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Tbird 2010 draft analysis #6: Ekpe Udoh

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  • Tbird 2010 draft analysis #6: Ekpe Udoh

    With about 2 1/2 weeks to go before the 2010 draft night, tonight we take a long hard look at the intriguing forward from Baylor, Ekpe Udoh. Elsewhere on PD you can find the first 5 parts of this years series, which were profiles of Greg Monroe, Patrick Patterson, Avery Bradley, Ed Davis, and Hassan Whiteside.

    Udoh was under the radar heading into this season in Waco, but a surprising surge in success by the Baylor Bears propelled his team into the spotlight, and into a deep run in March. By then, Udoh was a much more well known commodity.

    A transfer from Michigan, Udoh is older than any almost any player in this draft, having just turned 23 years old on May 20 of this year. Still, his outstanding size and wingspan, along with his overall game, have him rated highly among many draft experts. With all of these details in mind, let us now take a detailed look into the Edmond Oklahoma native.


    Udoh comes into draft night with good measurements. 6'9.75 in height, and 237lbs. He has extremely long arms, with a 7'4 1/2" wingspan, and is a solid physical specimen.

    He isn't overwhelmingly strong or stout, and he definitely will need to add some beef and strength to his wiry frame in order to be successful long term I think as he could be. I have some serious doubts on whether he can do that, which is why I don't have him rated higher than some others will.


    As a defender, evaluating Udoh is more difficult than you'd expect, mainly because of Baylor's extensive use of the 2-3 zone. Camping in the lane usually in the middle of the zone, Udoh wasn't asked to do much moving around, so opportunities to see him do some of the things he will be asked to do as a pro were somewhat limited.

    Udoh's main strength as I see it is his ability to guard people on the box one on one with no help. Udoh fights for position pretty well, and at the college level at least showed good enough footwork to keep from yielding position too easily.....Udoh didn't get backed down deeply all that frequently, a sign of a mature/strong/well taught defensive player. To be fair, he also didn't see alot of strong post guys who were bigger than him in college anyway, so he will be challenged more often in the NBA in this regard.

    One thing he didn't do nearly enough that annoyed me though was to physically bump people as they crossed his vision, making it uncomfortable for people to attempt to get the ball against him. He'd let people get in front of him, then work to fight around them or push them off their spot. He didn't seem to have the ability or physical mindset to intimidate or play really tough from a physical standpoint in that regard. That is a small thing to notice, but it was a clear tendency. He'd let guys get in front of him, then try and guard them. Udoh isn't the type of guy who is going to put a forearm shiver in someone's chest, he just isn't that type of uber physical defender. In fact, Udoh doesn't appear to like contact all that much to me in general, despite being a somewhat strong kid compared to college guys.

    But having decent strength for the college level, Udoh couldn't get backed down very deeply, so that led to many situations where Udoh's man caught the ball with his back to the basket, but maybe a step or so off the block further away from the rim than was ideal. It required a very nice move or very good touch around the basket to score on Ekpe Udoh.

    Udoh I think is likely the best post defender in this draft in terms of guarding his own man in a one on one situation. Udoh was solid in all areas here, and appeared to be a guy who listened to scouting reports and understood how to play positional post defense within a team scheme. Shooting over Udoh was very very difficult, as he challenged shots consistently well, forced players into moves they weren't comfortable making, and didn't fall for shot fakes. His balance in guarding post players making back to the basket moves was very good, and along with his huge length and great timing, he was able to do a very difficult thing defensively: block shots on his own man while playing fundamentally sound.

    So many blocked shots in basketball are the results of mistakes made prior to the shot attempt....Jermaine O'Neal would block alot of shots while trying to recover from messing up defensively fundamentally somewhere else for instance. But Udoh's shot blocks are the results often of good defense that forces a player into a tough shot attempt. Udoh doesn't miss potential shot blocks very often, his timing is very good and he doesn't often fall for shot fakes/head fakes.

    Udoh is a good help defender too it would appear, at least in short areas. The 2-3 zone put him in a position to do this though, as his responsibilities were limited to basically staying in the paint and helping people if they needed. Udoh never showed he could fly in from a far away area, or anticipate a play happening and "jump to the ball" to help out a teammate from further than about 3 feet away. So there are serious questions in my mind as to whether he has the awareness to be involved in a screen situation on the left block, yet see a drive coming from the right top and be able to slide over and help quickly enough. You don't see him make that play on tape, which has to be a little concerning for a scout. The zone kept him in situations where he was always facing the action and seeing it develop, making whether to help or not an easy decision. Udoh did a nice job though in help, no denying that, especially if you could keep him in a situation where he only had to move his feet in short bursts. He was willing to sacrifice his body and take charges, another nice thing a coach likes when watching him on tape. Many of those college charges will be defensive fouls in the NBA though, as Udoh often took charges in the area where the "restricted" zone is very near the rim.

    Away from the lane, again the zone keeps you from really knowing what you have in Udoh as a defender against either stretch 4 men or in his ability to play the ball screen. He would seem to have the body to be reasonably good at this, but you don't see it on film that much. And if he does add weight and strength, you'll need to make sure he keeps his flexibility and fluidity in moving his feet.

    As Pacer fans, we're used to seeing guys struggling to guard the pick and roll. Likely Udoh will be better than Murphy and/or Hibbert in defending this situation, but then again that isn't saying much.


    Udoh as a rebounder is above average, and that is a skill that would seem to carry over well to the next level.

    He isn't a traditional block out guy though, especially on the defensive end. Especially in the Baylor zone (no specific man to block out), Udoh was free to roam and rebound. Again, I see a lack of willing to play as physically as his body would seem to allow him to here. Udoh occasionally would get out fought for a "50-50" ball against guys you wouldn't think should win against him. Still, he gets every rebound he should, has good strong hands, and gets off the ground quickly on the first leap. He seems to LIKE to rebound, as you rarely see him leaking out to try and get up the floor offensively. He hustles, plays smart, and reads balls off the rim well.

    Offensive rebounding for him is more of a strength than defensive rebounding is. He averaged 3.6 offensive boards a night, a very high number, again showing very good instincts and awareness. Udoh is not good at blocking out other people, but it also very difficult to block HIM out as well, as he moves well and is "slithery", moving between people as the ball is in flight.

    He lacks the power and physicality to score many times himself after he gets an offensive rebound though, a small fly in the ointment but a demerit nonetheless. He lacks that elite athleticism to jump, land, and quickly and powerfully leap again. Most times his offensive rebounds at this level will be thrown back out to run more offense, not necessarily lead directly to easy baskets. His offensive rebounding is a plus in his game, but not as much as a plus as it would be if he could just dunk after getting a board near the rim.


    Offensively, Udoh is kind of a unique mixture of skills. He doesn't excel at any one thing, but he doesn't have any glaring weaknesses for a player of his type. Still, I watched him wanting and expecting to see more than I ended up seeing....he seems like a guy who has the talent to be more productive than he actually is.

    Udoh has been taught well and is mature and intelligent, which at age 23 he should be. This gives him an advantage inside playing against younger players, and it shows. He has a nice back to the basket game on the low block, though he doesn't get deep enough position to suit me. He could have scored a few more points a game in college had he just relished contact enough to play with more power in getting position.

    But once he catches the ball, he shows a good understanding of how to play. He has no signature go to move, but he does have all the basic steps down. Udoh seems to prefer to go to his left shoulder, either with a jump hook or turnaround jumper. But he has shown an ability to go the other way when he needs to, and he can finish some plays left handed even. Still, sometimes when the situation calls for a dunk, he instead goes up soft with a flip or layup type of attempt. This is why that he shoots only 49% from the field despite taking good shots from close range. He doesn't finish plays through contact, and he doesn't play with explosion or power.

    Udoh is a good passer, and is unselfish. He only took 10 shots per game at Baylor, passing up shots at times. One thing that was noticeable to me on tape was that Udoh tended to watch his pass and rest for a bit after getting rid of the basketball alot of the time, instead of aggressively "re posting" and looking to get deep into scoring position. Udoh will be extremely handy in late game situations as an inbound passer also, something that is extremely valuable and seriously under valued....he will have the length and intelligence to play that role in big spots.

    I don't think Udoh will be a guy opponents will need to double team on the low block to stop him, so his value is a passer is limited a little due to that. I do think he has some value as a high post passer in the right situation, and the Pacers happen to be a team that puts a guy near the elbow occasionally in that way.

    He does have one unique skill I think as an NBA big, in that I think you can isolate Udoh against slower or smaller guys and let him get his own shot some of the time. Facing up Udoh looks good to me, as he gets nice and low into a triple threat position and can make a one or two dribble move to get a jump shot off. He also shows a nice "rocker step" move sometimes, stepping back into a jump shot.

