2015–16 Season Overview
James Ennis was mostly an afterthought when Mario Chalmers was traded to Memphis. Based off physical profile, some of us thought he might end up developing into the kind of athletic, decent-on-both-ends wing that fits on any team — especially the Grizzlies. Last season was just Ennis’ second in the league, and that after being drafted 50th overall in 2013. He’s already 26 years old, so his development curve was never going to be too steep, but of course it’d take some patience either way.
But Ennis only played 40 minutes over a four month stint. In late February, the Grizzlies waived him for Ryan Hollins (blegh), and about a month later, the New Orleans Pelicans signed him to play out the last nine games as part of their skeleton crew. Ennis promptly popped off for 15.9 points per game on 50.0 percent shooting from the field, including consecutive 29- and 28-point games to close the season.
The Grizzlies signed Ennis for $6 million over two years, which isn’t money that screams importance at you. It’s a nice little contract, though. Consider that Solomon Hill, a player with similar strengths and limitations, signed for $48 million over four years. Hill is better established, with about 2000 more minutes logged in the league, and unlike Ennis, he made his money during Playoff April instead of Regular Season April. Of course he commanded more in salary, but after the Grizzlies blew out all of their cap space to sign Chandler Parsons, Ennis is a nice get on the low.
Memphis’ wing depth right now is made up of Ennis, Vince Carter, Troy Daniels, and Jordan Adams, and that’s not very good. Carter turns 40 soon, Daniels is probably just going to be a specialist, and Adams’ knee injury is casting a lot of doubt over his future (SADFACE). I’m confident that Ennis can be the exception, but he probably also has the most to prove in training camp given his credentials. He’ll compete with the others for a role, and I don’t really know how that’s going to shake out since Daniels probably does the one thing well enough to garner 10 to 15 minutes per game (especially given the Grizzlies’ usual relationship with three-point shooting) and even Carter had his moments with an old man bully-ball game last season when his scoring was really needed.
But if Ennis can show the staff just a little something in camp, Carter and Daniels should be a clearable bar for him in the rotation. That’s what I hope happens, because his best case scenario is probably the Grizzlies’ best case scenario, as far as wing depth goes.
2016–17 Best Case Scenario
When he was at his best with the Pelicans, Ennis was outworking everybody else on the court, which makes sense, because he was the only one with anything really to be playing for at that point in the season. Especially with those beat and bruised Pelicans, he had free license to jack. But the point stands — Ennis, at a stocky but still bouncy 6'7, makes a great hustle player. He can work his way into being a factor on the offensive glass, and he can muscle through contact on drives. He’s a straight killer in transition and on baseline cuts. Throw in the three-point shot, if it’s there — Ennis sank 24 of 50 attempts (48.0%) in those nine games with the Pelicans. That’s kind of absurd, and I don’t know if anyone else saw this, but I thought it was like Jordan Crawford was briefly reincarnated into the NBA.
It’s really easy to picture the kind of player Ennis could be at his best, because that kind of player is so popular right now. (More DeMarre Carroll than Jordan Crawford, if I confused you, but Jordan Crawford is timeless.) He just has to actually be that guy consistently, when the players he’s playing against are every bit as dialed in as he was at the end of the regular season. I think he can do it, and I think he can be a terrific player for the Grizzlies. He’s got the motor, he’s got the athleticism, and optimistically, he’s got the three-point shot. Damnit, I like this signing so much.
2016–17 Worst Case Scenario
Well, I can’t imagine he gets waived for Ryan Hollins this time around. I guess the next worst thing would be if Ennis just kind of lingers at the end of the roster, never again showing what he did during those nine games with the Pelicans, and of course this would be the worst thing because everyone on Twitter would make a fuss about it and bitch at David Fizdale for not playing the guy we maybe-probably-okay-we-did overrate based on nine games at the end of the regular season.
But that’s no fun.
Ennis is going to be the best.