Keon Ellis flashes true two-way potential in Kings’ win over Magic

Sacramento Kings v Orlando Magic
Sacramento Kings v Orlando Magic / Rich Storry/GettyImages

Keon Ellis first gained Mike Brown’s trust with his defensive activity. On a squad with little defensive talent, Ellis offered a nice change of pace. He is tall, has long arms and quick hands, moves his feet, navigates screens incredibly well, and never gives up on a possession. 

That is exactly what Coach Brown wants to see from his guards. His defensive talent and ability to knock down open jumpers earned him minutes, a standard NBA contract, and now a starting spot on a potential playoff team. 

This season has already been a dream come true for Ellis but there is more to come. 

Ellis just played one of his best offensive games of the season

Ellis has been playing heavy minutes pretty much all month, taking a chunk of Kevin Huerter’s minutes even before the injury. Over 11 games played in March, Ellis has recorded a total of 23 steals and 10 blocks and helped completely redefine the Kings’ defensive identity. 

The Kings have been a mediocre defense as best all season long, but March has looked much different with the exception of the loss to Washington. With a defensive rating of 109.0, Sacramento currently ranks fourth across the league over the last 12 games. That is a huge improvement, and Ellis has been at the forefront of the change. 

Kevin Huerter’s unfortunate injury against Memphis raised offensive concerns. Missing him and Trey Lyles for extended time means that a lot of firepower is sitting on the bench.

In the final stretch of the playoff race, the Kings cannot afford to struggle offensively. Keegan Murray and Harrison Barnes have done their best to fill the void, and yesterday Ellis stepped up as well. 

With his mom, grandma, and brother in attendance in Orlando, he put up 19 points on 4-9 shooting from three, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block, including some of the biggest free throws of his young NBA career. He was looking for his shots and his production allowed the team to survive a terrible scoring game from Malik Monk. 

It was easily one of his best offensive games of the season and promised great things for the Kings. 

Keon Ellis is starting to look like a real two-way threat

The Kings have been looking for 3-and-D production on the wing all season long. Keon Ellis may not be who they expected to step up, but here we are. The youngster is starting to look like a real two-way threat and that is a real game-changer for the Kings. 

First of all, it can allow the team to hopefully survive Huerter’s injury. Secondly, it completely changes the lineups Mike Brown can play. Early in the season, it was always either Ellis or Davion Mitchell. Now, as both of them are producing offensively, they can play together and form a menacing defensive backcourt. 

In the long-term, Ellis’ emergence could also make it less painful to potentially lose Kevin Huerter or Davion Mitchell in trades over the summer. The Kings don’t need him to score 20 points every game, but they need him to be a threat every time he steps onto the court. 

If he can do that while having the occasional game like last night, he will be a great addition to the Kings’ future on an incredibly cheap contract. 

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