    His skill in going off the dribble in short bursts isn't something you'd go to in crucial spots, but it could be a useful tool for a creative coach.

    Udoh gets a demerit from me for not running the break or filling lanes very well, and he doesnt sprint down to establish position very well either. He'll need to run the floor better in the NBA than he currently does I think.


    While obviously we as fans aren't in the room when these interviews are taking place, Udoh from all reports appears to be a very well spoken and intelligent young man. A good student, Udoh by all accounts is a solid citizen, good teammate, and a strong intangibles guy. Those are all things you have to consider when you are selecting someone who you are going to pay millions of dollars to.


    So, what do we have in Ekpe Udoh?

    Udoh's value to me depends solely on the answer to this question: Can he play the "5" spot for you in a back up role, along with his natural "4" position?

    Different evaluators will have different opinions on the answer. He has borderline height for a center, but I think with his wingspan he can make up for that.....his height doesn't concern me.

    But is he strong enough, powerful enough, physical enough, tough enough to bang for 82 games guarding the biggest opponents another team has?

    My answer is a hesitant yes, if you limit his minutes and exposure to them to around 20-24 minutes per night max. I think his value mainly is that he will be able to guard almost any of the top big back to the basket guys in the league, with the exception of the more big and powerful ones who would overwhelm him with strength.

    So what that means to me is that I think Udoh is a somewhat finesse 4/5 man, who plays good defense, rebounds, and blocks shots, but who doesn't intimidate, play physically, or screen all that well. He will play his role, be a good citizen, and play hard when he is asked to play.

    But it also means that he isn't a clear starter on a high level successful team, isn't a go to guy offensively, and is more of a "jack of all trades" guy rather than excelling in any one area.

    If a team or scout determines he can't play any minutes at the "5 spot" due to his lack of aggression/power/strength, then his value decreases quite a bit I think. But I can see him playing 10-12 minutes of center a night against backup 5 men, and playing 10-12 minutes or more a night of strong defense against starting 4 men, all while being a helpful player on offense as well, though not a big time scorer by any means.


    I think Udoh is a player being strongly considered by Larry Bird and David Morway at the #10 draft slot, as he projects very well as a long term replacement and upgrade to our front court, especially defensively.

    In our current system, Udoh projects well actually, with his ability to play the high post and go off the dribble a little bit. Paired with Roy Hibbert, he can guard the opponents best post scorer some of the time, helping keep Hibbert out of foul trouble while doing some of the dirty work for him.

    Udoh would be our best low post defender right now, though that really isn't saying much.

    Longer term though, Udoh is clearly a player who "is what he is" I think. He lacks any real upside to be any more than "useful", so while he is a safe pick typical of this regime there has to be a question on whether you might gamble and take a chance on someone who may eventually be better than him, even if it is at another spot on the floor.

    If Udoh gains 20 lbs, and doesn't lose anything athletically due to the added weight, he becomes a much different player in terms of value in my eyes. I just doubt he can do that, so I see him as an 8th/9th guy on a strong team, playing 20-24 minutes a game in an ideal situation. That is a best case scenario in my eyes. Worst case is he is an end of the bench guy who causes no problems and helps you in practice and the locker room.

    Udoh can be a decent role player who could be like an "Allen wrench" type guy, useful in alot of areas. I am betting he is under strong consideration by the Pacers front office right now. I can easily see the Pacers playing it safe and selecting him.

    But he clearly isn't a home run, or a real difference maker currently with our roster...just another role player on a team in desperate need for more help than that somehow, someway. I think we can do much better personally, even if it means taking a player at a position of less need.

    Udoh will fit certain teams better than others. If he gets past Indiana, I think he could slide quite a bit, near the late teens or early 20's.

    But I think his best fit is at Utah at #9, and I think that is ultimately who picks Udoh, so we won't have Ekpe Udoh as a choice on draft night in my opinion. Udoh's defensive ability I think is a perfect fit for the Jazz, who need size to help guard Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, and other Western Conference bigs.


    Comparisons on Udoh aren't super easy, but they aren't overly hard either.

    Modern day: A rich man's version of Josh Powell, with a hint of Jeff Foster as well.

    Past: A homeless man's version of John Salley

    I would be welcome to know your comparisons for Udoh along with your thoughts on the Baylor big man.


    As always, the above is just my opinion.


  • #2
    Re: Tbird 2010 draft analysis #6: Ekpe Udoh

    I appreciate this information and analysis as usual.

