It was just a couple of days ago when your's truly sent out a message on Twitter saying that Rio Grande Valley Vipers guard Ben Uzoh deserves to be on an NBA roster. I apparently wasn't alone in that assessment, though, as the NBA Development League announced on Monday afternoon that the former New Jersey Net was named the most recent D-League Performer of the Week.
Uzoh, a 6-foot-3 guard that's probably best described as a combo at this point in his career, averaged 22.3 points, 8.3 assists and 7.3 rebounds while shooting a blistering 66 percent from the field in three games last week. Since joining the D-League just five games ago, Uzoh is averaging an impresive 20.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and 6.0 assists while shooting 57 percent from the field.
Those numbers aren't all that unexpected considering the former Tulsa guard was known to fill up the box score in college, but his season with the New Jersey Nets last year -- as an undrafted rookie free agent -- didn't indicate that Uzoh would be able to shoot anywhere close to 57 percent from the floor, small sample size be damned considering he's already attempted one-third as many shots he put in the NBA all of last season.
Uzoh's true shooting percentage was a meager 46 percent in 42 games with the Nets last season, meaning it was pretty difficult to foresee a nearly 20 percent jump as far as his shooting efficiency was concerned, even if there are just five games to judge him on. To wit, Basketball Prospectus (BUY IT!) had the following included in its blurb about our Ben:
His issues, such as they were, came as a scorer. Despite an impressive-looking usage rate, at times Uzoh was reluctant to shoot, which jammed up the entire New Jersey offense. He's not a three-point shooter, having attempted just eight all year, and shot a poor percentage inside the arc. Uzoh showed some promise as a distributor and rarely turned the ball over, though, so SCHOENE is confident he's got a future in the league.
Uzoh certainly seems to be less reluctant in shooting this season, but the biggest key thus far has been his ability to get out and go while playing in head coach Nick Nurse's high-paced offense. Nurse, an assistant with the Great Britain National Team, allows his team to get out in transition quite a bit in a unique offense that often substitutes complete line changes as it isn't uncommon to see five players waiting to sub in along the sideline.
Uzoh probably isn't a pure point quite yet, but he's the type of player that could be called-up to fill a fifth guard spot while handling point guard duties in limited stretches. He isn't going to offer much on the offensive end as far as supplying his own offense is concerned, but he seems to make the right decisions more often than not as he's averaging just two turnovers in 38 minutes per game while playing the one at the D-League level.
Defense should probably be Uzoh's calling card considering he's long enough and athletic enough to guard either backcourt position, but it doesn't seem his fundamentals are quite up to par and his lateral quickness -- or ability to react -- can be just a step slow sometimes.
The biggest strike against him, however, might be his track record over the past six months. Uzoh was cut by teams in Italy and Russia as he tried to catch on overseas during the NBA lockout before returning stateside to attend training camp with the Charlotte Bobcats (where he was effectively cut to make room for the president of basketball operation's son).
All of that being said, however, Uzoh seems to have another NBA opportunity in his future because he has the right attitude, excels at something other than scoring and, perhaps more important to this report, has what we call Ridiculous Upside.