Even following an ugly loss to eventual national champs Kansas, UNC shooting guard Wayne Ellington
entered last years draft as a borderline first rounder. He was invited to the Orlando Pre-Draft camp, only to learn that he was very far from being ready for the next level, and decided to return to Chapel Hill for his junior season after seeing his draft stock take a significant hit.
UNC returns almost all of its talent from last seasons Final Four team and, draft conversation aside, Ellington is going to have a tremendous role and with much national exposure. If he can improve upon his averages of 16.6 ppg (46.7% FG, 40% 3FG, 82.6% FT), 4.5 rpg, 2.0 apg (1.7 TOpg), and 1.1 spg, next season will likely be his final college season.
Ellington measured 64.75 in shoes and weighed 194 pounds at the Pre-Draft camp. Despite the fact that he showcased a 34-inch vertical leap, he did not test out particularly well in agility and sprint drills. This data supports our previous assertion that Ellington is a good, not great, athlete, with room to improve physically. His frame is quite slight and because he doesnt possess outstanding size or a particularly impressive wingspan for an NBA shooting guard, he should work to get stronger in order to compensate. Though he is not overly explosive around the basket, Ellington is, as we have said before, a fluid athlete, and impressive in the open floor in transition.
Ellingtons most significant improvement last season was on the offensive end. During his freshman season, he had a reputation for shaky shot selection. Last year, however, he reduced the number of bad shots he took, instead picking up a variety of tricks, particularly in his midrange game, in order to find open looks. Pull-up jumpers are the most visible additions to his offensive arsenal, as he showed the ability on multiple occasions, against all types of competition, to stop on a dime and get his shot off.
His ball handling could still use some work and he certainly needs to work on this aspect of his game, but his improvements as a scorer have been impressive and, should they continue to improve, could help propel his stock back to where it once was next year. His bread and butter, however, is still his jump-shooting. While his three point shooting percentage fell during the second half of the season from when we last wrote about him, he still finished the year strong shooting 40% from the field, good for 23rd among NCAA shooting guards. His shooting stroke is still very good and his shot has a high arc that makes it difficult to block, despite the fact that he is slightly undersized.
One area in which he should continue to improve on the offensive end is in his slashing game. He showed a nice first step last season, and he attacked the basket with more assertiveness, but he should look to take the ball to the basket harder and more often. While his slight frame makes it difficult for him to absorb contact around the basket, he shows very nice touch around the basket and the intelligence and versatility to score in different ways. Working on developing his left hand may also be a factor here, as he drives right almost 20% more of the time than he drives left, according to Synergy Sports Technology.
Defensively, its the same old story for Ellington. While he certainly has the physical profile to be a solid defender at this level, he continued to underperform last year. The issue seems to be focus, as he frequently gets lost through screens and on switches. Even when hes face guarding his man, he runs into trouble allowing too much distance between and often lets his man get a shot off in his face. His lateral quickness and athletic ability are simply too good for him to be such a mediocre defender at this level and he shows a lot of flashes. This area in particular could be the deciding factor in terms of his draft position next year.
Ellington improved last season, but its up to him to continue to work on his consistency and focus. He already possesses one of the best offensive arsenals in the ACC, and considering how well he embraced his role last year, there is no reason to think that he will continue to improve both in terms of his offensive game and on the draft board. The Tar Heels are expected to contend for the National Championship yet again, and with the cameras rolling, Wayne Ellington
is going to have every opportunity in the world to prove himself as an NBA player.