Although they say that one elite skill is often enough to sustain an NBA career, sharpshooter Wayne Ellington was on the verge of being an afterthought coming into the season. A career 38 percent shooter from downtown, he had averaged 42 percent from three-point range in Charlotte and Memphis over the last two seasons. Despite his bonafides from downtown, the journeyman Ellington was looking more and more like he wouldn’t have a home in 2014-15.
He had bounced around the league all summer, being traded from Dallas to New York to Sacramento in the offseason before being waived. Looking to shore up their depth, the Los Angeles Lakers offered him a non-guaranteed deal and a training camp invite. Ellington made the team and eventually became a key rotation player for the Lakers in 2014-15.
Over the course of the season, Ellington showed enough to earn the full value of his deal and a look for next season and beyond. While he was initially signed to bolster the Lakers depth chart, injuries to the Black Mamba and others pressed Wayne into extended duty. Over 65 games, Ellington matched his career high in minutes, with just under 26 minutes per game. The result? 10 points per game while also contributing 3.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists. Although his efficiency dipped a bit, he maintained a respectable 37% from three (against 41% overall).
In a season full of lowlights, Ellington provided a consistent presence, as well as some nice moments for the Lakers. Whether starting or coming off the bench, he was a true professional. Ellington always played within the team concept and worked his tail off on both ends of the court. In January, he followed up a season-high 28 points against Washington with 23 points in a big win over the Chicago Bulls. Although it certainly hurt the Lakers odds of tanking, it was Ellington who set Jordan Clarkson up for the game-winning layup against Philadelphia. He was always playing the right way and making little plays for the team.
Ellington started to plant roots in the Lakers organization this year, building on a relationship with Byron Scott that he had started in Cleveland. The famously hot and cold Scott clearly trusts Ellington and gave him real opportunities throughout the season. Additionally, Ellington is close with Ed Davis, harkening back to their days at North Carolina where they won a championship together. After Ellington’s father passed away, he credited the Lakers organization and his teammates for supporting him through difficult times.
In his exit interview, Ellington expressed hope for a return, adding that, "I would like to be back with the Lakers, but you never know in this business." Absent an above-market offer for his services like Jodie Meeks received last summer, the Lakers should seriously consider bringing him back.
At 27 years old, Ellington is young enough to stick around for a few years but old enough to be a voice of stability in the locker room. He has the potential to be one of those glue guys who will play their role and hit shots when given the opportunity. You don’t start building a championship contender with the Wayne Ellingtons of the world, but you need them to be one.