Nik Slavica Scouting Report

CONTEXT

  • Nik Slavica is the 7th-ranked European power forward born in 1997[1].
  • The six-foot-eight athletic big transferred from Cibona Zagreb to Cedevita Zagreb last summer but the move hasn’t improved his experience level.
  • Through 20 appearances this season, Slavica has logged just 209 minutes[2].
    • 147 of those minutes have come in the less competitive Croatian A-1 Liga[3], where Cedevita has won its 10 games by an average margin of 22.1 points per victory[4].
  • In his 11 appearances in the Adriatic League and the Eurocup, the 20-year-old[5] is averaging just 5.7 minutes per game, in an end-of-rotation role.
  • He injured his arm during a 47-point performance against KK Zagreb a couple of months ago and returned just this week.
  • Slavica was expected to develop into a big wing who could draw opposing big men out to the perimeter, use his athleticism to beat them off the bounce and attack the basket with power off one foot but that projection has not materialized.
    • His outside shot hasn’t developed yet and given his foul shooting percentages, it’s unclear to which extent it truly can.
  • As is, he’s becoming more effective as a catch-and-score finisher, even logging some time as a center when he’s shared the court with Damir Markota.
  • On the other end, Slavica leverages his athleticism into mobility extending pick-and-roll coverage beyond the foul line and has impressed with his rotations as the last line of defense, though he hasn’t created many events.
  • He was not ranked on ESPN’s top 100 as of December, 12th.

GOOD DEFENSE

  • He is attentive to his help defense responsibilities and has flashed some very good awareness making preventive rotations to keep the opponent from getting to the rim attacking baseline on side isolations.
  • Guarding middle pick-and-rolls, Slavica can keep pace with ball handlers attacking downhill when he is asked to show hard at the top of the key. He’s also flashed appealing lateral quickness containing the ball handler from turning the corner dropping back to prioritize interior defense.
  • Slavica is an asset to pick up smaller players on switches, as he’s comfortable defending out in space, given he was a wing at the youth level. Sometimes he hunches rather than bends his knees to get down in a stance but can slide laterally multiple times to stay attached and use his size to intimidate or effectively contest shots.

IFFY DEFENSE

  • He doesn’t seem suited to cross-match onto smaller players for entire possessions, though. Slavica works to go over ball-screens defending at the point of attack but is too big to navigate them cleanly.
  • He struggles with the most physical aspects of the game. Slavica has a 231-pound frame[6] but hasn’t developed a lot of toughness yet. He can’t hold his ground in the post and while he is attentive to his boxout responsibilities, Slavica isn’t very physical clearing the opponent out of his rebounding area.
    • He’s collected just 16.7% of opponents’ misses when he’s been on the floor this season.
  • Despite his athleticism, Slavica hasn’t been very impactful challenging shots at the rim, averaging just 0.7 blocks per 40 minutes.

OFFENSE

  • His best skill at this point of his development is his passing. Assisting on 9.17% of Cedevita’s scores when he’s been in the lineup, Slavica has pretty good court vision and can act as a hub to facilitate offense in multiple ways:
    • On pre-arranged reads in high-low action;
    • Kicking out to shooters out of the short roll;
    • Scanning the floor from the low post with his back to the basket;
    • Driving-and-kicking attacking a closeout.
  • He is very fluid and coordinated putting the ball on the floor out of triple threat position and can go up strong off one foot to attack the basket with power. He can hang in the air and finish through contact as well.
  • If Slavica develops his three-point shot, he can become a truly dangerous weak-side option. Harder closeouts would open up better opportunities for him to attack the rim on catch-and-go’s off ball reversals against a scrambling defense. But right now, he shoots kind of a sling-shot and doesn’t have good touch.
    • Slavica has missed nine of his 12 three-point shots with Cedevita this season and 38 of his 44 three-point shots with Cibona last year.
    • He’s also missed nine of his 13 foul shots this season and hit just 55.9% of his 134 free throws a year ago.
  • Diving off the pick-and-roll, Slavica can elevate off two feet explosively and play above the rim as a target for lobs sneaking behind the defense.
    • Sometimes he cuts his rolls shorts near the foul line area to attempt floaters off jump-stops. His touch in these instances is merely so-so.
    • He’s converted 62.9% of his 89 two-point shots this season.
  • At times the most athletic big man on the floor, Slavica crashes the offensive glass and has been effective generating second chances – collecting 11.9% of Cedevita’s misses with him in the game.
  • He struggles to get deep position in the post and doesn’t have much in terms of power moves, shot fakes, head fakes and spin moves at this point of his development. But his feet are light and he gets good lift on turnaround hooks, though his touch here has plenty of room to improve as well.

