The Pistons need size. The Pistons need a defensive presence in the paint. The Pistons need a back-to-the-basket scorer. The Pistons need a shot blocker. The Pistons don’t need Ekpe Udoh.
That is my initial impression, anyway. My back of the napkin asessment is that while Udoh had a wonderful run in the tournament, leading his Baylor Bears to the Elite Eight, he has serious flaws in his game and his defensive reputation might be more hype than reality.
Let’s look at the hard and fast stats:
- 13.7 points per game
- 8.8 rebounds per game
- 3.7 blocks per game
- 49% shooting
Doesn’t sound too bad, initially. Lots of rebounds, tons of blocked shots. What’s not to like? Unfortunately, there is another stat that is key to analyzing Udoh’s success: 35.1 minutes per game.
The former Michigan Wolverine might put up nearly a double-double per game, but he needs to be on the floor almost the entire time to do it. Pace adjusted over 40 minutes, Udoh averages only 11.0 rebounds per game and 4.2 blocks per game. How does that compare to other big men in the draft?:
- Demarcus Cousins averaged 15.9 rebounds and 2.9 blocks.
- Greg Monroe: 11.3 and 1.8.
- Cole Aldrich 14.7 and 5.2.
- Ed Davis: 12.6 and 3.7.
- Daniel Orton: 9.6 and 4.0.
Suddenly, Udoh’s output doesn’t look so impressive. Another number going against the lanky big man: 23. As in 23-years-old. I think age is a major red flag when making a pick, especially high in the draft. Udoh simply doesn’t have a lot of growing to do as a player — at least compared to players like Cousins, Davis and Orton.
A roundup of various profiles and scouting reports on Udoh after the jump.
At the basket, Udoh leaves some points on the floor at times, as despite being a very good overall athlete due to his mobility, fluidity, and coordination, he isn’t the toughest, most explosive or reactive player, not always elevating with great ease around the rim, and seemingly shying away from contact at times. He isn’t the greatest off his second bounce and he doesn’t have the make-up to explode up and overpower his man, though looking at him, you get the sense his lower body strength probably isn’t maxed out, and this is something he could improve with the right training.
Udoh is also a potent threat out of isolation situations, being able to utilize everything out of the triple-threat position, be it taking his man off the dribble, shooting a mid-range jumper, or passing to an open man. Udoh’s isolation game is very intriguing, as he shows nice footwork, a good first step, and a nice variety of moves, while finishing at a decent rate at this level.
Skilled power forward with a long, lean frame. Has a 7’4 1/2 wingspan … Nicknamed “The Nightmare” for his demonic shot blocking prowess (3.7 per game as junior) … Views swatting shots as an art form – always taking proper angles, never leaving his feet until his opponent does, can block shots with either hand and keeps balls in play.
Problem #2: He’s not a defensive rebounder. Udoh rebounded 17.9 percent of defensive opportunities, per KenPom.com. Baylor was 169th in the nation in defensive rebounding, so there were certainly available opportunities Udoh nor a teammate grabbed. (I mention that because if a player has mediocre rebound rates but the team ranks highly, there could be an issue of a teammate or two deflating said player’s rebound totals.) Just about every big man pegged for the first round outrebounded Udoh on defense. A number of small forwards did, as well. It’s not just that this team needs defensive rebounding. It’s that the team can’t really afford to add a player to the frontcourt rotation who cannot rebound on defense effectively.
Why I’d pick him: He’s a better athlete than Thabeet — I can’t stand plodding centers — and he works hard. He’d give the Pistons size, a guy who doesn’t need the ball to score — remember, any offensive threat that comes in is going to have to battle with Rip Hamilton, Rodney Stuckey, Tayshaun Prince, Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva and, theoretically, and improved and contributing Austin Daye to get shots. Assuming Ben Wallace comes back, the Pistons would have two great shot-blockers who could make the shaky perimeter defense less of a concern.