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Mohamed Bamba – 6’11″ Center, University of Texas, 20 Years Old
Mohamed Bamba enters the NBA Draft as a lock to be a lottery pick. As a freshman on Texas last year, Bamba was impossible to ignore on the inside. He helped the Longhorns finish the season 19-15 with a late run to earn an NCAA tournament berth.
In his only season at Texas, Bamba put up 12.9 points, 10.5 rebounds, 3.7 blocks, and 0.8 steals per game while shooting 54 percent from the floor. His most impressive number though is his unheard of 7’10″ wingspan, the longest in NBA Draft Combine history which dates back to 2000. Bamba hopes his ability to use his length to rebound and track shots defensively, along with his finishing skills and respectable jump shot, will be enough to earn him a top-five selection on June 21.
An elongated wall on defense, Bamba’s shot-altering prowess is off the charts. He is also very under control in challenging shot attempts, as this season the only player to finish with more blocks than him, Marshall’s Ajdin Penava, averaged 3.6 fouls per game relative to Bamba’s 2.5. The Texas product uses his length to challenge shots completely vertically until the last moment, going for the block after the ball has been released. He can completely demoralize an offense by racking up six, seven, or even eight blocks, as he did in some games this year.
Offensively, Bamba shows patience inside with the ability to finish well with either hand. He uses the protection of the rim well in reverse layups, something that players of his height don’t usually do effectively. While Bamba is not known for his shot like his center counterpart in the draft, Jaren Jackson Jr., he still has a respectable stroke. He shot 68 percent from the charity stripe, slightly above average for players of Bamba’s size. Bamba didn’t attempt many three-pointers at 1.7 3PA per game and shot just 28 percent from distance. However, it’s encouraging that Bamba is willing to get shots up as his potential ability to spread the floor could make him a difficult assignment for opposing big men.
As can be expected for someone as lanky as Bamba, he is not particularly physical inside. Bamba may get bumped off his spots in the post or boxed out with greater effort on a rebound. To this point, there are some questions about his motor along with his bounce on second-attempt rebound efforts. He was effective in getting rebounds often by using his sheer length, but Bamba will have to work harder to battle for position on the boards in the pros. His high scoring games were commonly correlated with how many offensive rebounds he got. That means Bamba will have to develop a more refined post game to put up consistent scoring efforts. His shooting form is fairly raw and he could use a more consistent-looking release to increase his reliability from distance.
Defensively, he has shown flashes of being able to close out quickly with long strides toward perimeter players. But Bamba will have to increase his foot speed to be able to defend pick-and-rolls at the next level. As we have seen in the recent playoffs, elite teams have exposed big men on switches sometimes so often that they have had to be pulled out to compete. Bamba’s ability to adapt to this shift in the game may be a considerable indicator in how dependable he could ultimately be for a contending team.
Bamba’s astoundingly long arms are going to make teams excited for what he can do with them. He has all the tools to develop into a solid center one day: a commanding defensive presence, the ability to finish around the rim, and early signs of outside shooting. Bamba won’t be an electric scorer, but the Harlem native could become a dependable starting center in the NBA. With a little work in the weight room, he has the opportunity to dominate the glass on a nightly basis.
NBA Player Comparison
As of now, the player Bamba most resembles is Rudy Gobert. Gobert is another freakishly long player who eats up blocks and rebounds inside. Neither Gobert nor Bamba do a ton in the scoring department, but they finish well inside. This is still a lofty comparison, as Gobert has been a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year in both the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Bamba will not become a defensive juggernaut to that extent overnight, especially without more physicality.
Beyond this comparison, Bamba has spent his pre-draft time wisely putting in workouts with respected All-Stars he’d be smart to pattern his game after. Namely, Kevin Garnett and Joel Embiid. If Bamba can learn something from Garnett’s intensity and Embiid’s post moves and shot, he has a tremendous ceiling.
Think of the Texas standout as a long-armed specimen who has the ability to easily block shots and finish nicely from close, including some highlight-reel dunks. He is a raw, athletic talent. If he continues to develop his skills and work hard, Bamba can be dangerous for years to come.
Look for Mo Bamba to go in the top 10 or even top five on draft night, and be sure to stay updated with our complete coverage of the 2018 NBA Draft!