First-Round Candidate: Ike Anigbogu

Ike Anigbogu, C/UCLA
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

ID CARD: 6-foot-9¾ center, UCLA, freshman, 18 years old

DRAFT RANGE: Ranked 15th by DraftExpress.com; 18th by ESPN.com; fourth among centers by NBA.com

SCOUTS LOVE: The physical tools to be an elite defender are all there for Anigbogu: an NBA body despite the fact he’ll still be 18 when he comes to training camp this fall at 252 pounds with the frame to handle more comfortably; a 7-foot-6¼ wing span that was second by a quarter-inch to 7-foot-2 Frenchman Jonathan Jeanne, reportedly diagnosed this week with Marfan’s syndrome that threatens his career, at last month’s NBA draft combine; and the lateral foot speed to smother pick and rolls and recover to protect the rim. Anigbogu also comes across as well spoken, thoughtful and coachable.

SCOUTS WONDER: Anigbogu came off the bench for a talented UCLA team with 7-footer Thomas Welsh, a junior, as the returning starter. Given his limited playing time and nothing in the way of a developed post game, Anigbogu’s potential on the offensive end is almost wholly speculative at this point. At best, he’s probably a minimum of two years away from being anything more than a spot player for certain defensive matchups at this point. Can he become an elite defensive center by the time he’s 21 as his rookie contract nears an end?

NUMBER TO NOTE: 3.7 – blocked shots per 40 minutes for Anigbogu during his freshman season at UCLA. It’s a small sample size, especially because Anigbogu played only 13 minutes a game over 29 games, but considering that Anigbogu underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in October and missed five games it’s fair to assume he wasn’t ever really in peak form until deep into the season and likely never fell into a comfortable rhythm given his limited role. In other words, the potential to put up big shot-block numbers are there.

MONEY QUOTE: “I feel like I’m going to fit just doing the same things I did at UCLA, so rim running, protecting the rim, providing just a relentless motor on the floor and I plan to develop more of an offensive game, implement that into myself as I go on with my career.” – Anigbogu on how he hopes to contribute early in his NBA career while speaking at the NBA draft combine May 12

PISTONS FIT: With Andre Drummond headed into the second year of a four-year contract and Boban Marjanovic under contract for the next two seasons, the Pistons don’t have an immediate need for a center but will be in the market for a No. 3 center this off-season if, as anticipated, incumbent backup Aron Baynes opts out of his contract and leaves in free agency. They could add a veteran free agent to a modest deal or – liberated by the ability of both Jon Leuer and Henry Ellenson to also provide minutes at center against smaller lineups – go for a high-upside developmental prospect. Anigbogu qualifies.

BOTTOM LINE: Anigbogu wants to pattern his game after DeAndre Jordan. He’s not that level of athlete – because no other 7-footer is, either – but his length and footwork give him the building blocks to fill a similar role. There are perhaps a half-dozen one-and-done centers who’ll draw looks from teams picking at the back end of and beyond the lottery – Bam Adebayo, Jarrett Allen, Tony Bradley and Justin Patton among them, in addition to Anigbogu – but Anigbogu might have the best chance to be a dominant player on one end (defense, in his case) or the other. Given their depth chart at center, that might not be enough to convince the Pistons to spend the 12th pick on a big man unless there are no players who could help their more pressing need – perimeter shooting – still on the board when they pick.