against you, because a different set of odds are stacked in favor of the losing-est franchises.
Maybe former Kansas forward Perry Ellis will be one of the lucky souls who avoids the mediocrity to downright awfulness of playing for a struggling organization.
As of this week, DraftExpress.com doesn’t project Ellis to be drafted at all. So there is at least one positive to not being considered a lottery pick. Should that projection prove true and 60 selections go by without Ellis hearing his name called, he could sign as a free agent with any number of teams. He’d actually have some options.
In the past week, the 6-foot-8 Wichita native has attended pre-draft workouts with Boston, which tied for the third-best record in the Eastern Conference this past season, and Toronto, which won 56 games and reached the conference finals.
Speaking with reporters after his workout with the Raptors, Ellis described what intrigued him about the possibility of getting drafted into a winning organization such as Toronto.
“I felt like they had a great season. Great team. I love the way they play as a team together,” Ellis said, “and I mean it would just be an honor to get anywhere.”
Ellis, like many young players chasing their dream, sincerely might not care which team takes him (or signs him) as long as he has a spot in the NBA. But considering the man played for a KU program that went 116-30 (.795 winning percentage) over the past four seasons, you know the competitor in him would prefer joining the ranks of a successful franchise.
Already, Ellis has worked out for six different teams — “I’ve still got like five more to go,” he revealed. But he isn’t about to lose any steam now, with his future as a professional at stake. Ellis said he recovers from his sessions and travels by getting in a cold tub whenever possible.
According to the 22-year-old, the intensity of his Toronto workout ranked pretty high, as he played with and against guards and bigs.
“It was just quick and precise,” Ellis said, “just getting to it and doing everything at 100 percent, and then going to the next thing.”
One question often surrounding Ellis’ potential at the next level involves which position he would play. He doesn’t really look or perform like a traditional power forward or small forward. As far as he is concerned, though, he is capable of playing the 3 or 4.
“Just whatever a team may need,” Ellis responded, when asked to identify his ideal position. “I can kind of mold myself into it. I feel I can do a lot of different things, so that’s kind of what I’m thinking.”
As Ellis bounces around from city to city on his job interview tour, he hopes to prove himself as a high-character player who will compete “as hard as he can” on each possession, and do a lot of things on the court.
His college coach, Bill Self, said he spoke with Ellis, Wayne Selden Jr. and Cheick Diallo early this week to catch up on their pre-draft progress.
“Perry says everything’s going good,” Self shared. “Of course, you know guys all think they’re doing well. If you’re a baseball guy and strike out three times in a game, you ask him how he played, ‘Hey, I had a great game.’ So that’s how guys always are.”
“I do think Brannen (Greene) and Cheick and Perry and Wayne have all had good tryouts for the most part,” Self added. “I’ve got word back from several teams that they like all of them.”
Whatever happens at the NBA Draft on June 23, in Brooklyn, N.Y., Ellis will join some team as early as this summer on the momentum of a successful college career, which should be an attractive selling point for his future employer. You know what kind of person and offensive player you’re getting with Ellis.
“Playing four years at Kansas,” he said, “I gained so much confidence, learned so much as a player under Coach Self, so I feel like it benefited me a lot.”
Toronto seems like a nice potential fit for Ellis. The Raptors don’t currently own a second-round pick in this year’s draft, but those tend to be easily acquired on draft night, should they choose to snag Ellis late in the game.
The Raptors, for all their success this year, could always use some more scoring. Once you get past guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, and some points inside from Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto doesn’t have many easy ways to get points.
One could envision Ellis coming in off the bench for some scoring punch on that roster. Even if he isn’t a true 4 or 3, you know he is quick enough to get by larger defenders and post up smaller guys when mismatches occur.
And wouldn’t a carved-out scoring role for a contender be a lot more fun than getting more shots for a bad team? We’ll see if Ellis turns out so lucky.
In just more than two weeks, Kansas basketball players Cheick Diallo, Wayne Selden Jr., Perry Ellis and Brannen Greene will all have much better ideas about what comes next in their respective basketball careers.
On June 23, the night of the 2016 NBA Draft, each will find out which organization thinks he can contribute at the next level — or, in the cases of Ellis and Greene, whether a team wants to use a pick on him at all.
