Ekpe Udoh, the #6 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, switched, slid, stripped, contested, recovered, rotated and swatted Fenerbahce to a 2017 Euroleague Final Four title, the Turkish power's first in club history.
Written off as a 'bust' relative to his lofty draft status and just-decent NBA production (10.8 PER in 274 games played over five seasons), the recently turned 30-year-old Udoh thoroughly dominated the Euroleague Final Four with his stout, versatile defense, putting the clamps on Greek legend and three time Euroleague Final Four MVP Vassilis Spanoulis, one game after neutralizing incumbent Euroleague MVP Sergio Llull (the 34th overall pick in 2009).
Thanks to his excellent feet, massive 7' 4.5 wingspan, sharp timing and overall defensive range, Udoh killed nearly every ball screen with his 'switchability', stalling Olympiacos' offense. His dominant defensive performance (seven blocks in 75 Euroleague Final Four minutes) begs the question - why didn't Udoh stick in the NBA?
The former Michigan big turned Baylor transfer certainly could have done more to maximize his opportunities at the NBA level, but the league had yet to evolve into what it is today. At 6-10, Udoh was 'undersized' for a center, and didn't quite have the skill set to fit as a four man, evident by his porous 8.9 points per 40 minutes on 44% shooting as a rookie in Golden State. With post touches more prevalent, Udoh didn't exactly fit on either end - undersized as a defender on the block, and raw as an interior scorer. His toughness was also questioned, and his lack of defensive rebounding was worrisome in a league that played bigger, and wasn't nearly as switch-heavy as it is today.
But since his underwhelming seasons with the Warriors (2010-12), Bucks (2012-14) and Clippers (2014-15), the NBA has trended back in Udoh's direction. He's without question a five in today's NBA, and his perimeter defense and shot blocking instincts are as valuable as ever. Spanoulis, who shot 2-for-12 from the field largely due to Udoh's stifling perimeter defense, definitely isn't Steph Curry, Chris Paul or Kyrie Irving, but Udoh fits a prototype that all teams are looking for, and would most definitely be a defensive asset on virtually any NBA team today.
More than anything, Udoh's Euroleague Final Four dominance emphasized the importance of having a big who can switch ball screens when involved in pick and roll, and put a lid on the rim when he's in help position. His much-improved passing is certainly an added bonus (3.0 assists per 40 minutes this past season), but it's his ability to switch, guard either big spot, and protect the rim that make him an attractive option for a team looking to bring him back over, although after his now-legendary weekend in Istanbul, he likely wouldn't come on the cheap.