In advance of the 2017 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops will be breaking down a wide variety of players that could be available for the Atlanta Hawks at either No. 19 or No. 31. The series will stretch throughout the month of June and today’s installment focuses on UCLA center Ike Anigbogu.
Ten years ago, Ike Anigbogu might have been a candidate as the No. 1 overall draft pick in his class. But as the league continues to evolve toward a place in which under-skilled big men are in decreasing demand, it is becoming increasingly difficult to project how much value a player like Anigbogu might have in the immediate future, not to mention five years down the road. He is incredibly athletic for a player his size, however, and the team that drafts him will do so because of the potential he has as a defensive anchor.
Anigbogu has the perfect frame for the things he was asked to do at UCLA. He was not asked to shoot much at all apart from when he would roll to rim in the pick and roll action or on put backs. So his 56.4 FG% says all you need to know about how limited he is when he is doing anything else offensively. He uses his frame to set excellent high screen picks as the half court offense is initiated and he transitions to the roll technique with ease.
He works hard regardless of how many touches he is getting. He had more than 5 field goal attempts in just 3 games in his collegiate career. His offensive value is largely derived from how committed he is to fulfilling the role his team needs him to embrace. He is very difficult to contain on the offensive glass and the result is extra possessions for his team. NBA teams can know from day one that he will accept his spot in the offensive pecking order and apply maximum effort to the seemingly little things that can help a team operate effectively.
He understands how spacing works and is consistently in the right place. He has a great feel for how to lose his man when a teammate operating in dribble penetration forces off ball defenders to react. He knows how to make himself big as a passing target and demonstrates great timing in terms of how to create and maintain a passing lane.
Once he receives the ball he does seem to have intense tunnel vision. He had just 6 assists on the entire NCAA season. He has below average hands, but his turnover rate of only 2.5 per 40 minutes reflects that he doesn’t often try to do the things that he does not have the skill to do. But NBA defenses will force the ball to him in the pick and roll action and he will need to at least develop the ability to move the ball to the next man. Its the only thing that might prevent him from getting playing time very early in his NBA career.
Anigbogu is not an explosive leaper at this point, but has battled somewhat chronic knee issues during both his high school and collegiate career. If he is able to fully recover from those and put them squarely in his past he seems to have the frame and athleticism that would allow he to operate with plenty of verticality. He does not have the quickest feet but he does appear to have an excellent feel for angles.
I don’t recall seeing him do anything in the pick and roll defense other than drop (no trapping, no showing), but he is very proactive in his technique, he makes himself very wide as to shut down potential passing lanes and stays effectively connected to the rim as to consistently maintain his presence as a rim protector.
When defending on the perimeter he does not embarrass himself. I think he will be a passable defender in space at the next level. When operating on the close out he demonstrates an extremely unique understanding of how to maximize his length to affect shooters without over-running the play. Eighteen year old players very commonly chase the block or over-commit their momentum when closing out on shooters. Anigbogu plays with textbook technique in this area of defensive play and never gets unnecessarily sped up.
Anigbogu is not quite as effective on the defensive glass as he is on the offensive end. But as he matures he should develop an understanding of how to operate as a rim protector without sacrificing his position as a potential rebounder. He has a ton of length and should become an elite defensive rebounder in time.
Fit for the Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks could probably drop him into their defensive scheme on day one and he would be able to be an average defender. But his complete inability to handle or move the basketball would be a big problem on the offensive end. He has no idea how to deal with a double team and is a player you want to see dribbling as little as possible. But he comes across as a likable, coachable player who will very willingly accept his role. From an attitude and motor perspective he seems like a very good fit for the team. He has a reputation of being a hard worker and so could develop offensively over a couple of seasons.
Anigbogu is a raw, athletic big man that played less than 400 minutes at the college level. But he might eventually end up being the best rim protector in this class. Being drafted in the latter half of the first round could end up being an ideal situation for him and his team. The best situation for him early in his career would be to land with a team that is good enough to not need him to play right away but also has an excellent record in the area of player development. From that standpoint, I’m not going to be shocked if the Miami Heat take him at the No. 14 spot, although most mocks have him going 5 spots or so after that.