Based on the number of Jayhawks on the board and the vast range of where they’re projected to be taken, it seems as if there is a good chance at least one of them could end up with Boston.
The Celtics have the No. 3 overall pick in the draft, and certainly won’t take anyone from KU at that slot. But the franchise also owns the 16th and 23rd picks in the first round, as well as the following second-round picks: 31st, 35th, 45th, 51st and 58th.
Boston might end up trading away some — or, who knows, maybe all — of those picks. But if the storied franchise hangs on to those choices, one would have to assume the names and games of various Kansas players will come up in the Celtics’ draft war room throughout the night, with as many as seven opportunities to select one of them.
In DraftExpress.com’s latest predictions, Diallo comes off the board at No. 23, to Boston.
Selden, meanwhile, is projected to go 47th — right in the range of the Celtics’ mid-to-late second-round picks.
While Ellis isn’t listed at all, it is easy to envision some team snagging him in the final 10 picks or so, and Boston owns the third-to-last choice in the draft.
In fact, Ellis worked out for the team on Monday.
At this point, it seems unlikely Greene will hear his name called on draft night. But the Celtics are in the market for 3-point shooting after finishing 28th in the league in long-distance accuracy (33.5%) in 2015-16 while attempting 26.1 3-pointers a game (11th most). So a summer league deal for Greene wouldn’t appear to be out of the question.
If Diallo, Selden or Ellis ends up in green, It wouldn’t be the first time Boston looked to KU for some help in the draft. Paul Pierce, of course, became a franchise great after the Celtics took him 10th overall in 1998.
Nearly two decades earlier, Boston selected Jo Jo White at No. 9, in 1969.
But not every KU-Boston connection has been Hall of Fame worthy. When boston.com put together a gallery of “Biggest draft busts in Celtics history” a pair of former Kansas players made the list.
In 1976, Boston selected Norm Cook 16th overall. As described in the boston.com feature, Cook “accumulated just 138 minutes on the floor as a rookie before the Celtics declined to pick up his second-year option.”
In 2008, the Celtics used the 30th overall pick on a wing out of New Mexico who began his career at KU: J.R. Giddens. “Despite the low expectations that come with being the last pick of the first round (30th overall), Giddens still disappointed to the tune of just 28 points in 27 games spanning one full season and part of the next.”
Boston hasn’t selected a player who suited up exclusively for Kansas since Pierce.
Courtesy of basketball-reference.com, here is a list of every KU player drafted by the Celtics:
Gil Reich, Round 11 (pick not listed) — 1953
Maury King, Round 6, Pick 48 — 1957
Jo Jo White, Round 1, Pick 9 — 1969
Dave Robisch, Round 3, Pick 44 — 1971
Roger Morningstar, Round 8, Pick 144 — 1975
Norm Cook, Round 1, Pick 16 — 1976
Tony Guy, Round 2, Pick 46 — 1982
Paul Pierce, Round 1, Pick 10 — 1998
Will 2016 be the year the Celtics add another Jayhawk? We’ll find out soon.
If the NBA Draft happened today, odds are four-year Kansas forward Perry Ellis would last deep into the second round — or perhaps not be selected at all.
A consensus All-American in his senior season with the Jayhawks, all Ellis did was average 16.9 points and 5.8 rebounds, shoot 53.1% from the floor, make 28 of 64 3-pointers (43.8%) and visit the free-throw line 4.7 times a game, where he connected on 78.5% of his tries.
As reliable a scorer as the Big 12 has seen the past handful of years, Ellis, according to sports-reference.com, ranks No. 1 in the conference since 2009-10 in career offensive rating (120.30), even beating out Naismith Award winner Buddy Hield of Oklahoma (115.39).
Yet, when you look at projections for the 2016 NBA Draft, such as the current mock at DraftExpress.com, Hield’s name appears in the lottery and Ellis’ doesn’t show up until near the end of the second round. DraftExpress lists Ellis 59th, the next-to-last pick in the entire draft. NBADraft.net’s predictions have Ellis going 56th.
