We all love the NCAA tournament, but as NBA fans we watch it with a different eye — who is going to be coming out of this showcase and on to the NBA. This is the first of a series of posts over the next couple of days highlighting players to watch.
Plenty of casual fans filling out their brackets — after being confused about not being able to find North Carolina on it anywhere — couldn’t figure out how Baylor got to be a three seed. Baylor? What have they got?
What they have is one of the best offenses in college basketball this season — 119.6 points per 100 possessions, fifth best in the nation. They can score, as poor Sam Houston State will find out. But it is not Baylor’s scoring leader — LaceDarius Dunn — that NBA scouts are watching.
It is junior center Ekpe Udoh, the 6’10” Baylor center who translates to a power forward at the NBA level. The online draft bible DraftExpress has him going at the end of the lottery (currently 13 in their mock draft).
For more info on Udoh, we went to the source for some exclusive comments to ProBasketballTalk — Draft Express’ Assistant Director of Scouting Joe Treutlein (a guy NBA teams should be scouting themselves):
“Ekpe Udoh is one of the more interesting guys in the draft this year, mainly because after sitting out a year transferring from Michigan to Baylor, he’s completely reinvented his game, making leaps and bounds as a player. He has a nice arsenal of moves in both back-to-the-basket and face-up situations, while showing a pretty good feel for the game as well. His learning curve is the most intriguing part about him, though, given the strides he’s made in the last two years.”
This game may not be that entertaining — Sam Houston State plays pretty good defense but will not slow Baylor much. And they have nobody who can physically match up with Udoh. But as Baylor advances, it will be interesting to see what Udoh does against other top bigs in the tournament.
When Danny Ferry’s racism scandal came to light, Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer publicly supported his general manager. Budenholzer called the “African” remarks about Luol Deng “very much out of character” and said Ferry was trying to learn from his mistakes.
And while Budenholzer might not have done anything privately to contradict his public statements, his tone apparently differed with Ferry and then-owner Bruce Levenson last fall.
Kevin Arnovitz and Brian Windhorst of ESPN:
Budenholzer very much owed his job to Ferry. His former Spurs colleague had pleaded with Levenson that the Gregg Popovich assistant was the man for the position. Yet Budenholzer felt Ferry should resign, lest the Hawks be subsumed in disruption when training camp opened, and he made his wishes known in a heartfelt conversation with Ferry and Levenson at that time.
In some respect, Budenholzer was just doing his job as coaching – trying to maximize his teams chances of on-court success. Ferry didn’t resign. He took a leave of absence that lasted until he agreed to a buyout this summer. That was apparently enough to avoid a paralyzing distraction. The Hawks won 60 games and reached their first conference finals since moving to Atlanta.
Ferry’s departure also significantly benefitted Budenholzer personally. Budenholzer ran the Hawks’ front office during Ferry’s leave, and the new owners have installed him as the teams permanent president.
The only other four active coaches with personnel control experienced much more success before getting the dual president/coach title.
Gregg Popovich coached the Spurs to four championships and 11 playoff berths before they named him president in 2008. Doc Rivers won Coach of the Year with the Magic and then guided the Celtics to a title during his 14 seasons before the Clippers plucked him to run their franchise. Stan Van Gundy steered the Heat and Magic to the playoffs in all seven of his full seasons, including a trip to the 2009 NBA Finals with Orlando, before getting hired by the Pistons. Flip Saunders won more games than every other Timberwolves coach combined, is responsible for every playoff win in franchise history and made four trips to the conference finals (including thrice with the Pistons) over 16 total seasons before Minnesota gave him the huge role.
Budenholzer has been a head coach just two seasons, including a 38-44 debut year. He has done a good job, winning Coach of the Year last season, and he might make a good team president.
But he lacks the track record most coaches need to gain such status. Budenholzer, more than anything, was at the right place at the right time.
The Rockets tried signing Sergio Llull this summer, but he opted for a long-term extension with Real Madrid.
So, they’ll just turn to another player in their large chest of stashed draft picks – Alessandro Gentile.
Marc Stein of ESPN:
Gentile, who was selected No. 53 in the 2014, is a 22-year-old wing for Armani Milano. He’s a good scorer, but he primarily works from mid-range – an area the Rockets eschew. He can get to the rim in Europe, but his subpar athleticism might hinder him in the NBA.
If Gentile comes stateside, he’ll face a steep learning curve. But he’s young enough and talented enough that he could develop into a rotation player.