2022 NBA Draft: Should the Lakers look at Kaodirichi Akobundu-Ehiogu?

Editor’s Note: Hours after this story was published, Kaodirichi Akobundu-Ehiogu Decided to bring his talents to the University of Memphis Plays for Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway in the 2022-23 season.so although he will not be lakers‘ If they do choose to buy the second round in 2022 NBA drafthis specific athleticism makes him represent the kind of lottery that the Lakers deserve in that range.

After Anthony Davis, the Lakers enter the 2021-22 season with only two traditional bigs on the roster, Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan. With Davis sidelined for more than half the season and DJ eventually being kicked out of the rotation (and then the roster), the Lakers are completely reliant on Dwight’s ability to win the battle against the Father of Time in order to get a night at the 5. Feasible playing time.

While the three-time Defensive Player of the Year has been able to call up his best performances on a handful of occasions, the Lakers’ roster structure often forces teams to play without any rim protection or vertical spacing. Just a backup-level NBA big man.

While this approach did open up lanes and helped LeBron James reach the second-highest scoring average of his career (in his 19th season), it also left the team’s playmaker without a viable lob threat as a A more versatile offense, or a true rim protector on the floor—caused the team’s defensive rating to drop from No. 1 in 2020-21 to No. 21 this season.

Going into the 2022-23 season, the Lakers need to find a way to restore their interior depth to the perfect level of having a top-notch defense in either of the past two seasons. Given their disparate success rates in low-cost free agency (trivial) and undrafted or late second-round rookie talent (huge), the Lakers would be wise to screen players on the fringes of the draft board for another potential rookie. bases.

According to John Hollinger sports, which is exactly what they plan to do with the $4.7 million in cash they are allowed to use in the transaction. By grabbing a second-rounder or two, the Lakers could fly on another high post player like Talen Horton-Tucker, or, given the depth they don’t exist on the wings and frontcourt, better find Another add-in-and-play youngster with the ability to rotate like Austin Reeves.

Of the six players the Lakers hosted on May 10, Kaodirichi Akobundu-Ehiogu was the only one who could potentially help address their lack of frontcourt athleticism. Akobundu-Ehiogu, a 6-foot-9 Nigerian big man with a 7-foot-4 wingspan, has yet to make a name for himself despite finishing his sophomore season fifth in block percentage among Division I players. Draft boards for major publications.

In fact, his 13.9 percent shooting was actually slightly better than Anthony Davis’ 13.7 percent shooting in his lone year at Kentucky — albeit against better competition, minutes per game more, while providing a more complete dominant contribution on both ends of the offense and defense. Still, for a completely unknown big man prospect, that stat is worth a closer look. Like Anthony Davis, Akobendou-Ehiogu’s basketball trajectory took a sudden, aggressive growth spurt as a teenager. However, this is pretty much where the similarities end.

As detailed in Riley Davis’ huge (and only) profile of Akobundu-Ehiogu for Heat Check CBB, his basketball journey began in Lagos, Nigeria at age 13, when he was first introduced to The game, four days before he moved to the United States. A hulking, 6-foot-6 high schooler, Akobundu-Ehiogu barely played before Jones fractured his foot during an offseason catch game, ruining his major league basketball dreams.

However, a chance encounter between his brother and ESPN/Draft Express’ lead potential scout, Uganda national team assistant coach and soon-to-be Trail Blazers assistant general manager Mike Schmitz led to an Instagram DM and eventually a Opportunity to step into the varsity UT Arlington team.

In an iPhone video, his brother shows Schmitz his esports athleticism translated at the collegiate level, deploying jumps that let him touch the rim with his shoulders to hit opponents’ shots and from nearly every conceivable angle catch the ball. Akobundu-Ehiogu went from a redshirt freshman to a regular starter, playing solid minutes for his team in his first year and throughout his second year.

I dare any Lakers fan to watch this video and try not to get too excited about the prospect of Akobundu-Ehiogu sprinting up and down the floor as secondary rim protection against LeBron James and pairing with Anthony Davis Threat of hanging from the attacker. It’s hard to imagine Akobundu-Ehiogu not providing a massive upgrade in those areas than anyone on the Lakers last year after Anthony Davis and Dwight Howard after his best nights.

He looks like a slightly smaller DeAndre Jordan, but when he was still the “Lob City” version, the Docs out of five declared a Defensive Player of the Year nominee, before he turned into a pumpkin.

His free-throw percentage was even exceptional, hitting 23 of his 31 career free-throw attempts for an average of 74.2 percent. While he doesn’t come on the line like a lob finisher and has almost nothing, he’s proven he’s capable enough that he won’t be a bricklayer that the opposing team can foul on purpose to disrupt their own team’s offense Process (eg DeAndre Jordan). He even made some 3-pointers in a display before signing up for UT Arlington. Developing into a floor spacer who runs around the rim will only increase his survivability at the next level.

While Akobundu-Ehiogu’s athleticism leaps off the screen, screaming “Sign me autograph,” some major questions about his major league viability remain unanswered:

  1. how old is he? NBA teams interested in his services may have a clearer answer, but his age is still not listed on ESPN, Sports-Reference and UT Arlington’s player profile pages. That may not matter much considering his athleticism allows him to contribute immediately, but a 21-year-old who has skyrocketed like Akobundu-Ehiogu might be more appealing than his 25-year-old from a developmental standpoint.
  2. What is his basketball IQ/feeling about the game? Aside from the mixtape posted above on his own YouTube account, I can hardly find any footage of him or UT Arlington playing during that time. While running and jumping are essential basketball skills, of course, the game is much more than that. From what I’ve seen, I have zero sense of his ability to read opposing offenses and reactions to him, or his ability to play a decent perimeter defense in order to avoid being hunted by switches in the NBA.
  3. Is he healthy? Kevin Durant, Ben Simmons and Zion Williamson were among many NBA players to suffer Jones fractures, but healing times and recurrence rates varied widely across this sample. Regardless of the severity, foot injuries in basketball players are a cause for concern, especially for big men.

Still, as a completely unknown name, Akobundu-Ehiogu’s rare athleticism and strengths would be the lottery the Lakers should risk late in the second round or post-draft. His globe-trotting, injury-riddled, mid-professional background far from the brightest lights shining on the most touted prospects leaves room for the possibility of being a true rough diamond. In the aforementioned profile, the UT-Arlington assistant coach even compares his raw athleticism to famed late-blooming NBA superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo.

While the Lakers may need more certainty to build their 2022-23 rotation, signing Akobundu-Ehiogu to the South Bay is a low-risk, high-reward gamble, at least initially, and the Lakers should Possibly using the rest of the team’s well-known war money.

Cooper, a lifelong Lakers fan, has also reportede Yankeees Pinstripe Alley at SB Nation — No, he’s not a Cowboys fan either.you can hear him Lakers Multiverse Podcast and find him on Twitter @cooperhalpern.

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