[1] According to Next-Step Basketball

[2] According to Real GM

[3] Which Next-Step Basketball does not rank as one of the 10 strongest domestic leagues in the continent

[4] According to Real GM

[5] DOB: 2/7/1997

[6] According to Cedevita’s official listing

READ MORE: PJ Washington | Sacha Killeya-Jones

EDITOR’S NOTE: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara

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Sacha Killeya-Jones Scouting Report

CONTEXT

  • Sacha Killeya-Jones was the 24th-ranked prospect in the 2016 high school class[1] but was out of the rotation by the conference part of the schedule – averaging just 6.9 minutes per game in 14 appearances as a freshman.
  • As a sophomore, the six-foot-10 athletic big has been a more prominent part of the team due to Jarred Vanderbilt’s absence – averaging 15.6 minutes per game in his 13 appearances so far.
  • Killeya-Jones gets most of his touches on garbage baskets. 42.1% of his shots at the rim have been putback attempts and 71.4% of his scores within close-range have been assisted[2], though he has gotten a few catch-and-shoot looks out of the pick-and-pop here and there.
    • His 13.3% usage rate attests he’s not a high priority within the offense.
  • On the other end, the 19-year-old[3] has shown to be a more versatile contributor. His mobility and agility for someone his size affords his coach flexibility on how to defend the pick-and-roll and his quickness and leaping ability in help defense have translated into effective rim protection.
    • His defensive box plus-minus ranks second on the team[4].
  • He was ranked 81st on ESPN’s top 100 on December, 12th.

DEFENSE

  • Killeya-Jones has pretty light feet for someone with a 222-pound frame and has proven himself able to defend out in space:
    • Though often flat-footed, he’s coordinated enough to show out to the three-point line against a pull-up threat and backpedal to drop-back after the on-ball defender recovers;
    • He can also pick up smaller players on switches and keep pace with them on straight line drives well enough to use his length contesting shots effectively.
  • Killeya-Jones should be an asset to defend shooting big men on spot-ups and the pick-and-pop but his closeouts are only so-so – promising at times but half-assed at others.
  • As the last line of defense, Killeya-Jones has shown nice attention executing the scheme coming off the weak-side to pick up the roll man and stepping up to the front of the basket against dribble drivers turning the corner or attacking downhill, and he’s been active looking to challenge shots.
    • He’s quick elevating off two feet and has a nine-foot-one standing reach[5] to block shots or contest them effectively via verticality – averaging 2.2 blocks per 40 minutes this season[6].
  • Killeya-Jones struggles with the most physical aspects of the game. Despite his frame, he’s yet to show a lot of toughness or inclination to play with some force.
    • He played surprisingly stout post defense against Duop Reath in a couple of instances in the game against Louisiana State but up until that point has always needed to front the post.
    • He is attentive to his boxout responsibilities but isn’t very effective and can get pushed off his spot – collecting just 12.9% of opponents’ misses over his 203 minutes.

OFFENSE

  • Killeya-Jones is a pretty good finisher around the basket, scoring at a 73.7% clip so far this season:
    • Able to play above the rim as a target for lobs sneaking behind the defense;
    • Possessing soft hands to catch the ball on the move and nice touch on non-dunk finishes;
    • Coordinated enough to catch, take a dribble and go up off two feet with pretty good lift.
  • He has a seven-foot-two wingspan[7] to rebound outside his area and a quick second jump fighting for 50-50 balls – collecting 13.9% of Kentucky’s misses when he’s been on the floor this season.
    • He’s not explosive enough gathering and going back up strong in a crowd – finishing his eight putback attempts at a 28.6% clip.
  • Killeya-Jones is not an option to participate in the shot creation process other than screening for the ball.
    • He doesn’t play with enough force trying to set up deep position in the post, always gets pushed away from the rim when he tries backing his man down and hasn’t shown much in terms of working his man out of position with shot fakes, head fakes or spin moves.
    • He is yet to show any ball skills creating off the bounce or facilitating offense for others – six of his seven two-point makes away from the basket were assisted and he’s assisted on just 6.3% of Kentucky’s scores when he’s been in the game.
  • Killeya-Jones has a reasonably fluid release for someone his size on catch-and-shoot jumpers and has even flashed the ability to set his feet quickly popping to a spot in the perimeter after setting a ball-screen. He launches the ball from a high point that could become really tough to contest as he develops more speed in his release and his touch is OK.
    • He’s missed 15 of his 22 mid-range shots and nine of his 18 free throws this season, though.