Now, there is no denying that Hield and other projected lottery picks look like more sure fits in the NBA than Ellis. But could there possibly be 50-plus prospects in this draft better than him?
The good news for the soft-spoken, hard-working forward from KU is the draft isn’t until the end of June. Ellis will have plenty of opportunities in the weeks ahead to work out for various franchises, in front of coaches and decision-makers, and show them exactly what type of player and person he can be for their organization.
At 6-foot-8, one perceived knock on Ellis is that he’s a tweener — not big enough to play power forward, but not exactly a small forward, either. However, Ellis might be entering the NBA at the exact right time for that not to matter. More and more teams are showing their preferences for playing smaller lineups, putting a stretch-4 at power forward, someone who can hit outside shots and provide better offensive spacing.
There isn’t an NBA coach or general manager who would look at Ellis and say, “There’s our new starting 4-man.” But there are so many teams in need of production off the bench, it’s hard to imagine that many organizations passing up on Ellis, who can smoothly knock down jumpers (Bill Self just didn’t often need him to or ask him to), or use his quickness facing up to get inside for a high-percentage attempt.
Maybe the draft will play out that way the current predictions indicate, and Ellis will hear the names of 50-some players called before his. Or maybe the right organization will see Ellis’ potential to contribute off the bench and decide to take a proven basketball commodity over a gamble with intriguing measurements.
Either way, we’ll continue to track the draft stock of Ellis and other Jayhawks in the weeks ahead, here at KUsports.com.
Missing high-percentage shots will cost you in college basketball, and perhaps no team understands that more than Bill Self’s Kansas Jayhawks.
While KU (15-3 overall, 4-2 Big 12) hasn’t lost an overwhelming amount of games, unsuccessful shots inside have stood out as one of the bigger issues when the Jayhawks have come up short, as was the case Tuesday night at Oklahoma State.
The website hoop-math.com tracks, among other things, the success of college hoops players and teams on shot attempts around the rim. On the season, KU has taken 39.7% of its shots at the rim and converted 60.5% of the time.
However, in their 3 losses, the Jayhawks — ranked No. 3 in the nation (for now) in the AP Top 25 — have shot between 10% to 20% worse than their season average on point-blank attempts.
FG% AT RIM
|VS MICHIGAN ST||13||20||39.4%|
|AT WEST VIRGINIA||6||9||40%|
|AT OKLAHOMA ST.||11||11||50%|
|ALL OTHER GAMES
— COMBINED (WINS)
(15.7 a game)
(8.9 a game)
Looking first at KU’s most recent loss (and second in three games), the Jayhawks made 11 of 22 shots at the rim in Stillwater. A lack of easy scores in the second half, along with some other issues, killed the Jayhawks’ chances of surviving Gallagher-Iba Arena. They shot 3-for-8 on layup attempts in the final 20 minutes, as OSU ran away.
Here are KU’s finishers and non-finishers vs. the Cowboys:
- Carlton Bragg Jr. 3 for 3
- Wayne Selden Jr. 2 for 3
- Landen Lucas 2 for 3
- Cheick Diallo 1 for 2
- Devonté Graham 1 for 2
- Frank Mason III 1 for 3
- Perry Ellis 1 for 4
- Svi Mykhailiuk 0 for 2
At West Virginia a week earlier, Kansas had far less success in both getting inside to take shots and making layups. The Jayhawks, who turned the ball over 22 times, shot 6-for-15 at the rim against the Mountaineers:
- Ellis 5 for 7
- Mason 1 for 4
- Bragg 0 for 1
- Mykhailiuk 0 for 1
- Graham 0 for 2
The Jayhawks’ finishing issues first plagued them back in November, when they lost to Michigan State, in Chicago. Kansas made 13 layups/dunks in that one, but missed a whopping 20 shots around the rim.
The Spartans are the best rim-protection team Kansas has faced this season. Sparty’s opponents have only made 48.9% of their tries at the rim.
To jog your memory, here’s how the Jayhawks fared inside in that one:
- Ellis 6 of 11
- Mason 4 of 9
- Mykhailiuk 1 of 1
- Traylor 1 of 1
- Lucas 1 of 4
- Graham 0 of 3
- Selden 0 of 4
At this point, it shouldn’t really surprise you to learn that KU also struggled to finish shots inside at San Diego State: 8 of 24 in a 70-57 win. Generally, it’s more difficult for Kansas to get foul calls and finish inside away from Allen Fieldhouse.
