Will Ekpe Udoh be a bust?
EU certainly doesn’t measure up well in Hollinger’s draft player rater. Below I listed Udoh’s projected efficiency next to that of two, perhaps, more palatable picks:
Udoh has a significantly worse projected PER than Greg Monroe or Xavier Henry. Of course I could bolster my case against Udoh’s future if I understood Hollinger’s regression analysis formula. His player rater has been far from perfect in predicting NBA success. Still, I’d be more comfortable with a great Hollinger number than with a bad one.
Dave Berri’s “Wages of Wins” isn’t too optimistic about the young (old) Baylor PF:
“If we look at the below average players, John Wall, Greg Monroe, and Ekpe Udoh top the list.”
Well, thank God we missed out on that John Wall guy, and at least Greg Monroe got some doomsaying. Between Monroe and Udoh the Warriors were possibly damned either way. Numbers aside, Ekpe Udoh is more athletic than Greg Monroe. Ekpe jumped for a satisfactory 33 inch vertical—Greg barely tip-toed 29 inches.
It’s important to note that while Berri’s statistics are great for understanding which players win, they aren’t great for understanding perceived player success. If Xavier Henry were to score 20 points per game while contributing no wins, he’d likely get ROY.
Drafting a wins-producing player is ideal, but there is a cache in selecting an overrated piece. Overrated pieces command big trade value. Allen Iverson was never much in the wins department, but his captivating scoring skills landed productive point guards in two different trades (Andre Miller, Chauncey Billups). To be overrated is to be overvalued, and value is as value trades. Signing an “Emperor’s New Clothes” free agent is a financial disaster; nabbing a puffed up draft pick can be a blessing.
My fear with Udoh is that a) he won’t produce wins and b) he lacks the skill set to get overvalued. Ekpe at his peak would be the kind of dreary low post denizen who makes sportswriters and GMs hit the snooze button.
Subjectively, my belief is that Udoh will be a bust–for a number six selection. Matt Steinmetz lauds Udoh’s refined post game, and it’s fundamental to be sure. But how’s this six-foot-nine stringbean going to employ those fancy moves? What’s to prevent Dwight Howard from throwing all that refinement back in Ekpe’s teeth? We fetishize skill on the block, but very few bigs can pull it off in the modern NBA. Gasol and a healthy Al Jefferson are the only players who stoke McHale memories. Today’s bigs don’t dominate with the force of their 90’s predecessors. A more athletic game is partly to blame and there are other factors. Since that bloody era, the three-pointer gained steam, sustained double teams were allowed–unhinged zone defenses could be next on the horizon. And Udoh wouldn’t be big enough in either era.
So Udoh’s two best skills (shot blocking and post moves) will be greatly impacted by the NBA game. His handles are nice, his passing is decent, his athleticism is NBA average. But I need better from a 6-9, 23 year-old forward. I hope I’m wrong.