[1] According to ESPN.com

[2] According to hoop-math

[3] DOB: 8/10/1998

[4] According to sports-reference

[5] According to Draft Express

[6] According to sports-reference

[7] According to the measurements at the Kentucky Combine

READ MORE: Wenyen Gabriel | Marvin Bagley, III | Jaren Jackson

EDITOR’S NOTE: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara

Nick Richards Scouting Report

CONTEXT

  • Nick Richards is ranked 28th on ESPN’s top 100.
  • Through the first 13 games, the seven-foot center averaged 17.3 points per 40 minutes on 61.3% effective shooting and 13.7 rebounds per 40 minutes[1].
  • Despite being a true freshman, he just turned 20[2] last month.
  • Richards has posted 18.1% usage-rate over his 227 minutes. He gets the ball in the post some but isn’t a go-to option in Kentucky’s offense by any means. They have him setting ball-screens but don’t offer enough spacing for the guards to hit him rolling to the basket regularly.
    • His most reliable way to get touches tends to be what he can get for himself in the offensive glass. Almost a fifth of his live ball attempts have come on put-backs[3].
  • On the other end, the native of Kingston, Jamaica has played with better intensity than what was expected based on his reputation. He’s been an effective rim protector when well positioned, while also flashing decent agility to defend out in space.

DEFENSE

  • Richards is quite athletic for someone his size and can venture far beyond the foul line to hedge-and-recover against the pick-and-roll.
  • He hasn’t been asked to pick up smaller players on switches a whole lot but has shown foot speed tracking ball handlers attacking downhill.
  • Richards is a proactive help defender stepping up to the front of the basket as the last line of defense and looks to challenge everything he is close by. He is very effective when well positioned and can block shots in volume thanks to his quickness elevating off two feet and his nine-foot standing reach – averaging 3.3 blocks per 40 minutes this season.
    • In large part thanks to that shot blocking prowess, Richards ranks second on the team in defensive rating among rotation players[4].
    • That high activity in rim protection has come at the cost of him being prone to biting on shot fakes and making himself vulnerable to whistles, as he’s averaged 5.5 personal fouls per 40 minutes, which have limited his playing time to just 17.5 minutes per game.
  • Richards is yet to develop into a help defender who makes preventive rotations that keep the opposing ball handler from getting to the basket in the first place and despite his shot blocking prowess, he hasn’t really acted as a deterrent.
  • Given his quickness, he should be suited to guard shooting big men but has struggled to closeout to the three-point line effectively.
  • Richards is attentive to his boxout responsibilities and is a tough body to move out of his rebounding area thanks to his 245-pound frame, collecting 22% of opponents’ misses when he’s been on the floor this season.