    Unfortunately, it troubles me that the Pacers might be considering a player like this who likely would not see the floor under our current coach, and probably would be better served simply going to the D-League to learn aggressiveness and how to finish around the basket based on my interpretation of what you have posted.

    It appears that this is a particularly underwhelming draft. Maybe the Pacers simply didn't care where they ended up, knowing they had little hope of doing better having the 5th pick or the 10th, and decided to win games to try to get the fans to buy tickets for next year?


    • #3
      Re: Tbird 2010 draft analysis #6: Ekpe Udoh

      Thanks, I enjoyed reading your assessment of Udoh, who is probably my favorite for #10 right now. I also agree that Utah is the most likely team to steal him away from Indiana. I don't know who they will take, and it's maddening knowing that they will pick right before we do. On the other hand, it is comforting knowing that there are multiple bigmen prospects available to Utah at #9. Some of those could push Udoh down to us, especially if Monroe is available. I'm hoping Aldrich and Patterson are selected high.

      I would agree that a big question mark about Udoh is how much would adding strength impact his game. Would he be more comfortable with contact if he did add some strength? I think he has demonstrated that he's a sharp guy and is quite willing to put in the work to improve. I think a good NBA team would gradually help him add strength and fix some of his little mistakes.

      I really, really like Udoh's prospects next to Hibbert. They seem to be a great match to me. Neither is offensively inept and can hit from out to midrange, although admittedly neither is going to set the nets ablaze with scoring. I think Udoh will improve at least a bit in his offensive efficiency with some added strength and additional instruction. I feel like being matched along side Hibbert, Udoh would actually be more valuable for Indiana than most teams. Either guy could be useful as far out as the high post, and I could see quicker players who are used to giving Hibbert fits and getting him into foul trouble suddenly dreading trying to drive inbetween this pair of trees, especially given Udoh is going to be quicker than Hibbert. Formerly, a quick guy could just blow past el matador Murphy and Hibbert would be alone with speed he just can't deal with. By adding Udoh, I see the interior defense having a very different character, and Udoh would be a blessing regarding offensive rebounds considering he would not only be inside instead of gunning 3s like Murphy, but he's actually really good at grabbing them as well.

      So I think I would probably overrate Udoh in your view, but some of the reason behind that is because I see Udoh as being such a fantastic fit for Indiana next to Hibbert, especially after JOB is gone. Another portion of that is I simply prefer defensive players; I always try to remain aware that I do have that bias. But I also think Indiana REALLY needs to address the defensive hole at the PF position, especially for poor Hibbert's sake. He has to get frustrated being a bit slow footed already and being all alone inside defensively. If adding Udoh helped him out and maybe resulted in 1 less foul a game for Hibbs, that would really help him stay on the floor and give him a bit more leeway in being more assertive against really physical opponents. I think Udoh and Hibbert playing together would make each other better players for Indiana.
      Last edited by IndyPacer; 06-07-2010, 08:02 PM.


      • #4
        Re: Tbird 2010 draft analysis #6: Ekpe Udoh

        My comparison for Udoh is Emeka Okafor. I know that he has been a guy we have talked a lot about because of his contract and obtaining Collison.

        Similarities: More of a PF who plays great post defense than a C. He has a post dominant skill set. He is a smart player with great defensive technique. Blocks shots and rebounds very well. Limited offensively, but I think it is more of their lack of desire to be aggressive post scorers who dunk on their opponents. They don't have a great vertical leaping ability but are extremely long armed. I think the difference is that Okafor has the stigma of a #2 overall pick. He is getting paid like he was a number two pick. I think Udoh will provide the same things Okafor does, but for a lot less money. I think he would be a very good fit next to Hibbert, but my hesitation lies within his ability to guard the pick and roll. If he absolutely cannot guard it, then I don't really want him. If he is sufficient enough with his length to recover from any lack of lateral movement, then I would be fine with him, because I think we need one more young big that can rotate to center for spot minutes. We have a very good young front court, but we could definitely use one more. There will be a team that takes him before us though. GS, Detroit, Utah, and the Clippers all need size up front and he will likely be gone I agree.
        "Your course, your path, is not going to be like mine," West says. "Everybody is not called to be a multimillionaire. Everybody's not called to be the president. Whatever your best work is, you do it. Do it well. … You cease your own greatness when you aspire to be someone else."


