James Ennis is more valuable to the Philadelphia 76ers than originally thought.
While the Philadelphia 76ers were certainly busy at the trade deadline, acquiring Tobias Harris, Mike Scott and Boban Marjanović from the Clippers and shipping out Markelle Fultz for Jonathon Simmons and picks, I feel one acquisition has flown under the radar: James Ennis.
Ennis, a 28-year old wing out of Long Beach State, was acquired from the Houston Rockets in exchange for the right to swap 2021 second-round draft picks. Ennis was brought in to help with some of the Sixers’ depth issues. However, it was unclear how much playing time he would receive after the Simmons and Scott trades. A career 36 percent shooter from deep, the 6-foot-7 Ennis brings size, length, quickness and shooting to the perimeter, all pressing needs for the team this season.
He initially received scattered minutes and was not doing much in those minutes. However, he has been receiving consistent minutes and is proving to be much more valuable than originally expected. While he is currently in a bit of a shooting slump (only shooting 29 percent as a member of the Sixers), he has shown that he can do more than just shoot.
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He has the ability to take it to the hole and finish, and this dunk from a March 6 matchup against the Bulls was surprising and impressive. His combination of skills allows the Sixers to be more versatile with their lineups, a luxury we did not have before. Let’s take a look at some of the lineups we can put out there with Ennis as a key component.
On March 10 against the Pacers, Ennis took the place of Jimmy Butler towards the end of the game while Butler sat out with a minor foot injury. In a close game with serious playoff implications, Ennis held his own and made some nice plays throughout the game.
The Pacers game solidified Ennis as a valuable contributor for the Sixers who brings a lot to the table. His game also gives the Sixers the chance to experiment with their lineups, which will be crucial come playoff time.
If Brett Brown wanted a defensive-minded lineup, he could send Ben Simmons, Ennis, Scott, Butler and Joel Embiid out on the floor. When we need a stop, this is the lineup that should be assembled. We could also sub Jonathan Simmons in if need be, though Simmons has yet to really prove anything as a member of the Sixers. Towards the end of games, this lineup is our best bet when trying to keep the opponent from scoring. It is switchable, long, quick and would be able to hold their ground against most, if not all, opposing lineups.
If the Sixers wanted to run a Ben Simmons and shooters lineup like we did towards the end of last season with J.J. Redick, Marco Belinelli, Dario Šarić and Ersan Ilyasova, we could run a Ben Simmons, J.J., Ennis, Tobias and Scott lineup. The lineup has an elite playmaker in Ben, a 39 percent shooter in Redick, Ennis, whose career percentage is 36 percent, a 40 percent three-point shooter in Scott and a 43 percent three-point shooter in Tobias. The main difference between this lineup and last year’s shooters lineup is that it is much better defensively, as Scott and Ennis are clear upgrades over Marco and Dario on that side of the ball. This lineup could be especially valuable if the opposing team sends out a big lineup.
James Ennis brings versatility to the Sixers’ lineup that they did not have before. His combination of defense and shooting allows the Sixers’ to experiment with a wide-range of lineups, from defensive-minded to Ben-and-shooters. Ennis should continue to get consistent minutes and be one of our key bench pieces in the playoffs. His contributions will be vital to the Sixers’ success as they compete for a championship.