OFFENSE

  • Richards hasn’t yet shown a particularly advanced post game in terms of working his man out of position patiently with head fakes, shot fakes and spin moves. He’s mostly looking to set up a simple turnaround righty hook, though he’s flashed a face-up jumper as well. His touch is iffy, though, as he’s missed 17 of his 27 shots away from the basket.
  • He is a good screener who looks to draw contact but has so-so hands catching the ball on the move and has struggled to finish a few alley-oops in traffic. Richards can elevate off two feet to play above the rim as a target for lobs sneaking behind the defense but hasn’t shown the same explosion going up strong in a crowd.
  • He is coordinated enough to catch and take a dribble to gather himself before going up with better balance or more power out of a standstill position. His touch from the in-between area is iffy but he’s been a very good finisher near the basket, converting his 35 such looks at an 80% clip.
  • Richards has been asked to help facilitate offense from the high post every now and again. He’s able to hit cutters on pre-arranged reads but that’s about it as of now, as he’s assisted on just 5.6% of Kentucky’s scores when he’s been on the floor.
  • Richards has flashed a catch-and-shoot jumper off the pick-and-pop, showing a reasonably fluid release for someone his size and a high arcing shot but Kentucky doesn’t run that pick-and-pop often and rarely has him spotting up on the perimeter, so it’s unclear how real of an asset his jumper could really be at this point.
    • For whatever it’s worth, he’s nailed 22 of his 30 foul shots.
  • Richards has collected 14.4% of Kentucky’s misses when he’s been on the floor, showing a knack for chasing the ball off the rim and using his seven-foot-three to rebound outside of his area.

[1] According to sports-reference

[2] DOB: 11/29/1997

[3] Based on the numbers available at hoop-math

[4] According to sports-reference

READ MORE: Marques Bolden | Wendell Carter, Jr.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara

Marvin Bagley, III Scouting Report

CONTEXT

Even though he was a late addition, not making his decision to reclassify and join the team this year until mid-August, Duke wasted no time incorporating Marvin Bagley III and making him their center of gravity on offense. He leads the team in usage-rate among rotation players, at 26.8%[1], and getting him the ball tends to be the Duke’s priority on every other possession.

Though he projects as a center in the pros, the six-foot-11, 234-pounder has played just about every minute this season with another true big man in the lineup. As a result, opponents have matched up their stronger big on the pure center and often designated lighter, smaller types to guard Bagley III, which Duke has consistently viewed as an opportunity to explore getting him to work mostly below the foul line.

They haven’t been proven wrong at this level yet, given they’ve won 11 of 12 games so far and the lefty is averaging 27.3 points per 40 minutes on 63.5% effective shooting.

He hasn’t had much opportunity to dive to the basket in pick-and-roll, though, and a lot of the interest in him as a pro prospect surrounds his potential as both a lob finisher and an outside shooter — which hasn’t advanced much, in large part because he is not asked to space the floor a whole lot.

Defensively, the 18-year-old[2] impresses in instances where activity is required of him, which is what to be expected given his remarkable athletic prowess. His defensive box plus minus is positive.

But he needs to develop in more subtle aspects of the game like being more attentive to his boxout responsibilities, acting as a deterrent as the last line of defense and controlling the action in front of him in the pick-and-roll – areas that will become more important when he moves up a level and can no longer solely rely on his athleticism to make a difference.

POST OFFENSE

Bagley III lacks strength to establish a deep seal in the low post, even against switches, and gets consistently pushed further out to just inside the arc. That hasn’t stopped him from putting up the shots he is best at right now, though, whether it’s facing up or with his back to the basket.

He doesn’t have power moves and hasn’t yet shown much dexterity in terms of being able to work his defender patiently with shot-fakes or head-fakes but his feet are light and his touch is tremendous, so his turnaround lefty hooks, while somewhat simplistic, have been very effective.

That said, his go-to move in college has been looking to drive past opposing big men. He is getting the ball in the elbow a ton. His handle is rudimentary at this point of his development, as he is prone to getting the ball stripped in traffic and hasn’t shown much side-to-side shake. But Bagley III has long strides, a spin move and a euro-step to get all the way to the basket more often than not.

At the rim, he hasn’t yet shown much flexibility to hang or adjust his body in the air but is an explosive leaper off one-foot (even in traffic), uses his length well to over-extend and has great touch to score around rim protectors – converting his 91 layup/dunk attempts at a 79.1% clip[3], with 32 of his 72 makes unassisted, at a pace of 3.4 unassisted makes at the rim per 40 minutes.

And against defenders who have managed to stay attached to him or prevent him from taking it to the goal comfortably, Bagley III has even flashed a running floater to score from the in-between area and some ability to make a drop-off or a kick-out on the move – assisting on a not awesome but decent 8.3% of Duke’s scores when he’s been on the floor.

OTHER AREAS OF OFFENSE

Duke doesn’t have him diving hard to the basket a whole lot in pick-and-roll but Bagley III has proven he can play above the rim as a target for lobs.

When he has set high ball-screens, almost always slip screens, his priority has mostly been rolling into post position or popping to a spot in the perimeter for a catch-and-shoot jumper, though.

Bagley III is yet to take meaningful steps forward to prove himself a credible threat as an outside shooter, nailing just eight assisted two-point jumpers and eight three-point shots this season.

Some of the types of shots he’s hit sporadically, a step-in three-pointer as the trailer in the secondary break and quick trigger bombs in the pick-and-pop, still make you hopeful for the sort of shooter he could become with some encouragement.

But other than isolating, Bagley III’s most significant contribution has been on the offensive glass, where he puts his explosive leaping ability to work going up to get the ball at a higher point than his opponents, also possessing a quick second jump to go back up strong and fight for tip-ins or 50-50 balls – collecting 13% of Duke’s misses when he’s been on the floor this season and converting his 26 putback attempts at an 81.8% clip.

DEFENSE

He struggles to hold ground in the post and isn’t very disciplined attending to his boxout responsibilities, though he’s managed to collect 24.1% of opponents’ misses in his 375 minutes thanks to the same attributes that make him effective on the offensive glass.

But his biggest issue has been in pick-and-roll defense.

Bagley III excels picking up smaller players on switches out in space, as he’s able to get down in a stance and slide laterally well enough to keep pace with them on straight line drives in order to intimidate or effectively contest shots.

But when he is asked to drop back, Bagley III always seems kind of lost. He hasn’t yet learned how to control the action in front of him, in terms of finding the right mix between backpedalling to prioritize preventing the ball handler from getting downhill but not giving away so much space that he has such an easy pull-up that most guys at the highest level of college ball can make. Boston College really succeeded in exploring this gap in his game, as it sought to put him in pick-and-roll time and time again in the second half of last week’s upset.

As the last line of defense, Bagley III is yet to develop into a help-defender who can protect the rim by making preventive rotations that keep the dribble driver from getting to the basket in the first place but has shown in bits and pieces that he has room to become that sort of player down the line, especially given his quickness.

Differently than he had shown in high school, Bagley is yet to translate his athleticism into making an impact as a shot blocker, though, which is putting into question his ability to anchor a defense at the next level, as chronicled by The Ringer’s Jonathan Tjarks today.

[1] According to sports-reference

[2] DOB: 3/14/1999

[3] According to hoop-math

Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara

Robert Williams, III Scouting Report

(First posted at RealGM)

CONTEXT

Robert Williams III surprised many with his decision to return for a sophomore season at Texas A&M. After 10 double-doubles in 31 games and a 25.3 PER in 801 minutes as a freshman, the six-foot-eight big man was projected to go in the lottery last June. He is the exact sort of athlete who often wows teams during the organized workout part of the pre-draft process and whose stock rises once there are no more games to evaluate.

But the 19-year-old[1] might have made a good decision coming back for a second year of college. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony ranked him seventh in his latest mock draft last week and Mike Schmitz has mentioned before he believes Williams has a real shot to be in play for the number one pick depending on how much improvement he shows this upcoming season.

Williams is a very appealing prospect because he might be the unicorn teams are looking for to place at center these days; someone who can space the floor out to the three-point line on offense and protect the rim on defense. He will be considered undersized to play that position full time by some due to his height but Williams has a seven-foot-four wingspan[2] and is listed at 237 pounds, measurables that suggest he could be able to play up to standard.

He’s, of course, not that player yet. Despite that weight, Williams hasn’t developed the strength and toughness needed for coaches to feel comfortable having him matchup against centers with prototypical size on an every-possession basis, aside from the fact that his jump-shot and general skill level are mostly theoretical at this point of his development.

ATHLETIC ABILITY

As of now, Williams gets most of his production thanks to his athletic prowess, which materializes on defense in his quickness rotating off the weak-side as the last line of help and explosive leaping ability protecting the rim.

Though it sometimes came at the cost of him overhelping or selling out biting on shot fakes, he averaged 3.8 blocks per 40 minutes last season[3] and was probably the biggest reason why opponents shot just 55.9% at the rim against Texas A&M[4].

But despite his agility and length, Williams hasn’t yet developed into as impactful a defender away from the basket.

He does well sliding laterally against stretch big men and can closeout effectively, sometimes even blocking the eventual jumper. But he struggles containing dribble penetration if these types put the ball on the floor, as he is not yet inclined to playing with the toughness needed to contain his opponent’s momentum.

Picking up smaller players on switches, Williams doesn’t bend his knees to get down in a stance, too spaced out to stay in front in isolation. He also hasn’t shown much in terms of shuffling his feet laterally to prevent dribble drivers from turning the corner guarding the pick-and-roll at the foul line.

That said, Williams has long strides and can keep pace with smaller players on straight lines well enough to block or contest shots effectively from behind thanks to his incredible length, though it’s fair to expect that in the pros he’ll meet more guys who get all the way to the basket before he gets to them.

But the biggest concern about his defense regards his lack of physicality. Williams plays post defense with active hands trying to generate strips[5] but more often than not can’t hold his ground, which is also a problem in the defensive glass, as he struggles with his boxouts, collecting just 21.2% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor last season.

On the other end, his athleticism is his meal ticket as well.

As a remarkable leaper, Williams can play above the rim as a target for lobs, not just off one foot in transition and sneaking behind the defense spotting up in the dunker’s spot but bouncing off the floor off two feet explosively in a crowd as well, as he averaged 1.44 points per possession as a pick-and-roll finisher[6].

And yet, what caught people’s eyes the most, perhaps, were the instances where Williams caught the ball on the move and showed impressive coordination to take a dribble before laying it up around a defender trying to wall off the basket. Defenses can’t cover everything and what they are giving up the most these days is the in-between area[7], so players who do can things like that will become more coveted.

His leaping ability and length also translate in the offensive glass, where Williams collected 13.6% of Texas A&M’s misses when he was on the floor last season. He can rebound outside of his area thanks to that massive seven-foot-four wingspan and has second jump-ability to fight for tip-ins and go up for putbacks, which he converted at a 64% clip[8].

But as a shot creator, there isn’t much there yet. Due to his lack of physicality, Williams can’t set deep position in the low post and hasn’t shown much ability to back opposing big men down with power moves for short range attempts.

SKILL LEVEL

He also hasn’t shown much in terms of shot fakes, launching turnaround fadeaway jumpers and feeling double teams, mostly relying as his go-to move on a simplistic turnaround right-handed hook that has decent touch but isn’t quite a money maker, as he averaged just 0.83 point per possession on post-ups[9] and turned the ball over on 18.2% of his possessions with his back to the basket.

When he was unable of simply catching-and-dunking, Williams still showed nice touch on non-dunk finishes, impressing especially in the aforementioned plays where he needed to navigate his way through the in-between area, converting 72.4% of his 145 shots at the rim.

But as impressive as his finishing is, the chance of him potentially going number one overall in the draft is mostly linked to his ability to turn his jumper into a reality.

In sporadic moments, Williams flashed a catch-and-shoot three-pointer out of the pick-and-pop, a face-up jumper from the mid-post, a catch-and-shoot three-pointer spotting up in the corner and even a fluid stop-and-pop one-dribble pull-up off an isolation move.

But those were only glimpses. He missed 38 of the 47 jumpers he attempted, including 16 of his 18 three-point shots. The touch on his shot is pretty good but he has a methodical release and launches the ball from a low point. The fact he converted just 59% of his 100 free throws also casts doubt into just how real that jumper can really become.

His ability to help facilitate offense is closer to a real asset, though. Williams has can spot shooters on the opposite corner, pass out of the short roll, participate in post-to-post pre-arranged reads and aid dribble hand-offs from the elbows or the high post, assisting on 12% of Texas A&M’s scores when he was on the floor.

[1] Who turns 20 in October

[2] According to Draft Express

[3] According to sports-reference

[4] According to hoop-math

[5] He averaged one steal per 40 minutes last season

[6] According to research by Mike Schmitz

[7] Think about the way the Spurs defended the Rockets in that second round playoff series

[8] According to hoop-math

[9] According to research by Mike Schmitz

Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara

Mohamed Bamba Scouting Report

(First posted at RealGM)

CONTEXT

Mohamed Bamba is known for his physical profile and athletic ability. The 19-year-old[1] measured at seven-feet and 216 pounds with a remarkable seven-foot-nine wingspan at this year’s Nike Hoop Summit, where he looked like the prototypical center for this pick-and-roll driven era of basketball due to his explosiveness leaping off the ground in a pinch to finish lobs and block shots.

But the Harlem, New York native used Texas’s preseason trip to Australia to show people his skill level is ahead of expectations as well. He was very aggressive unleashing jumpers from the elbows on post-ups and from three-point range out of the pick-and-pop, showed to have some feel for the game in terms of helping facilitate offense and looked to bring the ball up himself whenever he could after collecting a defensive rebound.

These long bombs don’t go in the basket a whole lot yet and he isn’t really one of these new age big men who can initiate offense from the perimeter but Bamba did quite a bit in that four-game trip to suggest his ceiling now goes beyond the easy comparison to DeAndre Jordan that most people like to make.

Defensively, he is a very impactful player close to the basket due to his physical prowess and hinted he might offer his coach flexibility in terms of how to defend the pick-and-roll, given his level of comfort shuffling his feet out in space but hasn’t yet developed into the sort of player who can lift his unit above its means, as Texas got lit up by two of the three Australian NBL teams it faced during the trip.

SKILL LEVEL

What Bamba did the most during preseason was catch the ball on the elbow area on either side of the floor, as Texas entered it to him on post-ups a fair amount. Unable to set deep position as of now, he showed a strong preference for turning and facing his defender. Most opponents sagged off him, unaware or unafraid of his potential to hurt them from range, and Bamba responded by being quite an aggressive shot taker when given the space.

His release is a bit methodical and a bit mechanical but Bamba elevates with decent balance and has enticing touch on his shot.

When his defender played up on him, Bamba often tried to drive around him. His handle is very decent for someone his size and he’s well coordinated but lacks the strength to maintain his balance and his momentum forward through contact.

The few times here and there that Bamba tried to back down his man, he worked to set up a turnaround right-handed hook over the defender’s left shoulder. His footwork was not particularly impressive but Bamba at least showed he doesn’t have cement feet. His touch is only OK, though.

But in the game against Melbourne, when a defender forced him to turn to his off hand, Mamba attempted a right-handed push shot in awkward balance, instead of opting for a left-handed hook or a turnaround, fadeaway jumper, suggesting he doesn’t yet have these assets in his arsenal at this point of his development.

His passing is a lot more advanced than expected, though. Texas played through him a little bit in the high post, on plays designed for him to catch, turn, face his man and then enter the ball to a perimeter player cutting to the area near the basket made vacant by Bamba drawing his man out. He also flashed some ability to hit cutters out of doubles with his back to the basket and kick-out to spot-up shooters out of the short roll.

He’s projected as a pick-and-dive threat out of the pick-and-roll but whenever Bamba set ball-screens in Australia, he mostly popped out the three-point line and wasn’t shy of letting it fly. He needs to speed up his release but proved he can take open shots rather comfortably. He also made a habit of hanging back changing ends, so he could get an open three up as the trailer in the transition.

Much like his no-dribble jumper out of triple threat position, his catch-and-shoot release looked a bit mechanical and methodical, though his touch seemed very decent. He gets off the ground a decent amount for a seven-footer, it’s not a set shot, but lets the ball go from the side, instead of out in front.

Though the threes he made and how confident he was at taking them were a bit stunning, the most surprising skill Bamba showed was the ability to grab and go off a defensive rebound. His handle is OK and he looked well coordinated bringing the ball up. He even flashed a light hesitation dribble to get by his man in transition and tried to take it end-to-end a couple of times but his touch on non-dunk finishes is only so-so at this point of his development.

ATHLETIC ABILITY

Bamba didn’t roll to the basket a whole lot and when he did, a weak-side defender rotated in to take away the lob but he had chances to finish a couple of alley-oops sneaking behind the defense. Bamba can explode off the ground with some space to take flight and has a massive nine-foot-six standing reach to play above the rim.

But from an athletic-standpoint, Bamba struggles in plays that require strength and physicality of him due to his lean frame. He can’t set deep post position in the post, has no power moves and lacks force to go up strong through contact off a standstill after collecting offensive rebounds.

