Last year, the Miami Heat acquired the rights to Long Beach State’s James Ennis from the Atlanta Hawks. Their plan was to stash him in the D-League for the Sioux Fall Skyforce coaches took a closer look at him, while still retaining the rights to call upon his services later on.
However, he had a family to think about. With five siblings, a disabled mother who isn’t able to work and his father struggling to make enough painting, the D-League’s $25,000 maximum salary a year wasn’t going to cut it.
Plus the Heat didn’t want to pay him the NBA minimum $490,180 because it would have counted against their salary cap, meaning they’d have to pay additional luxury tax for a player they likely wouldn’t use.
So he opted to take his basketball talents overseas to play in Australia with the Perth Wildcats in a deal his agent claimed was worth “six figures.”
After stints in Puerto Rico and Australia – where he was played his way to the All-NBL First Team, finished third in the Most Valuable Player voting and led Perth to the championship after averaging 21.2 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game while shooting 46.8 percent from the field– Ennis will now get his shot with the Heat. And if his play in the Summer League circuit is anything to go by, he could be a gem.
In his first outing, he put up 18 points against the Boston Celtics. His best performance, though, was against the Brooklyn Nets as he finished with 29 points in less than 26 minutes of action. He also displayed some exceptional shooting, having nailed all but one of his attempts from 3-point range.
Ennis would go on to average 15.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.33 steals while shooting 51.7 percent from the field, 48.1 percent from 3-point range and 80 percent from the foul line.
With numbers like that, it’s no wonder Pat Riley is thrilled to see him in a Heat jersey.
“We were excited to draft James a year ago and have been impressed by the growth of his game in Summer League and Puerto Rico, as well as his terrific experience in Australia, leading Perth to a championship,” said the Miami Heat President. “We are looking forward to the infusion of energy he will bring to our roster.”
So by all accounts, his time with Miami should be a success. Although the downside is that he may have to play out of position.
With Luol Deng and Danny Granger already in at his natural small forward spot, the 24-year-old will probably have to wait in order to see any significant playing time – unless he manages to bump Granger down the pecking order. Alternatively, he could fill in at shooting guard behind the often injured Dwyane Wade, who missed 28 games last season. But he may struggle somewhat.
James Ennis does have quite a few of the required tools in his arsenal that should theoretically enable him to be able to play the position, i.e., the scoring/shooting ability along with size and athleticism to keep up with opposing 2s on defense. However, he doesn’t quite possess the ball handling skills, nor the passing ability that would be required at the position.
Still, that does appear to be his best bet. Especially since Riley hasn’t signed anyone for the role yet.