The TrueHoop Network’s mock draft will be released on our individual sites during the rest of the day, tomorrow and Wednesday. Picks are predictions, not our preferences.
First six picks
7. Detroit – Ekpe Udoh
I covered Udoh his sophomore season at Michigan, and it’s crazy to think he’s going to be a first-round pick Thursday. And I may have appreciated Udoh more than anyone else that time. I even wrote a column saying Udoh’s transfer could cripple John Beilein’s program:
Beilein puts more focus on offense than defense. For him to have Udoh, who led the Big Ten in blocks on the way to conference All-Defensive team honors last year, was more of blessing than he realized. Without his coach emphasizing it, Udoh took pride in his defense and cleaned up a lot of the mistakes his teammates made. … Udoh was one of the few players Beilein inherited that he could build an NCAA Tournament team with.
And make no mistake about it, that’s what the Wolverines need – an elite defender. Michigan’s defense was poor for most of last season, and that was with Udoh doing his best to make up for his teammates’ weak on-the-ball defense. With him out of the picture, opponents must be salivating about padding their scoring averages against the Wolverines next year.
(Obviously, it didn’t work out quite like that. Michigan made the NCAA Tournament the following season, but Udoh would have certainly helped the Wolverines last year.)
Still, I never thought Udoh would be such a hot NBA prospect.
He contributed almost nothing offensively, and I don’t just mean he didn’t score. He didn’t pass well. Given his size, his offensive rebounding wasn’t special. Basically, it seemed like he just tried to stay out of the way. And I think that’s one reason he wasn’t valued by Beilein, whose offensive system is predicated on having five shooters on the floor.
Also, as thin as Udoh was, I didn’t think he could do the same things defensively. I still worry what will happen when a center backs him down. (Although, he was excellent against eventual-NBAer Kosta Koufos.)
But Udoh would upgrade’s the Pistons pick-and-roll defense right away. He played in the middle of Beilein’s 1-3-1 zone defense and had to cover a lot of ground. He’d allow Detroit switch on screens and cover guards and small forwards better than most big men can.
And his offense came out of nowhere at Baylor. I’m not even going to try to make sense what happened. If you saw him at Michigan, it’s just inexplicable.
The best reason I can give a team to draft Udoh: he shot 68.5 percent on his free throws last season. That stat indicates he has the right attitude now.
Why the Pistons will take him
First of all, Udoh passes the wingspan test.
I also think the Pistons think he’s a good rebounder. Udoh averaged a seemingly impressive 9.8 rebounds per game – tied for third among DraftExpress’ projected first rounders. But using KenPom’s offensive- and defensive-rebounding percentages, Udoh comes up a little shorter.
Here’s a chart of the first-round prospects’ offensive- and defensive- rebounding percentages. Udoh sneaks into the top-right quadrant, the best quadrant. But eight other players have strong holds into the quadrant, including DeMarcus Cousins, who’s in a league of his own.
The Pistons have never given much indication they care a lot about advanced stats like these. I think it’s reasonable to suspect they overrate Udoh’s rebounding prowess, making it more likely they take him.
But attitude plays a larger part in why I picked Udoh for the Pistons.
Last summer, Dumars decided he wanted to build a roster full of players who can score inside and outside. So, he drafted Austin Daye – allegedly promising to take him – higher than most projections had him going. And after targeting Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, Dumars offered them contracts they couldn’t refuse (because they were for so much money, not because they were attached to horse heads).
They could’ve maybe traded down and still gotten Daye. And they definitely could’ve gotten Gordon and Villanueva for a little less money. But Dumars wanted those players, and he wasn’t overly concerned with the cost.
This year, it seems Dumars wants a tough big man with high character. After the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, it felt like I read 1,000 articles about how great a guy Udoh is. His defense is excellent, and he obviously has the size.
Even though I – and John Hollinger’s Rookie Rater – think Udoh at No. 7 is a bit of a reach, it seems like the pick Dumars will make if the Pistons stay at No. 7.
Rest of the first round
Vote in our poll about whom you would take at No. 7 if you were in charge.