Name – Udoka Azubiuke, C
|Height||Weight||Body Fat %||Standing Reach||Wingspan|
He is built like a truck. Being sub 8% body fat at that weight is unbelievable and shows just how strong he is. His body fat % is .10 less than Wendell Carter’s, but Azubuike weighs more than 20 pounds than him. I don’t think that weight is necessarily sustainable for him long term because of the pounding it is on his body and previous knee injuries, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he ends up slimming down to around 260. The key in today’s NBA is mobility, especially for bigs, and at a certain point, being too strong has diminishing returns.
He was second for Cs for his standing reach and wingspan. Watching him play, it was pretty clear he was long. The reach helps him protect the paint, finish on offense with a minimal gather, and improves his catching radius on lobs; the wingspan allows him to cover more horizontal ground on defense and makes himself an easier target to pass on a horizontal plane.
There was an article I read a few years ago talking about the most “efficient” way to run. Basically, the idea was that if you run heel toe, you are stopping your momentum because you are effectively straightening out your leg – instead of it being a wheel of motion, there’s a wheel, a stop, and a continuation. As you can imagine, the constant straightening of the knee is a terror on the knee by causing knee problems or exacerbating current ones. The “better” way to run is to stay on your front half of your feet like sprinters do – this allows for the constant wheel and there is significantly less knee damage done because there is no straightening of the knee. The article mentioned two specific NBA players, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. If you guessed Wade is (was?) the one who ran heel toe, you’d be correct – he has knee issues too; LeBron, on the other hand, runs the “correct” way – like a sprinter. LeBron has not had knee problems in his career. You get my point, right?
Watch how Azubuike runs here and you’ll see the heel toe. He has knee problems, and this is probably making the problems worse – he should definitely look to fix this. The example here also shows his full on sprint, which, as you can see below in the next table, was actually good for his size.
Athleticism / Athletic Testing:
|Lane Agility||Shuttle Run||¾ Court Sprint||Standing Vert||Max Vert|
- Slowest lane agility for position
- Slowest shuttle run
- Fastest ¾ court sprint
- 2nd best standing vert
- 3rd lowest max vert
In addition to the clip above that shows his running form, he does do a nice job when he’s in an outright sprint (see below). It might not look pretty, and he definitely lumbers when he runs, but he can move his 273.8lb frame well when he fully wants to.
It’s nice to see his standing very come in second for Cs. Watching him jump from a stand still compared to other players, it was clear he was more explosive than he was normally given credit for. As I said in my Twitter thread on him, his wingspan + standing vert gives him the ability to finish at the rim with a small gather, if one at all – he can jump right after receiving it and finish it without much of an issue. On defense, it allows him to protect the rim better – the less time he needs to gather himself, the quicker his reaction time is to the ball at the rim, and the better he is at defending the rim.
Max vert is a bigger issue, but he’s not taking guys off the dribble from the perimeter on offense and I consider standing vert to be more important than max vert when it comes to protecting rim. *Although, having a higher max vert definitely helps.* His reach allows him to make up for his lower max vert, and only improves the max height he can reach.
Here’s a clip that shows the minimal release in transition. Receives ball and uses his full length and two step vert to dunk on the defender.
Here is a minimal gather after the catch.
|17-18||13||7 / 16.9%||.7||77%||41.3%||N/A||71.7%||77%||124.2/98.2|
Offense: 99th percentile
Synergy stats (Percentile ranking)
|Spot up||Catch & Shoot (guarded/unguarded)||Off Dribble||Off Screen||ISO||Post Up||PnR||Around Basket||Transition|
Azubuike has a simple, yet effective, game. Use strength to overpower guys in the paint, try to finish everything with a dunk, and run when you have the chance. Basically his entire game is paint and in, with FT shooting being a huge issue for him.
PnR: 99th percentile
As the roll man, he has a massive catching radius. His reach helps him get passes that are above the rim and his wingspan + reach allow him to catch passes that are behind him, see clip below. Instead of having to come down after catching because the pass was behind him, he finishes it just as he would any normal lob pass.
Pass is slightly behind him here too, but he still finishes from just outside the key.
His strong hands (that could still use some tightening up) and frame, in addition to his length, make him a good target as a roll man when the pass isn’t a lob because he can take the ball away from the defender.
Azubuike bobbles the pass here, but still catches it in time to make the finish through the contact. If the pass is in his vicinity and he catches it, he’s finishing it, finishing it with contact (something he did well last year), or drawing the foul. Given his percentile ranking finishing in the paint, this isn’t a surprise. He’s strong, and uses it – a lot of functional strength.
Another nice PnR catch and finish
Cutting: 99th percentile
His timing on cuts, and ability to rise over the back line of the defense, makes him a hell of a great cutter (even though he does not move that quickly in tight spaces). Because of his lack of range, most of his cuts came from diving from the dunker’s spot like this clip below. One thing I want to point out is how high he gets on the catch.
This example shows the smarts on the cut. Even though this is not something that really jumps out, watch how he begins his cut to the rim the moment Graham starts diving to the rim and the defense goes to help. Just the action of cutting isn’t enough – the timing has to be right. Azubuike already has the timing down. I also like how he goes for the dunk instead of the floater. He trusts his finishing ability and, just like with his strength, he uses is to its fullest extent. You won’t see him going up soft in the paint.
Posting up – 93rd percentile.
As I mentioned in the Twitter thead, Azubuike has a pretty simplistic game, relying more often on strength and basic footwork than advanced moves. While this is good that he knows his skillset and does not try to move outside of it, and that he kills it in the post even with his basic moves, I personally want to see him develop it a bit more.
