May 12th, 1998
Big Board Ranking: Four OVR, Two BIG
Projection: Top Five
Mohamed Bamba was ESPN’s fourth-ranked prospect in the class of 2017. He received offers from Duke, Kentucky, and Michigan but eventually chose Texas. Bamba had a solid freshman year, making the Big 12 All-Defensive Team and All-Big 12 Second Team. He declared for the draft after the Longhorns’ loss in the tourney to Nevada. At the combine, he set the record for longest wingspan ever recorded at the combine at 7’10”.
Mohamed Bamba’s unreal 7’10” wingspan, which will be the longest in the NBA the second he steps on the court, is a lethal weapon. Bamba is an elite rim protector (4.9 BLK per 40). He routinely sends floaters into the stands; any shot around the rim has a good chance of being blocked by Bamba. His length allows him to contest and alter shots at the rim and on the perimeter.
He has great mobility for a big man, which is another invaluable quality for a modern big. He beats some guards down the floors in transition, resulting in easy dunks. His mobility allows him to switch onto guards which is so prevalent in the modern NBA. Bamba has good quickness but he can afford to give perimeter players space due to his length. Against lesser big men, he is a dominant force in the paint on both ends. His pick-and-roll defense is solid in part to his mobility.
Bamba didn’t shoot a high percentage from three during his freshman season but it seems he has completely overhauled his mechanics. His willingness to take threes is exciting and these new mechanics could have him being a weapon from deep. He is a very raw offensive player but has shown some flashed in multiple areas. There were flashes of a solid left-handed hook and some very solid vision. Bamba occasionally pushed the ball in transition, allowing for shooters to run to their spots, getting open shots. His handles are nothing special but he is comfortable handling the rock.
Bamba’s slight frame is troubling. He was easily bullied by good, strong, post scorers like Kansas’s Udoba Azibuke and Duke’s Marvin Bagley and Wendell Carter Jr. The best way to combat a shot blocker is to go right at him and Bamba and get buckets. He doesn’t have the strength or footwork to bang with polished scorers down low. His defensive rebounding is also a bit of a liability given his height. Bamba obviously will make an impact on the glass due to his stature but strong and athletic bigs gave him big trouble. He doesn’t box out effectively and gives up position.
Despite Bamba’s new mechanics, Bamba’s shot was very inconsistent at Texas and he shot a poor 27.5%. His touch and feel on offense are lacking overall. His footwork and array of shots in the post are underwhelming and make him a detriment against elite post defenders. Bamba has immense potential but is very raw on both sides of the ball.
Best NBA Fits
Picking at number five, Dallas has a chance to land one of the best players in this class and one who fits a huge need. The Mavericks are very poor when it comes to defense and rebounding, and Bamba will make a big impact in both of those areas immediately. A pick and roll combo of Dennis Smith Jr. and Bamba would be tough to cover given Bamba’s length and athleticism. He could very well be the second star the Mavs are searching for.
The Hawks struck gold after the lottery last year with John Collins and look to do the same this year. Atlanta is loaded with three first-round picks, which will add to their young talent on the roster. Bamba’s shooting potential would mesh well with the hyper-athletic Collins. Mo Bamba and John Collins could form one of the best young frontcourt duos in the NBA. The Hawks already have some young, athletic players, such as Collins and Taurean Prince. Bamba would be the anchor for the Hawks’ defense for many years to come.
The Celtics are reportedly interested in trading up for Bamba with a team like Memphis or Dallas and have the assets to do so. Mohamed Bamba would add to the Celtics’ roster, which is already loaded with young talent. He would be able to sit behind Al Horford, learning from one of the best veteran bigs in the NBA. Boston has been lacking a mobile, defensive big man; Bamba fits that bill and more. If Bamba fills out even half of the potential that he flashes on tape, the Celtics could have a superteam on their hands.
We’ve seen long, potential big mans such as Hasheem Thabeet flunk out in the NBA. Bamba has all of the potential in the world to succeed. His wingspan makes him an immediate rim protector and if he can put some offense together, he could be an invaluable asset. However, Bamba is very raw and under poor coaching, could sputter out. In the end, Bamba may have the most upside of any player in this draft class and is absolutely worth a gamble at the top of the draft.
Ben Pfeifer is the Managing Editor of the Colts for Full Press Coverage, the AFC South Division Editor, and head NBA editor. Want to continue the discussion? Contact Ben Pfeifer on Twitter @Ben_Pfeifer_, @FPC_NBA and @FPC_Colts.