On Tuesday, the Indiana Pacers held a workout for six players who they are considering drafting. Among the six were Ekpe Udoh and Hassan Whiteside who were matched up and figure to be fighting for a chance to become a Pacer big man. Of course, that is assuming the Pacers want either player and both are still available. Udoh and Whiteside have shown they have a tremendous amount of ability. So the question remains, who would be a better Pacer?
Ekpe Udoh had an impressive college career split between Michigan and Baylor. The 6 10' 240 pound Nigerian made a name for himself in the NCAA tournament by leading Baylor to the Elite 8. In 2010, Udoh was a monster for Baylor averaging 13.4 points, 9.8 rebounds, 3.7 blocks, and 2.7 assists per game. As a young player he won Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year, but left Michigan because of the new perimeter based offense that would be implemented by John Beilein.
Many considered Udoh's game outside the paint to be his weak point, one of many improvements he made during the transfer year he sat out. Scouts were impressed to see a more developed Udoh on the Baylor squad. He made improvements to his mid-range shooting as well as his driving ability. One of the most impressive facets of Udoh's newly improved game was his passing. He exhibited a fantastic basketball IQ in being able to see cuts by other players out of the post. Udoh is considered one of the better passers out of the big men in the draft and is known for his incredible work ethic. He explained, "Any team that wants to give me the opportunity to play the game I love, I'm going to take it and cherish it."
Udoh's decision to transfer to Baylor may end up being one of the best he ever makes. He was able to get national exposure in the Elite 8 and became the force behind Baylor's offense and defense the entire season. Furthermore, Udoh's progression during the year he sat out shows he is a fast learner. When asked about his transfer year Udoh said, "loving the game more, really falling back in love, appreciating it, and just working hard" helped him stay focused.
Some teams may look at Udoh as a liability because he will be 23 come draft time, which most likely limits his physical progression. The Nigerian has impressive rebounding statistics, but could be more aggressive on the glass. He will be facing men who may be taller and stronger than him, something he rarely had to deal with in college. Udoh has been known to get backed up in the post when defending against stronger players. He will need to put on more muscle in order to play to his full potential. Talking about his strength Udoh said, "Once I get picked, as well as now, I have to work hard in the weight room." Something that could become an issue for Udoh is being put against faster more agile players when switching on screens and pick and rolls. Ekpe has not looked overly comfortable defending a man one on one from the outside.
Hassan Whiteside is only 21, but his astounding physical attributes may make up for his inexperience. Whiteside is 7 feet tall and weighs 235 pounds; his 7-7 wingspan is the longest in the history of the pre-draft camp. Playing for Marshall in Conference USA, Whiteside put up 13.1 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 5.4 blocks per game. He led the NCAA in blocked shots and was named Conference USA's defensive player of the year. Despite suggestions he may be too immature for the NBA, Whiteside has remained focused on "coming in to work hard and really trying to be the best I can be."
Whiteside uses his incredible frame to score inside and has become a credible mid-range shooter. He excels at using his long arms to shoot over defenders and has successfully used his raw athletic ability in the post. Being difficult to defend, Hassan has found his way to the line often and has converted 60% of his free throw attempts. Whiteside may be compared to one of his favorite players, Kevin Garnett. They have similar frames and both use a high shot release to get over opposing defenders. If Whiteside shows he has the same commitment level as Garnett, teams will move him up on the draft board. His shot blocking ability, which strikes fear into players driving the lane, may come to rival Garnett.
One of the most intriguing parts of Whiteside is the vast amount of room he has to improve. His youth could play to his advantage as some coaches may view Whiteside as a player who has incredible natural talent and can be molded into an all-star. Whiteside is aware that he must add muscle in order to succeed in the NBA and is determined to do so by working hard in the weight room. He believes he should weigh "250 pounds because that is quick enough, but still big enough to dunk on people." Continuing Whiteside said, "I like lifting weights a lot. When I got to Marshall no one knew I was 205, now I'm around 230, so I think I can put on weight pretty easy." Whiteside remains unpolished as a player especially in the low post. He must work on his foot work and post moves. A large amount of his points come from his athletic ability opposed to his basketball ability. If he is able to master the post position, Whiteside becomes a tremendously dangerous player.
Opposite of Udoh, Whiteside has not developed the ability to pass at all. He averaged only .3 assists per game which allows the defense to converge on him in the post. He had difficulties with academics and is not known as having the highest basketball IQ. However, he is still very young and may have more room for improvement then Udoh.
While Udoh and Whiteside are comparable in size and position, they enter the draft as two players on opposite sides of the spectrum. Udoh is more seasoned and has shown his ability to learn and improve. Whiteside is still very young, but possess an infinite amount of potential. Physically, the edge has to go to Whiteside. His wingspan is incredible and he has made it this far on pure athletic ability. He must add muscle in order to defend bigger post players, but has shown his dedication in the weight room at Marshall. Udoh has the advantage in overall basketball ability and IQ. He has developed into an impressive passer with an array of post moves. He has worked hard to improve his jump shot and even made shots from outside the arc during the season. The decision is not easy, but Ekpe Udoh is the right choice. In Udoh the Pacers would get a dedicated, skilled, and smart big man who still has room to improve despite his age. Udoh has all-star potential and can be counted among big men who can do more than simply play the low post.
Who to choose, Udoh or Whiteside?
Among the six working out for the Pacers on Tuesday, Ekpe Udoh and Hassan Whiteside figure to be fighting for a chance to become a Pacer big man.
- Baylor's Ekpe Udoh
- Hassan Whiteside highlights from Pacers draft workout
- Marshall's Hassan Whiteside
- Chris Kramer highlights at Pacers workout
- Lance Stephenson highlights from Pacers workout
- Derrick Caracter highlights from Pacers workout
- Muscle (INACTIVE)
- Colleges and Universities
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