The Cleveland Cavaliers will likely have the ninth pick in this upcoming draft. In the next few weeks here at Right Down Euclid, we will be profiling players the Cavaliers might draft in the first round on June 26th. Today, we profile Syracuse point guard Tyler Ennis. Click here for more draft profiles.
Tale of the Tape
Name: Tyler Ennis
Position: Point Guard
Weight: 180 lbs.
Honors: Second Team All-ACC, First Team ACC All-Defense and All-Freshman teams
2013-2014 Per Game Stats: 12.9 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 5.5 APG, 2.1 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 41.1 field goal percentage, 35.3 percent from three, 76.5 percent from the line
Tyler Ennis has the makings of your prototypical pure point guard. With excellent passing skills and excellent late-game ability, Ennis was the leader of a solid Syracuse team this past season, and has the looks of a promising point guard at the next level. There are questions about his ceiling, due to a lack of athleticism, poor touch at the rim, and the idea that he played defense at Syracuse. However, Ennis is rightfully still a back-of-the-lottery prospect, but should have enough tools to be a valuable NBA player.
Ennis isn’t a great athlete, which raises some significant questions about his future in the NBA. Without remarkable quickness or explosiveness, it’s a wonder how exactly Ennis will cope with guys like John Wall and Ty Lawson at the next level. Ennis struggled mightily to finish at the rim in college, and was never really able to take guys off the dribble. In the NBA, he’s certainly going to be called upon to do that at times, and he could be severely limited in his offensive ability if he can’t develop a better burst off the dribble or leaping ability in the paint. Ennis does have a solid wingspan for his height, which will certainly help things, particularly on the defensive end, where he can compensate for his slow feet to stay in front of quicker guards. However, there’s really not a good way for him to compensate for the lack of athleticism, and that’s going to be a major negative for him to overcome in the draft process.
Most of the exciting potential surrounding Ennis is related to his passing ability. Ennis rates as a very solid pure point guard, with excellent passing ability and the tools to be a sound slash-and-kick point. Ennis has excellent court vision, which allows him to set up teammates nicely on the break and off pick-and-roll looks. He’s a very fluid pick-and-roll ball-handler, with the ability to read a screen and deliver the ball to a roll man at a variety of angles. He also excels at hitting spot-up shooters on drives, and he’s very solid at hitting teammates on the break with outlet passes. Ennis’s passing ability lends to successful operation of a more open, quick offense, but he should be able to be a productive distributor in any offensive system.
Scoring, however, may be a challenge for Ennis, which could reduce his effectiveness as an offensive player. Ennis hit an acceptable 35 percent from three-point range last season, and is decent in catch-and-shoot situations, which is good. However, inside the paint, Ennis becomes a lot shakier. His mid-range game is acceptable, but he’s not even remotely acceptable at finishing at the rim. Ennis gets bullied by bigger defenders inside, and shies away from contact, preferring to shoot floaters over defenders than attempt a lay-up in traffic. This would be fine if he were C.J. Miles, and had a solid floater that hit consistently. However, Ennis really can’t finish these consistently, and it renders him a non-factor in the paint. This could severely limit his drive-and-kick ability, as NBA defenders will key on other offensive options and just allow him to attack the rim, knowing that his passes to the perimeter or cutters are a bigger threat than Ennis driving to the hole. If he can’t get better at finishing these drives, or compensate by improving his mid-range pull-up jumper,the effectiveness of his passing will certainly suffer.
You should know the dance we have to do by now if you’ve been following the draft over the last few years. Much like Dion Waiters, we have to attempt to determine the man-to-man abilities of a player who played almost exclusively in a 2-3 zone. The good news for Ennis, however, is that he was a pretty decent zone defender, and that can translate to having a role in an NBA defense. Ennis is weak when he’s playing on the ball, which is to be expected with someone who hasn’t been asked to do that much. He has a poor defensive stance, and isn’t quick enough to recover when he gets beat off the dribble. However, off the ball, Ennis shows some promise. He is really good at anticipating passes and jumping passing lanes, which allows him to rack up a lot of steals. In fact, he led the ACC in steals last year, and posted a very solid 3.9 STL%. Some of this stems from a gambling tendency, which will get him burned in the NBA early. However, this is a legitimate strength in my opinion, and when a guy who needs to be hidden defensively can at least provide some form of impact on the defensive end, that’s a good thing. But it’s hard to determine what his ceiling on this end is. He’s already going to take a few years to get used to playing NBA defense, and his athleticism will hurt him. However, if Ennis can at least be a consistent threat to pick off passes and develop a solid understanding of help defense, and is surrounded with the right teammates, he’ll be fine on this end.
Ennis is very mature for a freshman. He was often the go-to player for Syracuse down the stretch in tight games, and had several solid clutch performances. It’s clear that he is learning the balance between scoring and distributing early on in his career, and that’s important for a pure point like Ennis. We’ve already discussed his defensive awareness and court vision, which are both excellent. Really, the only thing “intangible” that Ennis lacks is the confidence to attack the rim consistently, and I think that will come if he gets stronger. There’s nothing here that really makes me shy away from Ennis.
Tyler Ennis is a poor man’s Ricky Rubio. He certainly doesn’t have the flair that Rubio does, but they operate in a very similar capacity in the way they distribute. Both are excellent passers out of the pick-and-roll, and they have similar shooting struggles, which is why I think that Ennis can still make it in the league, even if he never really improves from his 40 percent shooting mark at the rim. Defensively they both play similar styles as well, and I think that where Rubio is currently on defense could be where Ennis ends up. Placing Ennis on a team full of shooters with a big with competent pick and roll skills would really maximize his usefulness, much in the same way that this seems to be the ideal setting for Ricky Rubio with Team Spain.
How Does He Fit on the Cavaliers?
Ennis would be able to play the role the Cavs ask Jarrett Jack to play in a much more efficient and effective capacity. I think if he was the backup point guard behind Kyrie Irving, the Cavs would be in good shape. However, the Cavs are probably stuck with Jack for the foreseeable future, and definitely have more pressing needs than a quality backup point guard. While Ennis would fit in well here, I just can’t see the Cavs pulling the trigger on him, especially with so many available centers and small forwards available late in the lottery.