Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis could fit in perfectly at NBA level

May 23

(Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

The NBA is becoming more and more of a pick-and-roll league with each passing season. And former Syracuse point guard Tyler Ennis may be able to fit in perfectly because of that.

Ennis averaged 12.9 points, 5.5 assists and 3.4 rebounds on 41-35-77 shooting in his sole season at Syracuse, and though the numbers may have been a tad underwhelming, the freshman was responsible for the entire Orange offense.

Syracuse didn’t have much firepower this past season, so Coach Jim Boeheim turned to Ennis, who didn’t score particularly efficiently (posting just 51.1 percent in terms true shooting), but was able to make decisions that facilitated the offense. Namely, Ennis became as flawless in the screen-and-roll as you could expect any freshman to be.

Ennis’s 10.6 percent turnover rate as a pick-and-roll ballhandler falls perfectly in line with his reputation of “maturity beyond his years” and “makes decisions that other freshman just can’t see.”

According to Synergy Sports, Ennis acted as a pick-and-roll ballhandler on a voluminous 32.9 percent of his plays this past season. Only five other qualifying players (averaging at least two pick-and-roll plays per game) who ran the pick-and-roll that often in the nation had a better turnover rate. And of all power-conference qualifiers, Ennis ranked No. 1.

Ennis ranks favorably against point guards of the past, as well.

Going back over the past five drafts, only two first-round college point guards have run the pick-and-roll as often as Ennis with as low a turnover rate: Norris Cole and Trey Burke. And Cole, though he was a perennially underrated collegiate player, put up those numbers in the Horizon League.

So, really the most proper statistical comp for Ennis as a pick-and-roll decision-maker is 2013’s Wooden Award winner in Burke, who most agree has a shot to be a solid NBA point guard for some time. But Ennis has the size advantage on the small Utah Jazz point guard.

We hear so much about Ennis’ lack of athleticism, and some of those claims are fair. But the former Syracuse standout actually tested better than expected at the NBA combine, jumping for a 36-inch max vertical. Meanwhile, his 6-foot-3 body that boasts a 6-foot-7 wingspan means he could match up against point guards of any size.

But with Ennis, it all comes down to elite decision-making. That turnover rate starts to look even more impressive when you realize that defenses began trapping him consistently when he dribbled around screens at the end of the season. That strategy became the best way to stifle a one-dimensional Syracuse offense. Still, Ennis wasn’t giving away the rock.

The Andre Miller comparison makes superficial sense: Ennis is a slower-moving, half-court dominant ballhandler who can run an offense competently. In a worst-case scenario, that sort of outlook probably gives Ennis a higher floor than any other point guard in the upcoming draft. At the very least, a kid who is already this mature as a freshman will probably learn how to run an offense as technically sound as possible.

Fred Katz averaged almost one point per game in fifth grade, but he maintains his per-36-minute numbers were astonishing. Find more of his work at Bleacher Report or on ESPN’s TrueHoop Network at ClipperBlog.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredKatz.

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