I wrote recently how the Warriors’ hopes center on Ekpe Udoh, and that’s independent of whether he plays center or power forward for Golden State. He’s a second-year lottery pick who’s cheap, so in a way what happens to the Warriors in 2011-12 has a lot to do with whether Udoh plays well enough to force Mark Jackson to consider moving him to the starting lineup.
Whether Udoh makes the leap necessary in offensive and rebounding production, time will tell. However, Udoh started his NBA career out of shape and with barely any practice time after recovering from a wrist injury, and still affected games through defensive effort not seen from anyone else on the team. If Jackson was telling the truth about bringing a commitment to defense and accountability to a team that hasn’t really shown either since 2007, Udoh’s going to get as many minutes as he can handle.
In the following video, Daniel Leroux (Real GM) asked Udoh about what it’s like coming into a season healthy, and I asked him a couple questions about his stint in Israel. Udoh only played one game with Bnei Hasharon (which plays in Israel’s top pro league) and scored 22 points on 9-of-11 shooting (including 1-for-1 on threes!), grabbed 16 rebounds and blocked 4 shots. By comparison, Sacramento Kings forward J.J. Hickson also played in one game a month earlier for Bnei Hasharon, scoring 20 points and pulling down 8 rebounds in a 39-point loss.
The Warriors don’t need Udoh to shoot threes, they have plenty of guys who can do that. But if he can become the rebounder his wingspan and effort would suggest and add a little perimeter action to his offensive game, he’s going to answer a lot of the problems the Warriors always seem to face … and cause many to wonder how the Warriors can get out from under David Lee’s contract.