Mo Bamba arrived in Austin with lofty expectations. The 7-foot center is well-known for his 7-foot-9 wingspan, and he showed that he knows how to use it. Bamba was viewed as a top-ten lock prior to his lone season at Texas and not much has changed since. He performed right on par with expectations, proving to be one of the best defensive players in college basketball.
Bamba is a combination of extremely rare physical tools and flashes of a put-together offensive identity. Most of his upside will be tied to what he can become on offense, though his floor projects to be as an impactful paint-protector on defense.
Bamba’s physical tools are well-documented and well-known. Standing at 7-feet tall, he has ideal height for an NBA center. What really pops out, though, is his 7-foot-10 wingspan- the longest ever recorded at the NBA combine. These tools allow an incredible amount of disruption to opposing players in the paint. It also means that he can bother shooters with closeouts at a greater rate than most centers. Bamba also possesses a very fluid type of athleticism; with quick feet and impressive leaping ability.
This combination of physical tools is an extremely rare find and it makes Bamba a particularly enticing prospect. The term “upside” is used heavily regarding the Texas big man because tools such as his cannot be taught, while the refined basketball skills can be. The key for modern-day NBA centers is to be able to protect the paint as well as switch onto guards in pick-n-roll situations. Bamba’s unique gifts offer just that type of impact.
When Mo Bamba enters the NBA, he will have the longest measured wingspan (7'10") of any player entering the NBA since 2000. pic.twitter.com/nGpe0y6Smb
— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) May 17, 2018
The aforementioned physical tools possessed by Mo Bamba allow him to serve as a high-level defender. Bamba was one of the best defenders in college basketball last season due to his 7-foot-10 wingspan. It was clear to see how his presence in the paint not only altered shots but deterred players from coming into the lane in general. Bamba forced teams to change its offensive gameplan and take more outside shots. As we have seen with players that have a similar physical profile in the NBA, the rim-protecting trait is one that typically translates to the next level.
Bamba’s length also allows him to close down shooters quickly as well as to switch onto smaller, quicker opponents. It wasn’t always consistent, but Bamba showed enough ability to switch onto guards out on the perimeter last season to believe that he could suffice at doing so in the NBA. He has quicker feet than what one might expect from someone his size. Even when he does get beat, the length of his arms affords him some margin of error to disrupt shots from behind.
Often overlooked in the pre-draft process is the meticulous physical training that NBA prospects go through. From life-altering diets to spending 12 hours in the gym to refine their skills, elite prospects go into overdrive prior to the draft. Mo Bamba is no different according to this article from The Ringer. Bamba has been training with the world-renowned trainer Drew Hanlen- who has worked with the likes of Joel Embiid, Jayson Tatum, and Bradley Beal to help improve their game.
Bamba recently showed off brand new shooting mechanics, draining nine three-pointers in a row with a smooth, fluid shooting motion.
On top of the new shooting motion, we have seen clips of Bamba working on skilled post moves to add to his admittedly short list of offensive weapons. Bamba has also made a friend in Joel Embiid, saying that the star center has given him all the cheat codes.
While you cannot put too much stock into short workout clips, it is encouraging to see Bamba attack his weaknesses head on and surround himself with the best resources while doing so. A work ethic like this is likely to pay dividends in the NBA, even if it takes a couple of years to fully realize such potential.
Bamba’s weaknesses are out in plain sight for everyone to see. While he is putting in the work, the long center is still lanky with strength concerns for the next level. His wingspan gives him an advantage over almost everyone, but if he doesn’t have the strength to keep up with the NBA’s physicality then he will easily be knocked off his spots when fighting for position in the paint.
Along with his strength, he will need to develop a larger array of scoring moves. While we saw an improved shot in the previous video, we will need to see him be able to execute during games. His offensive creation in the post is also a problem area that is somewhat tied to his physical strength and the growth that needs to come in that regard. Bamba’s footwork in the post was inconsistent at best this season. He was often struggling to keep position on the block and opted to try to hook the ball over the defender due to the fact that he had no go-to post moves.
This is the mainstream comparison for Mo Bamba for good reason. Gobert, much like Bamba, came into the league as someone with a very limited offensive game but the physical tools to be an impactful defender. While Gobert’s offense is still quite raw, he is a finalist for the Defensive Player of the Year award. Bamba is projected to be drafted much higher than Gobert, however, due to showing a better semblance of an offensive game and possessing more mobility on both ends of the court.
Both players have insanely long wingspans to go along with 7-foot or taller frames. The defensive acumen that both players show is that of a franchise defensive anchor that any team would like to build around. Gobert, like Bamba, shows quick wits on defense and the length to rotate and stuff shots from the weak side.
Mo Bamba will have aspirations of being a Defensive Player of the Year winner just like Gobert may, though he will want to be much better on offense. The team that drafts Bamba can expect a Gobert-lite type of player immediately, with legitimate potential to become a star in the NBA.