Ekpe Udoh has finally developed into the impact player he was hoped to be when he was drafted sixth overall in the 2010 NBA draft, but by his age-29 season and at the Euroleague level with Fenerbahçe, which came just short of the title by losing to CSKA Moscow in overtime of the championship game.
Playing for legend Zeljko Obradovic, Udoh developed into a difference making defender who controlled the lane while also managing to extend beyond the foul line a little bit, which is key for big men in this new era of basketball. On the other end, Udoh flashed a level of skill he was not given much opportunity to showcase in the NBA.
Udoh has always had decent agility and great length but appears to have developed better timing in his rotations playing for Obradovic. He is not only able to leap out of one foot coming off the weak-side in help-defense but also elevate out of two feet stepping in to the protect the front of the rim and out of a standstill position after holding ground in low post defense.
Based on numbers collected at RealGM, Udoh averaged 2.4 blocks per 36 minutes in his 1,745 minutes against Euroleague and Turkish league competition last season.
He is not a particularly productive defensive rebounder for someone with his size, though, partially because he was asked to extend away from the lane some but mostly because Udoh often allowed inside position to opposing big men – collecting just 17.4% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor last season.
AWAY FROM THE RIM
Especially in the Euroleague quarterfinals series against Real Madrid and in the Euroleague title game against CSKA Moscow, Udoh was asked to extend beyond the foul line because of the threat shooters like Sergio Llull, Sergio Rodriguez and Milos Teodosic are to pull-up from range.
The results were mixed. He is shown to be a viable option to step outside the lane and contribute within a team context but not good enough to be left out on an island against smaller players with regularity.
Udoh can’t get low to guard in a stance and is prone to leaving his feet on shot-fakes but has agility keep pace well enough on straight line drives to try blocking shots from behind against guards who aren’t explosive and can’t shake him side-to-side.
Against the pick-and-roll, his coordination hedging was suspect but he showed fluid footwork dropping back and showing-and-recovering high in the perimeter.
Udoh can contest outside shots by stretch big men due to his length but doesn’t closeout with good enough balance, which makes him prone to getting blown by off the bounce.
Udoh is no Boris Diaw or the sort of hub you play your offense through but proved himself a plus from a skill level-standpoint.
He facilitated offense from the low post with his back to the basket, assisting cutters and weak-side three-point shooters against double-teams. Though he isn’t much of a dribbler, Udoh also showcased the ability to make simple reads out of the short roll. According to RealGM, he assisted on 12.7% of Fenerbahçe’s scores when he was on the floor.
Udoh isn’t exactly a go-to option in the post, lacking a diverse arsenal of moves and particularly fluid footwork. But he is capable of getting decent turnaround hooks off late in the shot clock.
Udoh is also not a shooter to be put in the pick-and-pop or one that scares the defense spotting up 18 feet away but flashed the ability to hit catch-and-shoot jump-shots from the short mid-range area.
ATHLETIC ABILITY ON OFFENSE
Due to his leaping ability, Udoh can play above the rim as a target for lobs when the weak-side defender doesn’t help the helper but isn’t a regular threat against a well set defense, more often rolling into post position. His hands catching the ball on the move are only so-so but his explosiveness elevating out of two feet to finish with power in traffic when he needed to catch-and-gather himself is impressive.
But where his athletic ability made more of an impact on that end of the floor was on the glass. Udoh uses his seven-foot-four wingspan to rebound outside of his area, has second-jump-ability to fight for tip-ins and the aforementioned explosiveness to attack balls just coming off the rim for putback dunks, collecting 11.2% of Fenerbahçe’s misses when he was on the floor last season.
Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor and at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara