Who Is Ime Udoka?

Perhaps you checked out the website, some Twitter accounts, or the Sac Bee blog and asked yourself the question, “What is an Ime Udoka?”

Well, Ime Udoka is a 6’5” small forward the Kings signed for defensive purposes.

Wait… didn’t the Kings already take care of that kind of role player when they signed Desmond Mason right before training camp?

Why yes they did.

So then Desmond Mason is probably going to …


Okay, that’s purely speculation but I’d say it’s a pretty good assumption to presume that Desmond Mason is not long for the purple and white home jersey he has become accustomed to. In these economic times, it doesn’t make sense for a lot of teams to carry 15 players on their roster. But there are 16 teams, not including the Kings now, carrying 15 players on their roster with several of them (Thunder, Portland, New Orleans, Minnesota, Milwaukee, Memphis, Indiana) being in fairly small markets.

Could the Kings keep 15 players? Possibly. But with more and more wing players clamoring for time on this team and the roster in need of a big man down low, it would make more sense for Sacramento to cut bait with a small forward and bring in a big man if they’re going to stick with 15. Also, if there is any chance of a trade later on in the season, keeping the roster at 14 gives them a lot more options for acquiring players with that extra roster spot.

Anyway, let’s get on to Ime Udoka. He’s a four-year veteran who will be in his fifth year when he suits up for the Kings. He’s a defensive specialist with a pretty decent outside shot who has seen a steady decline in production since his breakout year with Portland in the ’07-’08 season.

I asked Timothy Varner of 48 Minutes of Hell to give us a few thoughts on what Ime brings to a team and this is what he had to say:

Ime Udoka’s best attribute is his work ethic and professionalism. In terms of talent, he’s a fringe NBA player.

Udoka was not as successful with the Spurs as he had been with the Trailblazers. I’m not sure how to account for this, but outside an excellent playoff series against the Hornets, he never seemed to fit in San Antonio. When he first signed in San Antonio, Udoka was billed as Bowen’s heir apparent. But his ability as a stopper was greatly hindered by his tweener size–Udoka has neither the later quickness to stick with fleet of foot 2 and 3s nor the height to help against most face up 4s. Although his best moments as a Spur came as a small ball power forward.

Having said all that, there is no question he’s a valuable defensive addition. According to Steve Ilardi’s low noise adjusted plus minus, Udoka rated a positive 3.19 last season, with 3.27 of that coming on the defensive side of the ball. In other words, he hurt the offense by nearly a point a game, but more than made up for it by slowing the opposition considerably.

Beyond all that, the Kings have signed one crazy piece of basketball folklore to their roster. Whatever Udoka is, he’s tough.”

I’ve never been a huge Udoka fan because of his lack of height and his athleticism. I think a 6’5” small forward needs superior, iRobot-level athleticism in order to really have an effect on the floor but at the same time, he’s strong like bull and can knock down the outside shot. And everyone knows this team can use more defense and toughness.

With the way Casspi is playing and in trying to figure out what’s going on with Donté Greene, you have to wonder how much time will actually be there for Udoka. Casspi’s defense has been very solid so far. And unless you’re going to eventually kick this guy to the curb like he’s Joe Alexander, you’ve got to believe that Donté Greene should be allowed to show if he’s worth building with or using as a trade asset.

Regardless, with this signing there is definite writing on the wall that there will be another move with this team. Most likely, someone is getting cut because of the current numbers, deadlines for contract guarantees, and the level of roster flexibility with fifteen players under contract.

Best of all, the Kings have time to figure this whole thing out.

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