Given all those missed bunnies in the past two losses — both on the road — does that kill momentum and make it that much harder to win on another team’s home court?
“Yeah, I think so,” Self said. “We missed some against Oklahoma State. That's not the reason why we lost, but we did miss some.”
Of course, in most cases, a laundry list of issues contribute to the kind of double-digit defeats Kansas has suffered the past couple of weeks.
For example, Self pointed out KU shot “horribly” at the free-throw line at both WVU (13 of 21) and OSU (13 of 25).
“It’s deflating when you're behind six or eight points and you go to the line and come up empty,” Self said of the Jayhawks’ inability to cut into the Cowboys’ lead Tuesday night.
When looking at KU’s losses, the Jayhawks’ defense around the rim shouldn’t be ignored, either. Whether Kansas got beat off the dribble, played poor help defense or failed to secure a defensive rebound, the Cowboys, Mountaineers and Spartans all had their chances for easy baskets inside.
Oklahoma State scored on 55% of its shots at the rim — a tad below its 56.4% mark for the season. West Virginia converted on 56.5% of its attempts inside — below its 62.5% success rate. MSU only converted on 53.3% vs. Kansas in the early-season matchup, but has finished much better most of the year (62.9%).
AROUND THE RIM
FG% AT RIM
In each of its 3 losses, Kansas got out-played inside, with its opponents doing a better job of finishing at the rim — even though OSU made the same amount of point-blank shots as KU, the Cowboys didn’t blow as many.
A lot of factors play into missed shots inside. Sometimes those attempts can be more difficult than anywhere else on the floor. If interior defenders are physical, have solid footwork, get their long arms in the sight line of a potential scorer and get another defender sliding over to throw an offensive player off, the degree of difficulty grows. An agitated potential scorer might rush his shot or try to do too much on his way to the rim.
At the other extreme, some players don’t get nearly as much attention and have easier paths to the rim.
Here are the shots at the rim stats for each of the Jayhawks, from most layups/dunks attempted to least:
- Perry Ellis: 58 of 103 (56.3%)
- Frank Mason III: 35 of 78 (44.9%)
- Wayne Selden Jr. 35 of 53 (66%)
- Devonté Graham: 21 of 41 (51.2%)
- Landen Lucas: 26 of 39 (66.7%)
- Carlton Bragg Jr.: 27 of 36 (75%)
- Hunter Mickelson: 15 of 22 (68.2%)
- Svi Mykhailiuk: 14 of 21 (66.7%)
- Cheick Diallo: 13 of 18 (72.2%)
- Jamari Traylor: 12 of 17 (70.6%)
- Brannen Greene: 5 of 7 (71.4%)
- Lagerald Vick: 4 of 4 (100%)
- Clay Young: 1 of 1 (100%)
Selden and Bragg stand out as KU’s best finishers on the season. Selden’s finishing percentage is the highest among Kansas starters, and nearly 10% better than Ellis’ 56.3%. Bragg, at 75%, has the best mark of anyone in the rotation, and he’s only averaged 11.2 minutes a game so far.
The deeper into the season Bragg gets, the less anxious he looks when catching the ball inside. The 6-foot-9 freshman might be KU’s answer to more efficient paint scoring in the months ahead, especially if he’s on the floor with Ellis, who will continue to draw the attention of opposing defenses.
The importance of finishing isn’t lost on Self — whether that be inside, at the foul line or on open 3-pointers out of an offensive set.
“And the team that makes the shots, you know, people talk about that: Which team has the advantage in the NCAA Tournament? The team that makes shots. That's kind of how it works. The team that gets hot and makes shots,” the coach said.
“We've got to get better at that,” Self added, noting better ball movement would help facilitate that, too.
Basketball purists watching Kansas the past couple of games most likely noticed the Jayhawks missing out on easy points in their previous two outings.
