Scouting Report: Alexis Ajinca

Published: December 22, 2013
Alexis Ajinca

Scouting Report: Alexis Ajinca

A few days ago, the Pelicans officially signed French center and former first round draft pick Alexis Ajinca to an assumed minimum guaranteed contract. In 2008, Ajinca was selected 20th overall by the Charlotte Bobcats. He played two seasons in Charlotte, appearing in 37 games and starting 4 over that time. After his two seasons in Charlotte, Ajinca bounced around the NBA and D-league for a while before ending up back in Europe, where he showed some signs of improvement.

The first thing any scouting report on Ajinca should mention is his NBA size. He stands 7’ 1’’ or 2’’, depending on where you get your information, and he has a 7’ 9’’ wingspan with a 9’ 4’’ standing reach. That is ideal size for a frontline player in the NBA. He is also probably a bit of an underrated athlete because of his size. He moves well, and he can finish above the rim.

His athleticism and solid mid range jump shot makes him a great target in the pick and roll, but he doesn’t do well with contact at the rim. The biggest thing he brings to the Pelicans on offense may be his rebounding ability. He is active on the boards and can keep plays alive. Ajinca is a decent low posts scorer, if he gets good position. However, I’d expect the Pelicans to mostly use him in the pick and roll on offense.

Ajinca also seems to have improved as a team defender since his time in the NBA. He isn’t a tough bruiser down low, but he is an okay shot blocker, understands weak side positioning, and most importantly for the Pelicans, he is an intelligent defender.

According to Draft Express, Ajinca has matured since his first stint in the NBA and is hungry to get another shot. All that being said, Ajinca does have some weaknesses. He has been accused of lacking elite toughness under the basket, which leads to turnovers and bad shots. His frame is a bit a thin and frail, though he has filled out since he was last in the NBA. He also really isn’t a great defensive rebounder. He has good technique and boxes out well, but he lacks the strength to keep his position. His lack of strength and toughness can also lead to him being vulnerable playing defense in the post.

The best-case scenario for Ajinca and the Pelicans is that he can work his way off the bench and get minutes in the frontline rotation. He isn’t going to take minutes away from Ryan Anderson or Anthony Davis, though he might even be able to steal a couple of minutes from Jason Smith, given their similarities in the pick and roll. I’m not really sure what his ceiling is on this team. If he showed more strength and toughness in Europe, you could argue that he could eventually earn a spot in the rotation long term. Without a physical play style or big body, that just doesn’t seem possible. The worst-case scenario for Ajinca is that we cut him a few days after the Portland game. I know that is a pretty low floor, but that is the life of a minimum contract player in the NBA.

This signing is a low-risk high-reward move that probably won’t turn into much. That being said, I’d love to see another long athlete standing next to Davis, and he has enough skills for fans to get to a reasonable level of excitement. I know I’m rooting for the guy to find his NBA home in New Orleans.

This article used information on Ajinca from DraftExpress. For a more detailed scouting report and Ajinca’s statistics from Euroleague and Strasbourg IG, check out his DraftExpress profile here