- Measurements (as of 2017 Hoop Summit): 7’ in sneakers, 7’9 wingspan, 9’6 standing reach, 216 lbs (now listed at 225).
- Date of Birth: May 12, 1998
- Stats: 12.9PPG (4.9/9; 54% from field, 27.5% from three, 68.1% from line, 59.3TS%), 10.5RPG (3.2/7.3), .5 APG, .8SPG, 3.6BPG
Athleticism, height, and length
The first thing you notice with Bamba is his length. There’s long, and then there’s Mo Bamba long. According to DraftExpress’ Average Measurements by Position, he’s .5 inches taller than the average C, has a wingspan that is 5.5 inches longer, and his standing reach is 4 inches longer as well. As a rookie, he’ll be one of the longest players in the NBA (if not the longest one – slightly longer than Gobert, but reach is 3 inches less as of last year).
For someone his size, he is incredibly mobile and a good athlete. Texas had him anchoring the paint the entire season, but he showed the ability to to step out onto the perimeter and guard wings when necessary – in full on switches or hedges and recover. Shaka did not always have him drop back in PnR coverage, which whatever team drafts him will probably elect to do in the NBA. However, he is not someone you want guarding the perimeter full time because a) he isn’t that great of an athlete to do that every possession and b) that is taking away his greatest strength – rim protection.
In addition to being light on his feet and not having tight hips (easy to change defensive position), he appears to have a vertical of about 34-36 inches. However, he is not the quickest twitch athlete – he moves at a “smooth” pace. Even though this could be an issue with other players, due to his length, he is able to get away with it pretty handily. He uses his length everywhere, and baits perimeter players into shooting contested jumpers over him in isolation coverage, knowing that he will be quick enough (and long enough) to contest the shot. At the rim, he is simply too long for other guys – whether it’s finishing over them, rising for a quick dunk with guys around him (needs minimal space because of his reach), or contesting shots at the rim, his length does so much work for him.
One concern I have is his motor. He paces himself from time to time and transition can be an issue, although when he wants to run he can run well. Pace for the NBA could be an issue for him as well (I’d like to see him continue to improve his conditioning), so his minutes might be a little lower his rookie year than other Cs. However, the passion he shows after a big dunk or block is nice to see. He gets into it, the team gets into it, and the crowd does as well. If you want a momentum shifter, he can do that on both ends just from those plays.
Like all young players, he is prone to the occasional bad shot or missed rotation. All-in-all, his IQ is high for someone his age on both ends and he plays the game the right way. As he continues to work on his game and figure out his role in the NBA, his efficiency should go up, as his ability on both ends rises. His potential is sky high and, because of his defensive and rebounding ability right now, he has a pretty safe floor as well. Whether he reaches his potential will be based on how badly he wants it.
Projection at bottom.
Offensive Rebounds/Putbacks/At Rim
Efficiency – 1.338PPP, 85th percentile, 73.7% on putbacks; 78.% at rim
Due to his size, Bamba is a menace on the offensive glass. His wingspan (and overlooked jumping ability) allow him to reach the ball at its highest point off the glass. His measurements also make him an easy lob target in the paint. However, as you will see further below, he has a bad habit of bringing the ball down in the paint.
Bamba finishes in the paint at an incredible rate (78.8% according to Hoop-Math) and also does a solid job at getting fouled. Even at the next level, I expect him to be a force on the offensive glass (especially as he continues to get stronger).
Cuts: Efficiency – 1.5PPP, 95th percentile; Transition: Efficiency – 1.157PPP, 70th percentile (only 51 total possessions)
For someone his size, he moves really well in transition (although the consistency is not always there). As you’ll see in the clip below, he covers a lot of ground and is able to beat smaller bigs down the court. I would like to see his effort here a little bit higher just because it will provide more space for shooters on the outside with him running down the lane on the break, but the ability is there.
Efficiency – PnR – .773 overall, 20th percentile; PnP .667PPP, 24th percentile
Although at this point Bamba is still raw in this area, I am looking forward to his progression here going forward. He shows fluidity in catching and shooting in the PnP and shows some ability in the PnR. However, because of his frame, he can still get bumped off of his spots in the PnR. As he continues to get stronger, I expect him to improve here. His high reach makes him a great lob target in the paint, as he is able to rise above almost any defender thrown at him. This also makes the possibility of an overthrow slightly lower.
