Welcome to our annual Lakers season in review series, where we’ll be taking a look back at every player on the team’s roster this season, evaluating their play, and deciding if they should be a part of the organization’s future. Today, we take a closer look at Wayne Ellington.
How did he play?
The reunion between the Lakers and Wayne Ellington over the summer wasn’t a shocker given that the team was desperate for proven shooters in the offseason. After all, it’s the responsibility of every LeBron James-led team to surround their superstar with role players who can capably space the floor and knock down shots at a high rate. So acquiring Ellington — along with other shooters — at first seemed like a solution to the Lakers’ struggles from behind the arc last season.
And on paper, Ellington appeared to have strong potential to be the team’s best 3-point shooter. Coming off a 42.2% shooting season with the Detroit Pistons in the previous year, the veteran’s slick spot-up shooting, off-ball movement and gravity was why he and people around the organization thought so highly of his skill, and even reportedly considered him the favorite for the season-opening starting lineup in the first place. But that obviously didn’t work out, at least in part because of a hamstring injury cost the shooter to miss his first eight games of the season.
When the 34-year-old recovered from injury, he never really saw consistent minutes. He only played in 43 games this season, and saw his numbers significantly dip to 6.9 points per game on 38.9% shooting. According to the league’s tracking data, Ellington averaged 4.9 3-point attempts per game, but only converted 1.9 of them (38.9%). For a one-dimensional specialist who doesn’t provide much else, that’s not quite good enough.
Of Ellington’s 211 attempts from deep, the majority (160) were of the catch-and-shoot variety and pull-up attempts (51) which he didn’t convert reliably enough to merit a permanent spot in the rotation. He shot 41.9% on the former, but only 29.4% on the latter.
In addition to this, Ellington only made more than four 3-pointers in five games this year, including his best performance of the season against the San Antonio Spurs in December. It would’ve been nice to witness the 17-year veteran knock down more threes at this rate, but as he alluded to in his exit interview, the Lakers’ lack of on-court continuity also drastically affected his performance this season.
“It was very difficult, especially throughout the season, I felt there were a lot of times I could’ve played to help the team. A lot of nights where I felt we weren’t shooting the ball well as a team and we needed some spacing. I didn’t really get that opportunity, but I’ll just say it from the team’s standpoint, it was a weird season. It was awkward in terms of our connection on the floor, I don’t think it was ever there. I’m a guy who plays off the connection, togetherness, and ball movement, and like I said, I just don’t feel like we reached that level,” Ellington said.
Ellington also said that he felt he deserved more playing time, but he competed against Avery Bradley, Malik Monk, and Austin Reaves for rotation minutes, who Frank Vogel relied more on defense. His shooting was supposed to be his best bet to make up for his defensive flaws, but Ellington’s six-game slump in December where he shot 27.8% from behind the 3-point line was what probably turned Vogel off. He only played in 17 games after his unfortunate drought in December.
The bottom line is that the Lakers needed size, athleticism, and someone who wouldn’t get picked on while playing defense — none of which Ellington could provide, and what eventually prohibited him from being a key role player that the Lakers were hoping for in the summer.
What is his contract situation moving forward?
The shooting guard signed a one-year contract worth $2.6 million dollars in the summer, which means he’s a free agent this offseason.
Should he be back?
Look, I hate to put on my general manager cap here and dictate whether or not someone should be employed next season, but the Lakers might want to expand their options in the summer. They assumed that Ellington would help solve their perimeter shot-making problems this season, but to no avail.
However, a lesson the Lakers can learn from this is to go after dynamic shooters or guards who they can also rely on a bit more on the defensive end as well. This season (and even the ongoing playoffs) should make them realize the importance of investing in guards who can stay on the court in the most crucial moments. Given their salary restrictions, that won’t be easy, but Ellington may skew too far in the direction of being a one-trick pony than they can cover up for.