Love/Hate series: Ike Anigbogu

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 4: Ike Anigbogu
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 4: Ike Anigbogu /

Ike Anigbogu is one of the Indiana Pacers second-round fliers, but he has first-round talent if he can get healthy.

Ike Anigbogu’s potential is tantalizing if he can just get healthy once again, and that’s what the Indiana Pacers are counting on.

Indiana gambled with their second-round pick when they selected Anigbogu out of UCLA, knowing his right knee is an issue and one big enough to drop him out of the first round and to the Pacers with the 47th pick.

If his knee doesn’t hold him back he’ll become the Pacers defensive specialist coming off the bench — à la Kevin Seraphin or Lavoy Allen. Funnily enough, Indiana cut both this offseason to make room in a crowded front court for Anigbogu. If he gets healthy there are the minutes for him to prove himself.

It seems foolish to compare his upside to the Los Angeles Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan, but it isn’t impossible to see a future for Anigbogu in the NBA where he does his work in the paint on both sides of the ball.

Love: Defense is Anigbogu’s forte

While his minutes off the bench for UCLA didn’t produce eye-catching offensive numbers, averaging 1.2 blocks in 13 minutes a game is worth taking a look at, especially since he is already doing an exceptional job of protecting the rim.

While basketball is never as easy as expanding limited minutes and expecting the same results, he would have 3.7 a game if he played 40 minutes. A staggering 5% of possessions ended with him blocking shots for UCLA. That’s in the realm of Anthony Davis, Hassan Whiteside, and Kristaps Porzingis if he put those numbers up in the NBA.

The 6 foot, 10-inches tall Anigbogu uses his 7½ foot wingspan to close the gap between him and hapless shooters quicker than they expect. He showed the right instincts with his help defense as he waits until the last moments to commit. Much like Myles Turner, he gets his blocks without leaving a hole in the defense.

While his rim defense and blocked shots may depress his rebounding numbers, his defensive impact allowed Lonzo Ball and the rest of the Bruins to relax a bit on defense knowing Anigbogu can clean up almost any mess.

Hate: His offense leaves much to be desired

Ike Anigbogu only scored double-digits once in his college career when he put up 12 against the Arizona State Sun Devils. He only averaged 4.7 points a game coming off the bench for the Bruins.

While shooting 56.4% is impressive, he was taking less than four shots a game. And shots isn’t the right word since many of his points were on put backs and lobs. That’s to say he rarely took shots as much as he slammed the ball down.

He can’t continue to force shots up after rebounds as he only shot 48% after grabbing an offensive rebound.

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He’s only 18 years old, so the ceiling is nowhere near being reached for Anigbogu if he can develop his offensive tool box. His offense needs work both on the basketball IQ side as well as the physical, but there’s reason for optimism considering his age.

For what it’s worth, his offense isn’t so terrible that he’s a bizarro Isaiah Thomas. He’s in the positive for total points added according to NBA Math, so his lack of offensive production wasn’t killing UCLA either. As long as he continues to play defense at a high level, he is a plus for his team when he is on the court.

The other concern for Anigbogu is that knee injury that allowed the Pacers to pick him so late in the draft. He even hurt it again when he worked out for the Pacers before the draft and was kept out of Summer League as a precaution.

What’s next for Ike Anigbogu?

Second round picks — at least in my mind — are generally fliers for the teams that select them. Teams hope to find talent that was hidden away but don’t expect greatness from these picks. While most the time there is little reason to expect significant upside from them, Ike Anigbogu is different.

Until his knee injury, mock drafts put him in the first round. Having it appear again before the draft is a concern, but it also the reason to think Ike can outperform his draft position if he can put this injury behind him.

Next: Love/Hate series: Lance Stephenson

Getting healthy is the first order of business for Anigbogu but after that, he’ll get the chance to show the Pacers what he is capable of.