Even though the moves themselves are basic, his understanding of how to play in the post is not. Some players rely on their gifts to win in the post instead of using their gifts (strength, length, athleticism) and positioning; Azubuike is part of the latter group that uses both.
Watch this clip here – he makes the first contact on Carter, pushing him ever so slightly back. What this does is create a better angle for the attempt. Carter tries to push back, but his momentum and positioning in the post is already lost – Azubuike then bumps one more time, uses a gather dribble, and goes over his left shoulder for the baby hook.
In the post, he is very right hand dominant. He doesn’t go away from the left hand and back to his right like Bagley did with his right going back to his left hand – him using his left hand in the post is just not common. However, he did go to it a few times throughout the year – below is a baby left hook against Oklahoma. Even though he did not make the first initial bump like he did against Carter, as he’s making his move, he’s turning into the defender with his right shoulder, creating a bit more room to get his shot off. He uses his strength here just as part of his move. Subtle, but using every advantage you have is the way to win in the post.
Azubuike does a similar thing here but on the opposite block using his right hand. The footwork here is not perfect (dribbles down instead of to the basket), but it is another clip of him using his strength to his advantage.
This next clip is showing two things – positioning and length. As I mentioned above, he uses his wingspan really well in creating a large passing radius for entry passes. He does it here grabbing a pass that is a bit wide and just before the help defense comes (nice awareness to pull in quickly). He also does a great job using his frame to create better positioning for entry passes.
Look at his front foot – he is using it to keep position in the paint and allow for the easy entry pass. I have more clips further down showing his positioning skills in the paint, but this was a good entry into it. By keeping his feet where they are, he is taking the momentum away from the defender in front. Azubuike is keeping his strength there, shielding off any attempt to move him further into the paint while also making it harder for the defending fronting him to jump for the ball.
Here is a clip of him getting early position (hand bent as to not get the offensive foul), using his lower body to create more room, and then going up high to grab the ball. Nothing special in the move itself – this clip was more to show his work pre-post and also him using his length to grab a ball out of his radius.
When you combine his strength, length, explosion off two feet, and mentality to dunk everything in paint, you end up with this.
Even though his moves are simple, they are effective – however, because they are simple, he needs countermoves for when the defense takes away the first option. Teams know he loves his right hand, so he developed a counter for when the defense takes that away – a simple drop step. Here he sees the post defense playing him knowing he loves right (look at feet and arm placement from defense). What does he do to counter? He takes one hard dribble middle and spins right off the defender for the easy finish. However, the attention to detail here is nice – look at his right foot and how it, in conjunction with his massive frame, keep the defender’s body on his back. He sealed the defender off to create the room to operate and make for the easy finish.
He does the same thing in the next clip also. Again, watch the footwork – he completely seals the defender on his back and finishes strong with the dunk.
Getting just a little more advanced now with an up and under. Creates early position with the forearm in the defender’s back and his feet sitting underneath the defender’s hip / backside to make further create position. Uses length to receive the ball, then just finishes with a nice up and under. Again, the defense knows he loves going middle, so these counters are very important.
Here’s a show and go to get the defender to bite ever so slightly on the ball fake. This gives him the ability to go back to his right hand and get a pretty clear look.
I’m beating a dead horse here, but here are two examples of him using his strength to get better position. Watch the forearm in the back and how he uses his lower body to create the passing angle and more room for the pass and finish. The first clip is particularly impressive, because Kanate is one of the best interior defenders in college basketball and is close to being as strong as Azubuike – he has the IQ to defend and also the strength, but Azubuike still got what he wanted. Second clip also shows him using his length and the catch radius.
Synergy had him in the 22nd percentile on passes out of the post. Even though that looks bad on the surface, and he has some things he needs to work on (I’ll touch on this in a bit), that number is a bit disingenuous – he made some nice passes away from the double, but his teammates simply missed the shot. There’s so much variance on passes out of double and isos that it is very important to look at the actual film to see what happened.
Here are three examples of him seeing the double team come and passing it to the open shooter, only to have them miss the shot. On the first clip, he uses the pump fake to actually get the help defender to commit to the post up.
The second clip is him simply seeing the double and the help defender with his back to his man, and then kicking it to the shooter cutting to the corner.
The third clip he uses his dribble to get the strong-side defender thinking he will make the move. Once he commits, he passes it out to the open shooter.
As you can see, the fundamentals of passing are there – he reads doubles well and passes out to the open shooter. He also has some nice touch on passes to cutters from the post. However, as you’ll see a few clips down, he does have some issues in passing too late, and he does not “feel the cutters” well behind him (awareness in post passing).
In this first clip, he surveys the floor well and hits the baseline cutter. Notice how he has to shift his head to see – this is what I meant with him not “feeling the cutters” well. Another way to think about it is needing to work on peripheral vision – if he can see out of the corners of his eyes better, he wouldn’t need to shift his head to see more of the court. It didn’t happen on this play, but by shifting his head, he is telegraphing where he is looking.
Simple nice lead pass here…but, again, with the head turn. *I should note, that the important thing is the pass is going through. I just think working on peripheral vision and not turning head would make it harder for defenses to predict where the pass is going.*
Another example of not “feeling the cut.” He makes a good read hitting the corner cutter as his man goes to help in the post, but he had a wide open man cutting right behind him.
Remember earlier when I said how he does a nice job waiting until the defense fully commits before hitting the cutter? Well, here’s the flip side – here, he waited too long and the delay allowed the defense to recover at the rim.
Basically, I think his passing out of the post is slightly underrated – he doesn’t go to it often, but when he does, he does a nice job making basic reads. He can manipulate the defense a bit with fakes and shows some nice touch on passes, but he needs to continue to work on his feel passing out.