Just a couple more players remain on our Phoenix Suns Player Preview’s. Next up? He’s big. He’s bad. His birthday was yesterday. He is..
Center, 6’10”, 280 pounds, 24-years old
Azubuike, who was born in Nigeria, played high school basketball in Jacksonville and went to Kansas, was the 27th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft by the Utah Jazz. That is where he has played that last three seasons, with 2022-23 being the season in which he saw his most playing time.
Udoka played in 36 games, starting that last 4 for the Jazz, had an 81.9% field goal percentage. 81.9%! Granted it was on 72 shot attempts, all of his shot attempts came within 9 feet of the basket. He averaged 3.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 0.4 blocks in 10 minutes played per game last season.
“Dok did it! He lasted on the court for multiple weeks. It truly is monumental and shouldn’t be underappreciated. Azubuike suffered injuries both his first two seasons, rendering him unable to play more than 17 games. This season started shaky with Kessler earning the backup and ultimately starting job, but Udoka amassed an incredibly important 359 minutes in 36 games.”
Along with Saben Lee, Azubuike occupies one of the Suns’ three available two-way contracts.
Strengths and Weaknesses
His strength is his size, but due to his lack of experience and conditioning, Azubuike can be a liability on both ends of the court. Clearly a “break glass in case of emergency only” type of player, his addition to this stacked Suns roster is simply due to his two-way contract, not his upside as a player.
Throughout his time in Utah he was oft injured, playing in 68 games over three years. When he would see the court he would be out of position, relying on teammates to direct him where to be on defensive assignments. With a 280-pound frame, you need to be conditioned to play basketball, and that too is a challenge for the big fella.
One Key Factor
If Udoka wants to see time with this team — which would be primarily limited to garbage time — he needs to display an ability to be productive when given the opportunity. Doke was a dominant player while with the Kansas Jayhawks, averaging 13.7 and 10.5 in his senior year. The best way to get back to that form is to focus on being an athlete.
If I knew the Suns were looking to fill a two-way spot with a big, I would have preferred that they signed Trey Jemison, who was a quality player for the Summer Suns in the Vegas Summer League.
Typically the fans fall for the bench guys, and at times we can talk ourselves into illusions of grandeur for these players if only they received more playing time. I don’t believe that will be the case for Azubuike. He will be used sporadically and will not impress.