Back when Udoh was drafted, my reaction was to recoil like a dying armadillo:
“Misery” was harsh, especially since I’ve liked the recent Ekpe. If Shane Battier was the “No-Stats All-Star,” Udoh may yet become the “No-Stats, OK guy.” Ekpe’s PER is a lowly 9.47 and he’s averaging a mere 8.9 points and 6.7 rebounds per 40 minutes. In a small sample size, he’s been rebounding like Brook Lopez and scoring like Juwan Howard.
But somehow, his defense compensates. In the surprising victory against Chicago, Carlos Boozer was making light of David Lee’s existence with a flurry of rainbow set shots. Lee would close-out, but his hand was no match for the ball’s habitual trajectory.
Suddenly, indomitable Boozer couldn’t shoot–as in, he wasn’t able to get a shot off. Udoh was on Carlos near the perimeter, his wiry frame enveloping Boozer as though a fishing net had fallen on the Alaskan. I’ve never seen this from a rookie power forward, much less a Warriors rookie power forward. Guys who protect the rim usually lack the mobility to imitate Bruce Bowen far from the cup. Udoh is special in this respect.
The stats would support his defensive credentials. In the early going, the Warriors are -9.68 points better on defense when Udoh’s on the floor. In contrast, Golden State has been 10 points worse–per 100 possessions–when the high-scoring Ellis plays his interpretation of defense. I’m not saying that Monta Ellis is worse than Ekpe Udoh, just that Udoh’s meaningful contributions aren’t as obvious.
In last night’s game against the Nuggets, Ekpe failed to record a single point, rebound, assist, block, or steal during his 13 minutes of play. That was an atypically bad performance, but it was typical in that the Warriors gained five points with Udoh in the lineup. So, I’m happy to see the rookie play, especially when he covers for Lee’s defensive lapses.
I still wish the Dubs had selected Greg Monroe, though.
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