When Ike Anigbogu debuted with the Mad Ants, the majority of his field goal attempts were post-ups, many of which highlighted his clunky footwork and continued reliance on simple hook shots while appearing as though he was trapped inside an invisible box. By his final appearance with Indiana’s affiliate, the 19-year-old was still getting touches on the block, but there was also more of an emphasis placed on developing his hands to catch drop passes.
“We keep preaching to Ike about getting into space, getting to the dunker, those two hashes on the baseline,” head coach Steve Gansey told The Journal Gazette’s Justin Cohn. “When we have guys like Stephan (Hicks) and (Jones), who are driving, and the bigs collapse, it’s an easy dump-off pass for Ike, and he’s really grown this year since the first time we had him (on an assignment from the Pacers).”
Given that the Pacers ran the league’s most pick-and-roll heavy offense this season, grooming the still incredibly raw second-round draft pick to set screens and find crevices in the defense seems more in-line with how he would be used at the next level as a fifth option off the bench than spending precious seconds of the shot clock posting him up.
How did Ike Anigbogu impress?
Because his post arsenal and shooting range (12-of-36 from mid-range) are limited, it’s important that he gets repetitions rolling to the basket where the ball-handler delivers a pocket pass for him to take a couple of steps toward the rim or stop and finish with a floater, as was the case here with Edmond Sumner.
Another encouraging flash was when he faced-up to the basket from the elbow and managed to finish with an opposite leg layup.
How did Ike Anigbogu disappoint?
His scoring is a bonus, and he had a tendency to get exposed on defense when he wasn’t blocking shots.
In particular, his recognition and awareness defending the pick-and-roll very much looked his age.
Here, with Sumner in rearview pursuit after trailing through a maze of double-stagger screens, Anigbogu was forced to defend 2-on-1 until the slashing guard could recover.
But, alas, instead of backpedaling to stay in front of the roller while focusing on containing the ball as the dropper, he literally turned his back to the ball-handler; thereby, ceding a wide open driving lane to the basket.
On the below example, Anigbogu’s responsibilities were reduced because Sumner iced the screener and guided the ball-handler into his path while cutting off the passing lane to the roller, and the inexperienced big man still failed to impede the ball-handler’s direct line to the basket.
Even if it’s assumed that fixes to these types of team-defense flubs will come with maturity, the ease by which he got left in the dust by big men off the dribble is at least moderately concerning.
A simple pass fake was all it took for Shaun Long to blow past him on the baseline for an easy bucket.
When the he got stuck on an island with Christian Wood, the athletic power forward didn’t have to exert much effort to drive around Anigbogu for a layup.
And, when his drop coverage got caught on the wrong side of the keeper on a dribble hand-off set, his attempt at lateral movement made it appear almost as if his feet were stuck in wet cement as he conceded yet another open drive with his body parallel to his man.
On the season, Anigbogu was minus-16 in 491 minutes with the Mad Ants.
What’s next for Ike Anigbogu?
Summer League in Las Vegas, where he’s going to need a crash course in experience and defensive positioning to be ready to provide emergency depth behind Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis in the seemingly likely event that Indiana’s brass decides to shop or waive Al Jefferson’s partially guaranteed contract.
Anigbogu has the facility to build his game around dunks, rebounds, and blocks, but it’s going to take time for his raw skills to catch up to his measurables.
The 19-year-old is under contract for $1.37 million next season, but only $650,000 of that figure is guaranteed if the Pacers waive him before July 15.