        • #5
          Re: Tbird 2010 draft analysis #6: Ekpe Udoh

          One thing he didn't do nearly enough that annoyed me though was to physically bump people as they crossed his vision, making it uncomfortable for people to attempt to get the ball against him.
          While I agree, I'd have to add that not a lot of the bigs this year did this. One of the things that frustrated me was that outside of Booker, Lawal sometimes, maybe a bit of Cousins or Patterson, and IIRC Ndiaye, not a lot of the bigs really like to bang, especially on defense. I forgot, Jerome Jordan, he's a banger too.

          I scouted Udoh more positively than TBird. Udoh instantly becomes one of the top passing bigs when he hits the league. He's patient with passing, even when he gets in trouble, and has a nice touch usually. This passing makes him a outstanding pick for Utah since their whole game is based on excellent passing and movement between their bigs.

          He's great as a one on one defender, capable of blocking shots of the post guy he's guarding. This isn't such a small thing as most of the great shot blockers this year are really homerun guys, guys who chase from the help position and often get burned on the backside if they miss the block or don't get it cleanly enough. They get passed behind or they don't get the defensive board.

          Originally he was awkward on offense as a scorer, but as the season wore on his moves improved, he added variety, and by the time they met Duke he was scoring off his dribble even.

          Due to his massive improvement over the season which included awareness increases, I also disagree on his upside. I think he showed that he's got room to grow and the ability to make good on that.

          To me Udoh is what people wish Alabi or Whiteside would become.

          He and Monroe are close and to me represent the two best bigs in this draft. I like Cousins too, but I wish he had a little more length. I like Patterson and his hops, but he's not quite as physically imposing as these two. Favors - just insanely raw still, way more athlete than basketball player. I'd love Lawal if he had Udoh or Monroe's body, but he doesn't (though I still like him quite a bit).

          Udoh and Monroe are moot points for Pacers fans, they will not be around at #10 it appears.


          • #6
            Re: Tbird 2010 draft analysis #6: Ekpe Udoh

            Definitely sounds like the kind of guy we'd draft, I agree with that. With all the rumors I'd be a bit surprised if we stood pat on draft night. Sounds like we're being very active. I'm sure many here are looking forward to the Eric Bledsoe breakdown, but I'd love to see an Evan Turner breakdown just in case we move up to 2...


            • #7
              Re: Tbird 2010 draft analysis #6: Ekpe Udoh

              Originally posted by Naptown_Seth View Post
              Udoh and Monroe are moot points for Pacers fans, they will not be around at #10 it appears.
              Perhaps the bigger question will be will our #10 pick even be around?

              I could see a few guys being picked earlier than expected (Aldrich, Patternson, and/or Davis could go in the top 9, for example), dropping someone like Udoh down to #10, but will we even have that pick by then? I wish I knew what picks 7 through 9 will be.

              Unless we can obtain the long-term services of a really promising young PG, which seems questionable, I'd prefer to stay in the draft. I want no part of the Parker rental in particular.
              Last edited by IndyPacer; 06-07-2010, 08:17 PM.


              • #8
                Re: Tbird 2010 draft analysis #6: Ekpe Udoh

                hoopshype seems to have him compared with jason thompson. what do you think of this?
                Peck is basically omniscient when it comes to understanding how the minds of Herb Simon and Kevin Pritchard work. I was a fool to ever question him and now feel deep shame for not understanding that this team believes in continuity above talent.


                • #9
                  Re: Tbird 2010 draft analysis #6: Ekpe Udoh

                  TBird, you have often mentioned the elusive "Player X"....specifically a Frontcourt Player that could be strong enough to play as a Center next to Hansbrough and ( at the same time ) be quick/atheltic enough to guard more mobile "stretch Forwards" as a PF next to Hibbert.

                  How close does Udoh come to being "Player X"?

                  If he isn't a good candidate for being "Player X", will you be analyzing someone who will be the closest thing to "Player X" in this upcoming draft?

                  Maybe because of Seth's glowing posts about him and my preference for a Tweenter PF/C that defends/rebounds/block shots, I'm thinking that Udoh could be the closest thing that we can get when it comes to a "Player X".
                  Last edited by CableKC; 06-08-2010, 08:51 PM.
                  Ash from Army of Darkness: Good...Bad...I'm the guy with the gun.


                  • #10
                    Re: Tbird 2010 draft analysis #6: Ekpe Udoh

                    I have Udoh rated right behind Monroe. Udoh reminds me of Joakim Noah. He would be a good fit for the Pacers at 10, but if the Pacers traded back and got him later with an extra pick or player, it would be a brilliant move.