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Alexis Ajinca - C, 7'2, 248
New Orleans Pelicans - Signed as a free agent in December 2013
       Date of birth: 05/06/1988
       Country: France
     Drafted (NBA): 20th pick, 2008
     Out of: Hyeres-Toulon (France)
  NBA Experience: 7 years
  Hand: Right

From blog:


   2010 Summer League Rosters: Charlotte Bobcats
2010-07-08

Alexis Ajinca

After giving up a pick with very lax protection to get him - in the end, it became the one used on Luke Babbitt - Charlotte have spent two years not playing Ajinca. Jinx played 182 minutes only on his rookie season, and topped that in his sophomore season with only 30 minutes played all year. He spent a lot of the year on assignment in the D-League, averaging 14.6 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.1 blocks, 3.0 turnovers and 3.9 fouls in 26 minutes per game, showing some signs of scoring and shotblocking ability while committing far too many mistakes and not defensive rebounding much. However, entering his third year, the D-League is now no longer an option. If Ajinca is going to do anything Theo Ratliff-ish, he's going to have to do some of it in his third year. If he doesn't, there might not be a fourth.

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   Tax Payers, Trade Kickers, And Other Deadline Day Bookkeeping
2011-02-26

Orlando, Dallas and Portland made no real effort to dodge the tax. In their one deal back in January, Dallas pawned off the excess salary of Jinx Ajinca to Toronto, then promptly spent half of it again on Peja Stojakovic. They didn't even trade Cardinal.

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   What are the Pelicans getting in Alexis Ajinca?
2013-12-18

In a surprising move yesterday, the New Orleans Pelicans were said to have come to an agreement with 25-year-old French center Alexis Ajinca, a former first round pick of the Charlotte Bobcats, currently playing in his homeland for Strasbourg. Ajinca has been back in France since leaving the NBA after the 2010-11 season - nevertheless, by deliberately signing a contract with Strasbourg that had an NBA out clause, Ajinca hadn't given up on the big league, and it clearly given up on him.

Ajinca was largely forgotten about in the NBA discourse by fans and media, but has become a prominent figure in European basketball in the past year or so. He has been one of the leaders of a resurgent Strasbourg team, who have struggled in recent seasons yet finished runner-up in the French league last season and found themselves a path to the Euroleague, and while they have struggled there (bottom of group B with a 2-7 record), Ajinca's play has been a bright spot. The one time NBA drop-out has developed noticeably as a player, and not just as the shooter he looked like he was becoming. Indeed, he is headed more towards Chris Bosh than Channing Frye.

(Note that that is a style of play comparison, rather than a level of play.)

Ajinca's NBA career to date has been somewhat unsuccessful, yet also somewhat maligned. Arguably, he wasn't given enough opportunity. He played only 552 NBA minutes in three years, and was distinctly poor in the first two, spending much time in the D-League yielding only mixed results. However, such struggles are to be expected from one so young. There is not much point in drafting a 20-year-old international big man universally acknowledged as being raw, and then not spending the amount of time and patience it takes to develop him. Yet this is seemingly what Charlotte did - after almost not picking up his third year contract option, they dealt him to Dallas as a side part of the already terrible Tyson Chandler deal, thereby getting absolutely no return on their investment except salary relief.

While it is true that Ajinca had shown next to nothing in those first two years, projects rarely do. They need time, and Ajinca didn't get it. After being traded to the Mavericks, Dallas declined his fourth year option, and a subsequent controversial trade to Toronto proved to be only a few months of a reprieve. Neither team committed the necessary time to a project who needed it; neither, it seemed, felt as though he merited it. After all, he wasn't their project - they did not need to save face with him. So when Ajinca started to make progress in his third season, it was mostly overlooked. The 44% shooting stood out more than the 12.6 PER (which, while not great, is sufficiently NBA calibre, a significant improvement on his first two seasons, and altogether not bad from a 22-year-old) and he fell out of the NBA.

Since that time, though, Ajinca has continued to develop. The weaknesses his time in the NBA and the D-League demonstrated have been worked at. One such question surrounded his toughness. Ajinca is still not especially tough - it will be hard for him to ever be truly bulked up, as he just has not the frame for it. His skills are inclined towards that of a finesse player, and he plays accordnigly. But he is tougher. Furthermore, he is more skilled. He is smarter. He makes fewer mistakes. And he is far, far more productive.

Ajinca has developed over the course of his career, particularly his French career, and is deserving of his place back in the NBA. He has found his role as a player - gone (mostly) are the three-point shots, replaced with a mid-range, pick-and-roll based game (admittedly with more emphasis on the roll than the pick) interspersed with hook shots from down low, with shot creation and shot making skills, a much improved offensive talent. He was averaging 17.1 points in only 24.9 minutes per game of Euroleague play - in the toughest league outside of the NBA, Ajinca has shone brightly, emerging as one of the best centers on the continent, and particularly so offensively.

Ajinca would have played more minutes were he not so foul prone still. Certainly, Ajinca still has more to do on the defensive end. Despite his height and wingspan making him a quality shot blocker and unignorable defensive presence, the mistakes and inconsistent decision making remain, and the development has been more offensive than defensive. Nevertheless Ajinca's rebounding rates improve year on year, whilst his shot blocking remains, and the offensive production continually increases. He is now that which he was not quite before - an NBA calibre big man. And aged only 25, further improvements are no doubt forthcoming.

It is rare for NBA teams to pick up players from Europe, and particularly the Euroleague, mid-season. Nevertheless, following in San Antonio's footsteps in picking up Aron Baynes, the Pelicans have hit up that market and potentially shored up their weakest position with a solid prospect.

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   2017 NBA Manifesto
2017-06-29

Alexis Ajinca
C, 7’2, 248lbs, 29 years old, 7 years of experience

Ajinca’s offence stopped growing two years ago, and he is now a very inefficient scorer for his position (.529% true shooting percentage in 2016/17) despite the expanded offensive game he initially showed upon his return to the NBA. He shoots 41.7% on jump shots that almost all take the form of catch-and-shoot straightaway foul-line two-pointers, but that’s about it. He has become a good rim deterrent on the defensive end, and retains a decent rebounding rate. But Ajinca’s pick-and-roll defence is far less good and something opponents target when he is on the floor. Get his man in a high ball screen, take a good run at him, and he’s got no answer. Those feet do not move well.

Player Plan: Two years and circa. $10.2 million remaining. A reasonable price, but may feel the salary pinch the team is looking at if Holiday is retained. Would be moveable.

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New Orleans Pelicans


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