I'm going to go on record as saying that I like the signings announced by the Los Angeles Clippers yesterday, young free agents Ekpe Udoh and Chris Douglas-Roberts. When you're shopping for minimum players, the options are by definition going to be limited. Doc Rivers has mostly gone with veterans who he hoped might have a bit left in the tank -- guys like Antawn Jamison and Hedo Turkoglu, and even some short term players last year like Stephen Jackson and Sahsha Vujacic. That's one type of guy you can find at this price point -- the aging star who is almost out of the league, trying to hang on and find the right fit for one last hurrah.
The other option is the young and hungry player, who might still have some upside, who might not yet have found the correct fit.
It should be noted that Ekpe Udoh is not particularly young -- he's already 27, over a year OLDER than DeAndre Jordan, despite being drafted two years later. He was also drafted almost a full round earlier, going sixth overall while Jordan fell to the Clippers at the fifth pick in the SECOND round. So there was a time when Udoh was very highly regarded. Obviously that time has passed.
But I'll say this for him: the dude is long. And as the say, you can't teach length. Nor is length something the Clippers have in abundance. Beyond Jordan, they're not long on length. On the measurements database at Draft Express there are few players who have the sort of wingspan to height ratio that Udoh possesses -- He's 6'8.75 without shoes, but his wingspan is 7'4.5. That's ridiculous.
Of course, wingspan doesn't matter if he can't play basketball, which helps to explain how he could be considered a top six pick four years ago and signing a year year minimum deal now. Basketball guys have fallen in love with length in recent years, and 2010 might have been the top of the bubble on that particular craze. So Udoh's stock rose when he measured out so well -- and then it fell when it became apparent that he didn't actually do anything particularly well on a basketball court.
Brandan Wright is sort of the best case scenario here (but honestly, I don't think Udoh is as good as Wright). Like Udoh, Wright was a lottery pick based in large part on his crazy length (their measurements are almost identical; Wright's listed as a quarter inch taller with the same wingspan). And like Udoh, Wright was a bust on his rookie deal, after which he found himself looking for a minimum contract as a free agent. Wright wound up in Dallas where he has become a productive player.
Having said that, Wright has more skills than Udoh, who has never been much more than a specimen, even when he was at Baylor (I honestly never got the hype -- he should never have been the sixth pick). But if Udoh can be active and long around the rim on defense while finishing a few lobs on offense, he might be useful as a fourth or fifth big. As I said before, the fact that he's 27 is a bit of a red flag, but he did spend much of last season hurt, and he showed flashes at Golden State (a couple of those flashes coming against the Clippers). Maybe the right situation will help him develop. One thing for certain is that he's got to be a better rebounder if he expects to stick in the league.
As for Chris Douglas-Roberts, what's not to like? He's just a really interesting guy, he's got a great haircut, he's got an incredible motor, and he was a crazy fun college player. He might be that guy we've seen before: they guy who does everything really well at the NCAA level, but doesn't have a single skill that translates to the NBA level -- think Ed O'Bannon. But he's been working on his three point shot, and the combination of his motor and his basketball IQ (effort and intelligence are probably the biggest factors in good defense) could mean that he's got the makings of a decent 3-D wing. It remains to be seen if he's got the physical tools (I'm referring to lateral quickness especially) to be a great wing defender -- but the Clippers desperately need a stopper on the perimeter, and CDR's at least worth a try.
So for me, these are both guys worth signing. They might not work out, but then again they might; besides, who else are you going to get for the minimum?