Even though this was not a PnR, this clip perfectly shows how even bad passes can lead to buckets for his team because of how long and athletic he is.
Here is another clip of him being an easy lob target
Spot Up, FTs, and Off Bounce
Efficiency – .95PPP, 56th percentile; Jump Shots .82PPP, 32nd Percentile (considered average); Catch and shoot .821PPP, 24th percentile. 68% on FTs.
Spotting up will likely not be a big part of his game going forward, but he has shown he can hit shots off the pass and I do think it’ll still be a tool in his arseanl. If he continues to improve in this area (which has taken a big leap since high school), this would provide more space for penetration from the ball handler (and less clutter for cuts). He is comfortable taking threes, which would also help space the floor if he is able to get his percentage in the 30s (especially mid to high). I don’t think he will be able to play on the perimeter the way Kristaps Porzingis does, but I do think he will be able to take and make some when the opportunity presents itself. The form is there, which makes me think he just needs more reps.
His FT% is not great, but not terrible for a young big either. Teams will not be able to hack him at the end of games, so he will not have to sit during crunch time. I also project this to improve as he puts in more work because the form is smooth with no hitch – it would not surprise me if he hits 80% eventually. His misses also tend to be straight on, which gives more evidence to his form not being an issue and him needing more reps.
This clip has him missing twice in a row, but focus on the form and the miss being straight on. That is why I am projecting to get better as he puts in more work in practice.
Although he will not be taking (many/any?) shots off the dribble facing up in the NBA, he does show some comfort here as well.
Efficiency – .73PPP, 34th percentile (considered average); Passouts lead to 1PPP, 39th percentile; 42 possessions from right block, 34 from left (balanced pretty well); varied in right shoulder, left shoulder, or facing up (nice versatility and defense cannot commit to playing him one specific way)
As you can see above, he does not favor one side of another. This makes defending him just a little bit harder, because the more variety you have in the post, the harder it is for the defense to a) send help and b) force him to his weak hand (unless you’re LaMarcus Aldridge, who gets to his spots no matter what).
Although he has the variety in his moves, he does not have the efficiency yet. While posting up, it seems as if he premeditates his moves before he does it instead of reading and reacting to the defense. He is not strong enough to force his way into the paint (nor does he have the low position or levers that would make moving post up defenders easier), so he needs to learn to read how he is being played and adjust accordingly (and continue to work on his touch). He also does not have the best awareness once he begins his moves, which ends up with him in poor position to score. He has come a long way since high school so the fact that he has improved in a little amount of time bodes well for his future, but I do not project him as a big you can throw the ball to at the block and ask him to work.
As you will see in the following clip, he starts his move with one dribble down and he tried drop stepping. However, he begins the drop step too low – instead of taking a higher angle in the beginning with his dribble, he dribbles in a straight line to the basket. This gives him less room to make the move before he gets underneath / behind the basket. A positive in this clip though is he sees the help coming from the middle, and goes away from it.
General Offensive Observations
One thing I’ve noticed watching Bamba this season is his catching ability is inconsistent. There are times when he makes difficult catches, and other times when he just bumbles the ball completely. Because I believe he has big hands (not sure, to be honest), I think it is a concentration issue – maybe he’s focusing on finishing / making a move before making the catch. If that is the case, this is correctable, as a coach can tell him to watch the ball go into his hands, or just focus a little bit more before the catch (ie, don’t rush because you can’t make a move without the ball).
The good hands can be seen here. Even though he bobbled it at first, he ended up making the catch and was able to finish in the paint.
The issue with his inconsistent hands becomes compounded because he tends to bring the ball down upon receiving the pass (or getting the offensive rebound). For any big, this is a huge mistake – the lower the player brings the ball down (especially in the paint where everyone is swiping), the higher the chance it gets striped. Pau Gasol does an incredible job at keeping the ball high on the catch and on the glass. If I were Bamba’s coach (or someone focusing on player development), I would work heavily on that because of how simple a correction it is.
In this next clip, you can see a nice catch off the pass, but he proceeds to bring the ball down. Although it did not hurt because there was no defense in the paint, this needs to be corrected. (Even in the previous clip off the tough catch, you can see him bring the ball down close to his waist instead of going straight up from receiving the ball at his shoulders.
Here are a few more clips of him bringing the ball down off the pass instead of keeping it high.
