Obviously, nobody really knows whether Thursday’s draft selection of Baylor power forward Ekpe Udoh is a genius or bonehead move. We can read all the scouting report and analysis that’s out there, but until we see him on the court, in the Warriors’ system, we won’t really know. That being said, I’m in the camp (it seems to be a small one) that likes this pick.
If DeMarcus Cousins had dropped past the Kings at No. 5, I think it would have been a major win for the Warriors. Cousins, despite his baggage, is arguably the most talented player in the draft. With the relatively risk-free financial commitments required of draft picks in the NBA, you have to take a chance on a player like that. But Cousins wasn’t there for the Warriors, so the best options were Georgetown PF/C Greg Monroe, Udoh, or any of the small forwards left on the board (Al-Farouq Aminu, Gordon Hayward, Paul George, Luke Babbitt). I don’t think the Warriors needed any of the small forwards left in this draft. Aminu isn’t ready to contribute right now, George is too risky and Babbitt plays no defense. I like Hayward, but I think the Jazz stretched to pick him at No. 9. Drafting him at No. 6 would have been too early. The best options were Monroe and Udoh.
I don’t like Monroe for the Warriors because I don’t think he helps address any of the team’s issues. The Warriors’ most obvious weaknesses are rebounding and defense. Monroe, according to scouting reports, lacks toughness, doesn’t always play hard, and isn’t a great rebounder. The most glaring red flag is his motor. Monroe can be a good defender, but doesn’t always play hard which means he’s a sometimes-defender. Does that remind you of anyone? The Warriors already have a player like that in Monta Ellis. Monroe has his strengths — he’s a smart player, he has offensive skills and he’s a great passer. But Monroe, even though he’s a good player, doesn’t make the Warriors better. He’d complement their offense, but the Warriors’ offense isn’t the problem. It’s their defense and rebounding that needs to improve. Monroe doesn’t help with either.
Udoh, on the other hand, addresses those weaknesses directly. As already mentioned, Udoh has very good size for a power forward. He is not a skinny power forward. He is 6-10, 240 and is long (he has a 7-5 wingspan; Monroe’s is 7-2). So many pundits are claiming that he’s just another version of Anthony Randolph and Brandan Wright. He’s not. He has between 20-30 pounds on both of those players and plays a different kind of game. The scouting report states that Udoh is an “above-average rebounder, especially on the offensive glass.” Great. Udoh is long, physical and is a great shot blocker. He averaged 3.7 blocks last season. Udoh has the tools to be a very good defender. Udoh’s presence should improve the Warriors because his strengths coincide with the Warriors’ weaknesses. Plus, he’s no slouch on offense. He averaged almost 14 points per game last season and has a solid midrange game that extends out to the 3-point line (I don’t expect to see him shooting 3-pointers in the NBA, though).
I don’t know if Udoh will start the season opener at power forward for the Warriors. But I think he’s a better long-term option at that position than either Randolph or Wright. I think he’s a better option for improving the Warriors than Monroe. In my book, Udoh was a smart pick by the Warriors.