Statistically, Wayne Ellington has had four other seasons in which he’s shot the ball at a better clip from three-point range than the 37.5 percent he’s averaged this season for the Miami Heat.
He shot a career-best 42.4 percent for the Dallas Mavericks three seasons ago, better than 39 percent each of his first two seasons in the league with the Minnesota Timberolves and then combined to shoot 39.2 percent for the Memphis Grizzlies and Cleveland Cavaliers during the 2012-2013 season.
But there’s no question this feels like his best NBA season yet – and that’s because physically he’s never felt this good.
“I feel like I can run for days,” said Ellington, who turns 30 in November. “I feel like I can just stay out there and continue to play. I don’t get tired on defense. I don’t get tired coming off screens when coach calls that play for me. I feel like my longevity and stamina is by far the best it’s been in a very long time.”
Much like James Johnson, Dion Waiters and Willie Reed, who were with other clubs last season, Ellington said he’s transformed his body since joining the Heat last summer. He came in on August 1 weighing 222 pounds and with a body fat percentage of 12 percent. Wednesday morning he said he weighed in at 203 pounds.
“I'm at 6.5 [percent body fat] right now,” Ellington said. “I'm still working my way down, still getting trim. It feels amazing. My body feels good. I feel as strong as I’ve been in a long time. It just feels good getting those compliments when I see people I haven’t seen in a few months. They’re like ‘Damn man, you look good. What do they have you doing?’ Me and my boys joke about it all the time. They say ‘You haven't looked like that since college.’ It feels good.”
Like Johnson described recently, Ellington said he was never asked by any of the six teams he was with prior to the Heat to pose shirtless for a photo prior to the start of training camp so they could chart his body and show him how it’s progressed over the season. The Heat have apparently done this with other players for years. Like Johnson, Ellington said he was initially blown away by some of the photos he saw of other players on an iPad owned by Bill and Eric Foran, the Heat’s strength and conditioning coaches.
Ellington also said he’s never been through a workout regiment as greuling as the one the Heat have put him through since his arrival.
“Never done weight and body checks fat every week. Never did the before and after photo. Never had to be as dedicated to being in the weight room and getting my conditioning to the way it is now,” Ellington said. “But I’m glad man. I’m so glad that I was able to come here and really focus on those things. It’s done an amazing thing for me. I feel like I'm having one of the best seasons of my career so far.”
Even though he’s missed 20 combined games this season because of a badly bruised thigh and a strained right hamstring, Ellington is averaging a career-high 11.1 points per game this season, primarily off the bench. He’s also made a career-high 106 three-pointers.
According to the NBA’s tracking system, Ellington ranks 12th among players with at least five catch-and-shoot attempts per game in effective field goal percentage (57.1 percent). Two-time league MVP Steph Curry leads the league in the category at 66.3 percent.
Coach Erik Spoelstra has often compared Ellington’s ability coming off screens and catch-and-shoot attempts to that of Ray Allen. Ellington said he doesn’t do the same legendary drills Allen did with the Heat – when he would lay flat on the court, lift himself up and run over and catch a ball and shoot it – but he says the workouts he does with assistant Octavio De La Grana, who worked with Allen, have made him a better overall shooter.
In the end, the Heat own a team option for next season and could keep Ellington for next season at roughly $6.2 million. If the Heat decline the option on Ellington it could potentially bring the team’s available cap space for the summer up to $39 million once Chris Bosh’s $25 million cap hold is cleared.
Either way, Ellington said he is hoping his time with the Heat turns out to be more than just another one-year pitstop.
“Not because [I’ve already played for six other teams], but because I see the big picture,” Ellington said. “This is a championship organization. This is where you want to be. This what you want to play for. The way we’ve continued to get better and the way Coach Spo has led and showed us the way, this is something I want to be a part of. This is what it’s about for me.”