Defensively, Bamba struggles to hold his ground in the post and though he is attentive to his boxout responsibilities, it was rare to see him completely erase an opponent out of a battle under the glass.

But while he doesn’t grow into his body, Bamba can rely on that massive standing reach to contest shots effectively defending the post, even when the opponent knocks him back some, and he’s proved to have quick instincts chasing the ball off the rim, aside the fact he has that remarkable seven-foot-nine wingspan to rebound outside his position.

That said, what’s enticing about Bamba’s agility is his potential defending the pick-and-roll extending above the foul line and covering a lot of ground in help-defense. When these pro teams ran pick-and-roll with the center as the screener, Texas didn’t ask Bamba to go meet the ball-handler at the point of attack but had him step up to prevent the opponent from turning the corner right away, which he proved very comfortable doing out in space.

Texas didn’t have him picking up smaller players on switches at any moment but Bamba seems to be the exact sort of big who has a shot of keeping pace with such types out on an island, though it’s unclear if that’s truly the case yet.

What it’s clear is that Bamba will be a constant shot blocking threat near the basket, elevating out of two feet stepping up to protect the front of the rim and out of one foot coming the weak-side in help-defense. The expectation is he should average about three blocks per 40 minutes at the college level.

[1] Who turns 20 only in March

Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara

Mohamed Bamba Scouting Report

  • Bamba scored 14 points on 14 minutes on Texas’ 96-84 win against the Dandenong Rangers — a team from Australia’s second division, on Tuesday.
  • His first score was on a catch-and-shoot three-pointer off a pick-and-pop on Texas’ second offensive possession of the game. His release looked a bit mechanical and methodical, though with very decent touch. He gets off the ground a decent amount for a seven-footer, it’s not a set shot, but lets the ball go from the side, instead of out in front.
  • Bamba was very aggressive pulling the trigger from the outside.
    • He took another three-pointer after making sure to space beyond the arc against Dandenong’s zone that missed;
    • Then he missed an uncontested turnaround right elbow jumper off the catch in the middle of Dandenong’s zone;
    • Then he made a no-dribble jumper from the left elbow turning and facing his defender on a post-up;
    • Then he missed a one-dribble pull-up fading to his left on the right side of the mid-post area after also turning and facing his defender.
  • Bamba got most of his touches in the post and showed a strong preference for turning, facing his defender and launching a jumper[1], with the exception of one possession at the start of the second quarter when he set decent position in the mid-post, took a dribble to set himself up and launched a right-handed turnaround hook over the defender’s left shoulder that went in. His footwork was not particularly impressive but Bamba at least showed he doesn’t have cement feet.
    • There was also a play where Bamba caught in the elbow area, turned and faced his defender, spot a cutter working baseline and delivered a nice pass that his teammate bobbled and lost out of bounds.
  • Texas did not put him in the pick-and-roll but Bamba proved himself able to play above the rim as a target for lobs with his massive nine-foot-six standing reach on a play where he sneaked behind the defense and finished an alley-oop.
  • Bamba’s most impressive plays from a skill-standpoint were when he drove from the top of the key to the rim and earned two free throws attacking out of triple threat position after trailing behind a play in transition and when he collected the ball after a deflection and took it end-to-end for a short jumper from just outside the restricted area. The exciting part of that grab-and-go is that it wasn’t on a straight-line; Bamba had to escape a steal attempt at half-court and then contain his momentum not to commit an offensive foul when an opponent challenged his shot. His coordination on both plays were equally as impressive as his ball-handling.
  • Bamba was only stressed in pick-and-roll defense once, showcasing decent agility for someone his size showing-and-recover to his man in a timely manner.
  • He proved himself a proactive help defender coming off the weak-side to act as a shot blocking threat, able to come off the ground with ease, aside from having such a giant reach.
  • Bamba also put his length[2] to use rebounding outside of his area, which will be key for him on the defensive glass as much as on the other end because while he seemed attentive to his boxout responsibilities, Bamba only plays with so-so physicality and sometimes doesn’t completely erase the opponent off the play or gets pushed out of his position.

[1] Bamba has a lean 216-pound frame in the context of his seven-foot height, so it’s understandable why he doesn’t look to play a physicality-oriented style

[2] Seven-foot-nine wingspan

Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara