Pelicans.com continues its look back at the 2015-16 season with player-by-player analysis of the team:
He’s described himself as a “hustle player” and a “high-flyer,” but James Ennis showed he was more than that over a two-week stint with New Orleans to close the regular season. Called up from the D-League on March 30, the second-year pro donned a Pelicans uniform just hours later, quickly providing a positive omen by going 3/4 from three-point range. Although New Orleans couldn’t end San Antonio’s historic home winning streak, the Pelicans gave the Spurs all they could handle in a 100-92 defeat, with Ennis producing 13 points, five rebounds and four assists.
“I had a (D-League) game in Sioux Falls (on March 29),” Ennis explained. “The next morning I got the call from my agent that the Pelicans wanted to sign me to a 10-day contract. I got on a three-hour flight, showed up two hours before the game.”
Ennis wound up playing a rare two-league, back-to-back-back in three separate cities, capped by scoring 11 points in New Orleans’ March 31 home victory over Denver.
The California native averaged an impressive 15.9 points in his nine-game Pelicans cameo, nearly shooting 50 percent from three-point range (24/50). He made exactly half of his attempts from the field overall (50/100), an excellent efficiency rate. Not bad for a player who was just a 32 percent shooter on treys prior to coming to the Crescent City.
“I’ve put in a lot of work on my three-point shot, especially when I went to Memphis,” said Ennis, who played 10 games for the Grizzlies in ’15-16. “I did a lot before and after practice. It’s been showing. The work I’ve done is paying off.”
Ennis also often drew a range of difficult and varied defensive assignments in New Orleans, going from guarding Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell one week, to Chicago star Jimmy Butler the next.
“I can guard multiple positions,” Ennis said. “Me being athletic, I can guard the one and two, move my feet and slide. I’m kind of a versatile player. People didn’t know I could play defense, but that’s what I’m trying to show. To guard the best player and do the little things, because they add up.”
“Any time you can do it on both ends – I think he’s maybe an underrated defender (too) – you want those type of guys on your team,” late-season Pelicans teammate Tim Frazier said. “Someone who’s going to fight and continue to battle, take the challenge of guarding Jimmy Butler, an All-Star, but also do it on the offensive end.”
After averaging 16.3 minutes with Miami and a mere 4.0 with Memphis, Ennis played 31.3 minutes per contest for New Orleans, by far his best chance to show his ability in the NBA. He was a consistent factor for the Pelicans, reaching double digits in scoring in eight of his nine games.
“I’m definitely enjoying playing with the guys,” he said as the season headed to a conclusion. “They love basketball just as much as I do, and going hard no matter what. That’s what you want.
“I really haven’t gotten an opportunity to play (prior to coming to New Orleans). This is a great opportunity for me to show that I belong in the NBA.”
TOP THREE JAMES ENNIS GAMES OF 2015-16
#3, April 3: New Orleans 106, Brooklyn 87
Ennis’ 14 points were the most he scored in a New Orleans victory. He also snared a career-high four steals in a one-sided win at Barclays Center.
#2, April 13: Minnesota 144, New Orleans 105
Ennis deposited six three-pointers in 11 attempts, part of his 28-point outing against the Timberwolves. He had never previously scored 20 points in an NBA game, but averaged 28.5 points over the final two regular season contests.
#1, April 11: Chicago 121, New Orleans 116
An impressively efficient night for Ennis, he scored a career-best 29 points on only 14 shots from the field. He shot 9/14, highlighted by 5/8 accuracy from three-point range and 6/7 foul shooting. He also had five rebounds, four assists, one steal and one block.
BEHIND THE NUMBERS
24: Three-pointers for Ennis with New Orleans in 282 total minutes. He sank a total of 33 with Miami and Memphis, in an aggregate of 1,098 minutes.
9: Dunks for Ennis in his nine Pelicans games. Roughly 9.4 percent of his total shots from the field in the NBA have been slams, per Basketball-Reference.com.
40.0: Shooting percentage with New Orleans for Ennis from a distance of 16 feet to the three-point arc, a sign of his improved perimeter touch. He is a career 25.7 percent shooter on those attempts.