KU shot 70 percent or better at the free-throw line in its first four games of the season, but the Jayhawks’ numbers took a nose dive in the Maui Invitational championship game against Vanderbilt. Kansas won its third game in three nights despite making just 12 of 22 at the charity stripe (54.5%).
But then the bottom fell out Tuesday night at Allen Field House, against Loyola Maryland, when the Jayhawks (5-1) connected on just 12 of 26 freebies.
The back-to-back poor outings have dropped KU’s free-throw percentage through six games to 69.3%. Not terrible, but not exactly ideal, either.
A little slump? Or a trend in the wrong direction? We’ll have to wait and find out. Free-throw shooting will at the very least be an interesting sub-plot in the coming weeks, as KU heads into Big 12 play in January.
As of Thursday, Kansas ranked 160th in the nation in free-throw percentage — basically middle of the pack, among 346 Division I programs. For a point of reference, national leader St. Bonaventure is hitting 84.4%.
We’re dealing with some small-to-very-small sample sizes, but seven of KU’s top 12 players currently are shooting below 70 percent at the foul line:
- Perry Ellis: 22-for-32, 68.8%
- Wayne Selden Jr.: 15-for-23, 65.2%
- Landen Lucas: 9-for-13, 69.2%
- Svi Mykhailiuk: 4-for-6, 66.7%
- Carlton Bragg: 2-for-5, 40%
- Cheick Diallo: 1-for-4, 25%
- Lagerald Vick: 1-for-4, 25%
Of those, Ellis and Selden are the most troubling, because they will continue to be the Jayhawks getting to the line the most — along with Frank Mason III (and possibly Diallo). But they also possess the offensive prowess necessary to improve, perhaps drastically so.
Selden shot just 5-for-10 against Vandy, missing four straight at the line in the final minute. So that’s where his potentially skewed numbers come from. And while you can’t rule out tired legs as the reason for his struggles on that night, nobody’s legs will feel fresh come February and March.
The junior guard, who has otherwise shot the ball great (54.8% field goals, 57.1% 3-pointers), will need to improve on his career free-throw numbers to make the best offensive impact possible. Selden shot 62.9% on free throws as a freshman and upped that percentage to just 65.7% his sophomore season. His stroke and strength make you wonder why he hasn’t broken the 70% barrier, but the way he has approached this season so far makes you think he is capable of busting through and becoming an even more well-rounded player.
A junior forward, Ellis on three occasions this season has missed three free throws and shot less than 60 percent: 2-for-5 vs. Michigan State, 3-for-6 vs. Chaminade and 4-for-7 vs. Loyola.
He’s mostly been hot or cold, though. In his other three games combined, Ellis is 13-for-14 (92.8%).
The real Perry Ellis probably exists somewhere between those two extremes. The 6-foot-8 senior from Wichita shot 73.8% as a freshman, 76.3% as a sophomore and 73% as a junior. Like Selden, he’s capable of better, and KU needs him to be.
The upcoming slate of non-conference opponents will mostly be easy enough for KU to get by with average to mediocre free-throw shooting, but games will get tighter and victories harder to come by before you know it.
In the past five years for coach Bill Self, the Jayhawks have made:
- 72.4% in 2014-15
- 71.1% in 2013-14
- 73.3% in 2012-13
- 69.2% in 2011-12 (a Final Four team)
- 67.9% in 2010-11 (Elite Eight team)
As KU has proven in that span, free-throw success doesn’t necessarily correlate perfectly with postseason advancement, but KU polishing up on its 15-foot open looks in the weeks to come will only help the Jayhawks down the road.
We’ll see in the weeks and months to come if the rest of the team can catch up with the Jayhawks who are off to better starts at the stripe (and if these guys can keep it up):
- Mason, 19-for-24, 79.2%
- Jamari Traylor, 11-for-14, 78.6%
- Devonté Graham, 10-for-12, 83.3%
- Brannen Greene, 7-for-8, 87.5%
- Hunter Mickelson, 3-for-4, 75%
Mason entered the season as a 74.4% shooter, Graham shot 72.4% as a freshman, Traylor made just 62.1% combined in his previous three seasons, Greene (89.6% past two years) is the best shooter on the team and Mickelson, since a 51.6% season as an Arkansas freshman, has hit at an 82.8% clip.