I’m ready to ride the Ekpe Udoh bandwagon straight to hell and back even if it’s for really superfluous reasons like his middle name which is my favorite movie, song and day.
There are real reasons to like Udoh’s play so far. With Ersan Ilyasova out, Udoh started and had to step up his rebounding.
“One knock on me is that I haven’t been able to rebound as well. So I’ve got to key in on that, help my team out any way I can,” Udoh said after the Bucks win against the Hawks.
Ilyasova grabs nearly 18 percent of the team’s total rebounds when he’s on the floor. In Golden State, Udoh grabbed only 10 percent of all available rebounds. In Milwaukee he’s upped that percentage to 14. He’s averaging just over 9 rebounds in his per 36 minutes averages as opposed to 6.4 per 36 in Golden State.
It should be noted that Andrew Bogut grabbed 15 percent of all available rebounds. If Udoh doesn’t regress, he’ll be a reasonable replacement of Bogut to protect the rim – he’s also fourth among all power forwards in blocks per 40 minutes. And in terms of replacing Bogut on defense, he’s not quite there yet, but he should grow just fine once he reaches some familiarity with the team.
“I’m confident in defense. Period. I don’t know too much about all the terminology. I can’t just tell somebody just anything. And if they mess up, then it looks bad on the team when it’s really my fault,” said Udoh, “A couple of times, I’ve missed some opportunities to be there. I’ve got to get better at that.”
It’s weird/comforting with how harsh Udoh is on his help defense. Weird because the best part of his game is filling the holes everyone else leaves open. It’s comforting because he still wants to improve the best parts of his game.
The biggest knock on Udoh is his lack of offense, but that realization is freeing in a way for the team. When Andrew Bogut was healthy this season, the Bucks wasted a lot of possessions giving Bogut the ball when he was struggling through the worst shooting season of his career (44.9% eFG and 46.5 TS%, both career lows). With Udoh, there’s no pressure to get him the ball except for when he’s open. And Udoh is good at recognizing the defense and finding the open spaces. Udoh’s field goal percentage and points are down ever since he joined Milwaukee, but he’s now playing in an offensive system that’s nearly the opposite of what he was doing in Golden State.
“29 assists. We do that often here. And they didn’t do it as much there. So I didn’t touch the ball as much,” Udoh said.
Udoh has gotten into the passing spirit. His assist rate has swelled to 35.2 compared to the 12.5 assist rate that he had in Golden State.
Udoh’s plus/minus is +24 for the Bucks through seven games. His individual stats are still nothing worth looking at, but he’s too smart of a player to not grow quickly into his role. His defense will still be there no matter what and it isn’t unreasonable to think that he’ll grow offensively now that he’s touching the ball more.
Ian Segovia is a writer for Bucksketball. Follow him on Twitter. Pretty please!