Efficiency – Jumpers – .8PPP, 81st percentile; Around Basket (non Post Ups) – 1.088, 33rd percentile (average); Catch and Shoot – .98PPP, 68th percentile; Defending 3s – .894PPP, 76th percentile
Efficiency .831PPP, 50th percentile (good)
Although he’s added strength since his senior year of HS, he still needs to continue to get stronger – especially in the lower body. In the post, he can get bullied around by stronger guys. He does a good job mitigating his lack of strength by keeping a hand in the passing lane to disrupt the entry pass and by using his length to disrupt attempts as the player makes his move / attempts his shot. Generally speaking, he also does a good job at staying on the floor and not biting for fakes (although this is not the case in the clip below). However, he needs to get stronger. Bamba being pushed around can be seen here –
As mentioned above, he has shown that he can use his length to help cover for his lack of strength. In defending the post, as long as he’s not caught behind the man and is able to half front the post, he can make entry passes difficult (and sometimes steal it). In the half front position, he is able to use his length to deflect passes / steal passes. This can be seen in the clip below.
He also does a great job of staying vertical in the post / at the rim. Because of his incredibly long standing reach, he is able to make post ups very difficult for players even with his lack of strength. The clip below is a perfect example of Bamba being pushed off his spot, but still affecting the shot.
Efficiency – .69PPP, 90th percentile
I am sure opposing defenses will try to keep him out on the perimeter as much as possible (to help keep the rim area free), but he has shown he can defend the perimeter as well. He uses his length to contest shots from a safe distance so he can defend a potential drive and the shot.
PnR / PnP
Efficiency – PnR – 1PPP, 32nd percentile (average); PnP – .962PPP, 34th percentile
Shaka Smart had Bamba switching coverage in the PnR, which allowed him to show his versatility there. Although the Synergy stats paint him as an average PnR defender, I would actually say he is closer to “good” than “average.” He shows the ability to hedge and recover to his man/run ICE coverage (as you’ll see in the first clip below), switch outright, drop back in coverage, and other variations of coverage. His length makes it hard for the ball handler to get past him and makes forcing the handler back to the sideline slightly easier…if he is quick enough to get out there. Also, due to his size, he is not always very quick getting back to his man (recovery) – weak side will likely have to rotate over if the defensive scheme pulls him out too far, and he will have to rotate to someone else. He is susceptible to getting beat in the post after the pick and roll, but by the time the ball gets to the big, his defensive position will allow him to use his length to contest if he is caught behind the post up man.
In the NBA, I doubt teams will have him hedge all of the way back. Instead, I can see whatever team that drafts him to use him in a similar way to how the Jazz use Rudy Gobert.
Here is a clip of Bamba getting out to hedge, not getting out far enough, but recovering quickly enough to block the shot. Benefit of having that extreme wingspan on complete display here, because even with him being out of position initially, he was able to make a play.
He is also comfortable getting out and straight up switching in coverage. He is fundamentally sound in switches, moving his feet well and keeping his hand up to passes and shots more difficult – he even contests with the correct hand in single coverage.
When Texas was not running a zone, they would allow their bigs to get out and straight up switch onto perimeter players (when it was called for). Bamba does a good job backing up when defending someone quicker, because he knows that he can use his length to close out and contest shots – this lead to him being in the 70th percentile defending isolations, allowing only .667 PPP. He does that in the clip below against Devonte’ Graham.
Another perimeter defense example here
However, when closing out on perimeter players, he doesn’t always take short and choppy steps with a hand up. He closes out with the correct hand most of the time, but his steps are sometimes too long and he overshoots the offensive player, giving up a drive to the rim. Even though the clip below ended in a charge, he closed out with steps that were too long and the offensive player was able to get by him.
Although like every big he is prone to the occasional mistake, he is a high-level weakside defender. He uses his length to help make sure his man is not an option in the paint (if he is staying down there) and rotates to the correct spot. His size also makes it easier for him to recover to the dive and contest the shot, as you will see in the first clip below.
I think Bamba will be able to come in and impact the game defensively the second he steps onto the court. Offensively, he will likely be relegated to 15 and in for the first year or two, but he should be able to expand his range past that going forward (he’s been hitting the college three this year and has made major improvements from his senior year in high school). All in all, I see an elite defensive big who is solid offensively, but not a key hub or focus (unless it is as a Gobert screener, who screens on almost every single play the Jazz run). One way or another, Bamba will leave his imprint on the game.