Ekpe Udoh forgotten member of frontline shuffle

The big center will have to find his role on the Milwaukee frontline in a contract year.

This is the 14th in a 15-part series running Wednesdays and Fridays profiling each Milwaukee Bucks player leading up to the start of the NBA season.

Ekpe Udoh has become the forgotten man in Milwaukee's frontcourt. With so much talk surrounding Larry Sanders, Ersan Ilyasova and John Henson and the addition of Zaza Pachulia, Udoh was considered expendable by some.

The Bucks recognized the value in having a player with Udoh's abilities on the roster and kept him around as he enters the final year of his rookie contract. Udoh hasn't become the player Golden State had hoped when it picked him sixth overall in the 2010 NBA Draft, but he has turned into a valuable role player.

Where does he fit in with this year's Bucks? Well, the only player in the NBA to have his own book club needs to get healthy first. Udoh underwent arthroscopic right knee surgery in October and is expected to miss at least two weeks of the regular season.  

2012-13 stats: 4.3 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 1.1 BPG, 43.5 FG %, 74.8 FT % in 76 games

2013-14 salary: $4,469,547

Last year: Udoh was Milwaukee's primary backup at center for most of the season and provided the Bucks with a solid defensive option off the bench.

His positioning on the defensive end was good, but Udoh still struggled to rebound the basketball. It's an area in which Udoh has made some strides but still needs to improve. Between his footwork, strength and shot-blocking abilities, Udoh is a solid defender at both power forward and center. 

Udoh struggled offensively last season and wasn't much of a threat on that end of the floor. His field goal percentage was low for a big man yet again. An Achilles injury prevented Udoh from being much use to the Bucks in the playoffs. 

This year: Udoh is going to have to earn his playing time, as Pachulia has beat him back from injury and is a favorite of Bucks coach Larry Drew. 

Drew went out of his way to give him praise during the first few days of training camp, but Udoh's knee flared up just a few days later. When healthy, Udoh will provide the Bucks will depth and flexibility to play different interior lineups because of his ability to defend power forwards and certain centers. 

Udoh is playing for a new contract somewhere and will be motivated to impress. That being said, he is who he is: A solid defender who won't provide much on the offensive end. There are minutes to be had off the bench, but Udoh is already behind the eight ball after missing most of the exhibition season.    

From the front office: "I've watched Ekpe and know what he's capable of. When I first got to see him at Golden State I was very impressed. When I took the job I had a really good conversation with him about where I see him with this team ... Hopefully we can keep him healthy and keep him active." – Bucks coach Larry Drew

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